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Bunker Fuel Quality

Singapore: CTI-Maritec publishes whitepaper on upcoming mandatory enhanced bunker fuel tests

CTI-Maritec shared its insights and recommendations related to testing of COCs, TAN and SAN for all bunker supply in Singapore following mandatory enhanced checks at Singapore port effective 1 June.

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Bunker fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) on Monday (1 April) published its latest whitepaper related to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) move to introduce enhanced testing parameters for marine fuel batches intended to be delivered as bunkers in the port of Singapore from 1 June. 

In accordance with the MPA’s Port Marine Circular No 3 of 2024, from 1 June 2024 onwards, bunker suppliers in the Port of Singapore must ensure that:

  • Residual & bio-residual bunker fuel do not contain Chlorinated Organic Compounds (COC) above 50mg/kg and are free from inorganic acids.
  • COC must be tested using the EN 14077 accredited test method and shall be reported in the “Certificate of Quality” (COQ) provided to receiving vessels.
  • Inorganic acids must use the ASTM D664 accredited test method as prescribed in ISO 8217 and the Strong Acid Number (SAN) (in addition to the Total Acid Number (TAN) shall be reported in the COQ (i.e. SAN = 0) provided to receiving vessels. For distillate / bio-distillate bunker marine fuel batches, SAN must be tested as per ASTM D664 test method and reported in the COQ.
  • Residual marine fuels are free from polystyrene, polypropylene & polymethacrylate. These can be tested by filtration, microscopic examination, & Fourier-Transform Infrared spectroscopy analysis. 

In view of the above, CTI-Maritec shared its insights and recommendations in the paper, titled Insights & Recommendations on Singapore MPA’s Enhanced Testing Parameters for Marine Fuel Batches, related to the testing of COCs, TAN and SAN for all bunker supply in Singapore, and its recommendations for testing Polymers for reported problem cases.

In the conclusion of the whitepaper, CTI-Maritec said the issue of chemical contamination has plagued the bunker industry for years, and the risk of receiving contaminated bunker fuels is likely to persist.

“This is mostly due to complex bunker supply chains, which consists of a network of different stakeholders including refineries, traders, and physical suppliers operating their own barges, with some performing their own fuel blending operation,” it said.

“However, with the imminent enforcement of MPA’s Port Marine Circular No 3 of 2024, the stage is set to raise the bar of the bunkering fuel quality in the Port of Singapore and further support stronger vessel health.”

CTI-Maritec added the new requirements in Singapore could also pave the way for other international Port Authorities to implement the same requirements for their bunker suppliers.

“Furthermore, a key learning from the 2022 incidents is the critical need for bunkering buyers / ship owners / vessels to adopt, as a standard practice, an enhanced fuel testing approach as a pre-emptive measure in securing their vessel’s health,” it added, referring to the bunker contamination incident in Singapore in February 2022, where about 200 ships were supplied with High Sulfur Fuel Oil (HSFO) containing high levels of Chlorinated Organic Compounds (COC) in the Port of Singapore. 

The firm encouraged bunker buyers to consult the bunker suppliers in advance and have proper contractual agreement for the quality of fuel bunkered.

Manifold Times previously reported the move by MPA for enhanced checks for marine fuel delivered at Singapore port receiving largely positive feedback from several local bunker fuel testing agencies including VPS and Intertek.

Related: Singapore: Marine fuel quality testing agencies applaud move for mandatory enhanced bunker fuel tests
Related: Singapore: MPA tightens testing parameters to reduce contaminated bunker fuels
Related: MPA: Glencore and PetroChina supplied contaminated bunkers to about 200 ships in the Port of Singapore

Note: The full copy of CTI-Maritec whitepaper titled ‘Insights & Recommendations on Singapore MPA’s Enhanced Testing Parameters for Marine Fuel Batches’ can be viewed here

 

Photo credit: Louis Reed from Unsplash
Published: 2 April 2024

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Biofuel

Singapore: GCMD studies FAME biofuel degradation in bunker supply chains

Latest report by GCMD, which tracked quality of FAME and FAME blends across maritime supply chain, found that trials detected no significant degradation of FAME under commercial operations conditions.

