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MFM bunkering at Singapore port – Who will guard the guards themselves?

15 Jun 2021

The use of mass flowmeters (MFM) for bunkering, a concept originally developed through a project spearheaded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) but included various authorities such as the National Metrology Centre (NMC), Weights and Measures Office (WMO), and commercial players in 2009, is a milestone for Singapore’s bunkering sector.

Efforts put forth by the multi-stakeholder Working Group (WG) on Mass Flow Metering under the direction of the Technical Committee (TC) for Bunkering has now resulted in the technology’s fifth year of mandatory operations (from 1 January 2017 for MFO deliveries) for bunkering at the republic.

Continuous digital data captured during the delivery process, open for inspection by authorised parties at any point in time, has introduced the welcomed element of transparency over yesteryear methods of tank sounding – considered a ‘plus’ by shipowners lifting marine fuel at the world’s largest bunkering port.

Today, almost 50 million metric tonnes (mt) of marine fuel flow through MFM systems governed by the Singapore Standard SS 648: 2019 – Code of Practice for Bunker Mass Flow Metering, which forebear TR 48:2015 was found to have improved productivity for bunkering at Singapore port to the tune of savings between SGD 80.6 million to SGD 199.4 million.

Altogether, it seems now is the time for MFM stakeholders to take a backseat and enjoy the fruits of their labour; but is it?

Establishment of a primary calibration facility for bunkering MFMs at the republic

With many MFMs either above or entering their third year of use at Singapore port, Francis Tan, Head of Engineering & Measurement Division, CCIC Singapore, suggests now may be a timely moment for industry stakeholders to explore construction of a primary calibration facility for bunkering MFMs at the republic.

The current industry requirements set by SS 648:2019 (Clause 6.4.3) as required by implementing authority MPA states for bunkering MFMs to be calibrated periodically from the date of approval by MPA, or as required by MPA.

More importantly, the calibration process will need to comply with ISO/IEC 17025 in accordance with SS 648.

However, such primary calibration facilities to ensure bunkering MFMs satisfy the requirement set out in SS 648, Clause 6.2.2 – which calls for the use of the actual medium for calibration – are currently unavailable at Singapore.

“Unlike traditional geared meters, Coriolis-based MFM technology used on Singapore bunker tankers do not use moving mechanical parts per se. Therefore, it required low maintenance, especially during the first few years of use,” explains Mr Tan.

“However, any measurement instrument, especially MFMs in which electronic components form a critical part of the instrument, will still need periodic calibration to maintain assurance of the devices’ integrity to bunker industry stakeholders.

“Re-calibration of current MPA-approved bunkering MFMs, while still in good condition, is required.”

“While the SS648 bunkering standard refers to a technically sound and supported calibration using the primary method, efforts to realise the development of such calibration facilities has not even began.”

He opined that satisfying the requirements per SS 648 which take reference from OIML R117 is perhaps “more important” as it pertains to custody transfer – which is the situation in bunkering.

“Calibration serves to reduce the financial risks to buyers and sellers. Oil majors routinely require their flow meters to be calibrated as frequently as every quarter,” he notes.

“Compared with the large volume and cost of products typically transacted using a bunkering flow meter annually, the cost of calibration is minuscule. In the case of Singapore’s bunkering market with its turnover of USD 40 billion annually, safe guarding and implementation of mandatory calibration on a primary calibration lab is a small price to pay.”

Mr. Tan feels it is timely for Singapore to have a primary MFM calibration facility to support its bunkering industry.

“With targeted support and initiative, such a facility can indeed be realised and Singapore can demonstrate its leadership as the top bunkering port characterised by transparency and fairness,” he believes.

Authorities taking gradual and appropriate steps to ensure MFM performance

Darrick Pang, Managing Director of Metcore International Pte Ltd, an appointed Authorised Verifier (AV) facilitating verification of MFMs using a master mass flow meter as the reference standard, welcomes ideas and developments to support and enhance the measurement integrity and transparency of MFMs.

He believes the authorities are taking gradual and appropriate steps to ensure the performance of the MFMs are verified for their accuracy.

“Collaboration among all stakeholders is the key to success in charting the way forward,” said Mr Pang, citing the recent launch of Technical Reference (TR) 80 : 2020 Meter Verification Using Master Mass Flow Meter as an example.

“Bunkering MFMs have been operating in harsh marine conditions since the implementation of MFMs in Singapore waterfront from 2015 onwards; it is only proper that the MFMs are frequently verified or calibrated,” he states.

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 15 June, 2021

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