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Singapore: GCMD studies FAME biofuel degradation in commercial and storage conditions

The Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) on Tuesday (18 June) announced the release of its latest report,aimed to shed light on its findings from tracking the quality of FAME and FAME blends as they make their way through the supply chains and on consumption onboard vessels.

GCMD said Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME), a readily available biofuel, is gaining attention as an immediate solution to comply with EU and IMO regulations.

FAME use in major bunkering hubs Singapore and Rotterdam has risen from being negligible in 2020 to a combined 1 million metric tonnes (mt) of FAME blends in 2023.

“Unlike conventional marine fuels, FAME-based biofuels can be unstable since its natural oils and fats can slowly oxidise when exposed to atmospheric oxygen,” it said. 

When oxidation happens, FAME can degrade to produce by-products, like peroxides, alcohols, and sludge, all of which can impact engine life and performance. Degradation can also be further accelerated by exposure to water, impurities, contaminants, light, and heat.

The report, titled Tracking the propensity of biofuels degradation across the maritime supply chain, sheds light on a crucial question: Does FAME degrade significantly under actual commercial and storage conditions in the marine supply chains, hindering its potential as a widespread decarbonisation solution?  

Key insights and takeaways

 Encouragingly, GCMD said end-to-end supply chain trials detected no significant degradation of FAME under commercial operations conditions.

“These findings offer strong support for FAME use in the marine fuels supply chain,” it said. 

The report elaborates how the team traced the properties of FAME and FAME blends, and tracked the parameters of FAME quality, namely acid value, viscosity, FAME content, energy content and microbial contamination, of samples at different points along the supply chain to come to this conclusion.

What the report covers

  • Understanding the propensity of degradation of FAME
  • Tracing FAME quality in GCMD’s end-to-end supply chains
  • Understanding the current ISO specifications for FAME quality requirements
  • Contextualising GCMD’s findings per ISO specifications

The report is co-authored by Dr. Prapisala Thepsithar, Director of Projects, and Dr. Sanjay Kuttan, Chief Strategy Officer, at GCMD. 

It has also been reviewed by industry leaders: Dr. Malcolm Cooper, CEO of VPS, Captain Rahul Choudhuri, President, Strategic Partnerships, VPS and Ms. Monique Vermeire, Fuels Technologist at Chevron.

In a social media post, Capt. Rahul Choudhuri, President Strategic Partnerships, said: “VPS is very proud to have supported the Global Centre of Maritime Decarbonization (GCMD) in this vitally important work of understanding the nature of Biofuels Degradation.”

VPS said the biofuels study showed levels of fuel degradation in a real-world environment. Whereas the trials indicated no degradation of the Biofuels over the nominated transportation section & supply to the vessel

Note: The report titled ‘Tracking the propensity of biofuels degradation across the maritime supply chain’ can be found here

 

Photo credit: Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation
Published: 19 June 2024

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Biofuel

FOBAS highlights publication of CIMAC biofuel guidance document

CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) in support of adopting recently published ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel standard, has released a biofuel guidance document and an FAQ document on ISO 8217:2024 standard.

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Lloyd’s Register Fuel Oil Bunkering Analysis and Advisory Service (FOBAS) on Saturday (15 June) released a bulletin to highlight the publication of a biofuel guidance document by CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) following the recently published ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel standard:

Further to our last bulletin, please note that CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) in support of adopting recently published ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel standard, has released a biofuel guidance document titled ‘Marine fuels containing FAME; A guideline for shipowners and operators’ and an FAQ document on ISO 8217:2024 standard.

The focus of biofuel CIMAC guideline is onboard operations when using blends of FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) up to B100 i.e., 100% FAME allowed as per ISO 8217:2024. The document has been divided into various sections with detailed commentary on topics such as sustainability, production/specifications of FAME, onboard operational considerations, quality assessment methods outlined in ISO 8217:2024, and finally a short discussion on unestablished and/or recycled biofuels.

The FAQ document on ISO 8217:2024 helps to addresses important questions and changes made compared to the previous versions such as increasing the number of tables from two to four, inclusion of FAME based biofuels and certain test methods etc.

Please note that CIMAC is expected to release a few more documents in coming weeks to support ISO 8217:2024 standard which include ‘Overview and interpretation of total sediment test results in the context of ISO 8217:2024’, ‘Design and operation of fuel cleaning systems for diesel engines’ and ‘The interpretation of marine fuel analysis test results’. 

We intend to issue another bulletin to announce the release of these documents.

Related: FOBAS announces publication of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specifications and FAQs
Related: CIMAC Working Group Fuels publishes first of five guidelines supporting release of ISO 8217:2024

 

Photo credit: Hans Reniers on Unsplash
Published: 18 June 2024

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Bunker Fuel

Integr8 report: Two-thirds of residual bunker fuels still sold with pre-2017 ISO specs

New ISO 8217 standards present a rare opportunity to do away with industry’s reliance on obsolete fuel specifications but noted that it will be no easy task as majority of fuels are still sold with pre-2017 specifications.

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Integr8 report: Two-thirds of residual bunker fuels still sold with pre-2017 ISO specs

Integr8 Fuels, the bunker trading and brokerage arm of Navig8, on Tuesday (11 June) announced the release of its Bunker Quality Trends Report Q1 2024, which revealed several issues including the impact of the Red Sea closure on VLSFO compliance and emerging bunker quality trends.

In the latest report, bunker quality and claims manager Chris Turner advised shipowners and bunker buyers on how they can improve their buying processes and performance. 

Analysing data from over 130 million metric tonnes of deliveries to assess fuel quality trends and challenges from region-to-region, Turner revealed the most pressing quality issues the industry is up against. 

These include:

  • Red Sea closure affecting VLSFO compliance for vessels rerouting around Africa
  • Global VLSFO compliance suffers as suppliers stretch barges to cash in on rising HSFO
  • demand, driven by increasing scrubber numbers
  • Two-thirds of fuels are still sold with obsolete (pre-2017) specifications. Can the new ISO specs finally shake up old school practices?
  • Profit margin-motivated blenders push more HSFOs over ISO limits
  • VLSFO sulphur off specs worsening in the ARA and partly driven by high- to low sulphur barge switching

Red Sea closure impact on VLSFO compliance

Geopolitical events often have a knock-on effect on fuel quality, sometimes relating to blending economics, and occasionally, also relating to the impact on barge infrastructure because of rapidly changing demand.

Since October 2023, many more vessels have been rerouting around Africa rather than travelling via the Red Sea, resulting in a significant increase in volume of HSFO demand, with a ripple effect stretching as far as Barcelona. During the same period, there has been a 30% increase in VLSFO sulphur off specification incidents in ports along the African coast and nearby Spain, which upon closer inspection, show a root cause of affected barges also carrying HSFO.

Integr8 Fuels’ analysis has identified suppliers running a similar model who are unaffected - this likely due to their infrastructure allowing double valve segregation and separate manifolds onboard the barge preventing any cross-over contamination, and/or proper management of grade changeover.

The increase in HSFO demand is also putting pressure on supply models.

Another factor is the significant increase in the number of vessels equipped with scrubbers, resulting in a far higher demand for HSFO than in recent years with data available to Integr8 suggesting approximately 100 million MT of deadweight tonnage being either delivered or retrofitted with scrubbers in 2023. This combined with the price spread which remains very appealing, and scrubber assets travelling further at higher speeds, continues to support the demand going forwards.

Suppliers of course want to meet this increased demand and in doing so place transitional temporary pressure on existing assets or could be forced into a sea change in strategy, both of which may result in the practice of storing both HSFOs and VLSFOs onboard the asset.

This is made apparent by increased sulphur off specification occurrences with the root cause being the switching of grades by certain suppliers, in ports including but not limited to Barcelona, Callao and Hong Kong.

New ISO specs

The International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) recently launched ISO 8217:2024 standards present a rare opportunity to do away with the industry’s reliance on obsolete fuel specifications. This is no easy task as research from Integr8 shows that two-thirds of residual bunker fuels and three-quarters of distillate bunker fuels are still sold with pre-2017 specifications.

ISO 8217:2024 introduces several important amendments. Notably, it sets minimum viscosity limits across all residual grades, addressing handling issues with low-viscosity fuels. It also identifies specific chemical species linked to operational problems, such as organic chlorides, and incorporates international testing standards. The new specification prepares the industry for the growing use of biofuel blends by establishing new testing parameters for these fuels, such as FAME content and net heat of combustion.

There are however missed opportunities, namely related to de-minimis levels of organic chlorides and cold flow properties.

Suppliers may again attempt to avoid the small print on organic chlorides as they have previously done with Clause 5, which could possibly have been better addressed by incorporating a maximum limit in tables. Cold flow properties must only be reported, not guaranteed, leaving the potential need for buyers to seek additional guarantees outside ISO 8217:2024. This remains a concern as certificates of quality (where such values are reported) often lack reliability when provided at a distant time from delivery.

Despite these challenges, the ISO 8217:2024 specification represents a substantial step forward, providing the necessary framework to address many current fuel quality issues. The uptake of the 2024 specification will depend significantly on ship owners demanding these new standards be incorporated into charterparty agreements. By doing so, owners can drive the transition from outdated specifications to the latest version, paving the way for a more reliable and efficient future in marine fuel standards.

Global HSFO off specs

Global HSFO quality has worsened in the past six months. The number of off-specification HSFO samples has gone up from 3% to 3.4%, and this is significantly higher than for VLSFO (2.1%) and MGO (2.8%).

Profit-motivated blending can go some way to explain the deteriorating HSFO trend. Almost half of HSFO off specs have been blending-related and come as a result of blending close to HSFOs density and viscosity limits, Turner argues. Water content is the second most likely usual off spec suspect and has made up around a third of HSFO off specs.

But fortunately, neither density, viscosity nor most of the water off specs qualify as so-called “critical” or “high risk” off specs. They are not likely to lead to serious engine trouble or debunkerings, which can cost shipowners dearly. These off specs are typically economically motivated. Density and viscosity off specs are more common for HSFO than for VLSFO and LSMGO because they are the blending targets for HSFO, and blenders have an incentive to blend as close to those limits as possible to save money.

VLSFO sulphur off specs

Sulphur is the biggest off spec concern for VLSFO. Again, this has to do with blending as the 0.50% sulphur limit is the target that blenders have their eyes on. Blending too far from the limit can eat into your profit margins, and we have seen the average sulphur contents in VLSFOs creep up in both the ARA and Singapore in the past six months.

In Singapore, you were 2.5 times more likely get a VLSFO stem with a sulphur content of 0.51-0.53% in the past six months as you were getting one in the preceding six-month period. It is evident that blending is being optimised towards the 0.50%.

But while only 0.3% of VLSFOs test off spec for sulphur in Singapore, the ARA has seen 2% of VLSFOs testing off spec. In the ARA, “we regretfully report that we are almost twice as likely to face a sulphur off specification incident now than in the previous reporting period,” Turner wrote.

Note: The full report of Integr8 Fuels’ ‘Bunker Quality Trends Report Q1 2024’ can be downloaded here.

Related: Integr8 Fuels: Off spec issue with MGO equally likely to occur as with HSFO

 

Photo credit: Integr8 Fuels
Published: 12 June 2024

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