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Singapore: Marine fuel quality testing agencies applaud move for mandatory enhanced bunker fuel tests

Representatives from Maritec, VPS, Intertek, FOBAS and Eurofins Mechem offer Manifold Times their perspective on the development.

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RESIZED SG bunker tanker

A move by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to introduce mandatory enhanced checks for marine fuel delivered at Singapore port effective 1 June 2024 has received largely positive feedback from several local bunker fuel testing agencies, learns Manifold Times.

MPA has stated all residual and bio-residual bunker marine fuel supplied in the Port of Singapore, bunker suppliers must ensure that they do not contain Chlorinated Organic Compounds (COCs) above 50mg/kg, and must be free from inorganic acids. Specifically,

  • COC must be tested for using the EN 14077 accredited test method (concentration of total organic chlorine must not exceed 50mg/kg) and shall be reported in the “Certificate of Quality” (COQ) provided to receiving vessels;
  • Inorganic acids must be tested for using 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;

Maritec

“The issue of chemical contamination had plagued the bunkering industry for years, and the risk of receiving contaminated bunker fuels is likely to persist,” Dr Jagannath Panda, Technical Manager, Maritec, told the bunkering publication.

“This is mostly due to the complex bunker supply chain 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.

“Standard industry practice requires bunker oil being to marine vessels must fulfil ISO 8217 requirements. However, ISO 8217 has another criterion which states that it should not contain chemical waste, waste lubricants or any other contaminants which would impair the efficiency of the purification or engine system on vessel.”

According to Dr Jagannath, the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC) working group had assessed the situation around the organic chloride contamination cases in Singapore and recommended de-minimis levels of COC concentration not exceeding 50 ppm in marine fuels.

ISO8217:2023, which is currently in the draft stage, states in Annex B that ‘A fuel should be considered to be free from organic chlorides (COC) when the total organic halogen content as chlorine is not exceeding 50 ppm when tested in accordance with EN14077’.

“In dispute cases both CIMAC and ISO2024 recommend EN14077 test method to quantify total organic chlorides in marine fuel. It was also pointed out that presence of COCs can also be evaluated by other techniques like GCMS with required test precision data,” he shared.

“However, EN14077 test method is time consuming and expensive. It can be considered in case of dispute cases once organic chloride is detected by other technique.

“As such, CTI Maritec has adopted a modified ASTM D7845 test method for a quick screening and finding of COCs in marine fuel. The test was accredited by SAC SINGLASS and listed nine (9) COCs in basic GCMS package list. Maritec strongly recommends carrying out a GCMS test for all bunker fuels. Individual COC also can be quantified by using modified ASTM D7845 method.”

Dr Jagannath, meanwhile, agreed that strong acid in bunker fuel can be detected as Strong Acid Number (SAN) by the ASTM D664 test method which should not be greater than zero.

“Presence of strong acid also lower down pH which represents the highest potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration. The pH scale is logarithmic. Water has a pH of 7. A pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 5 and 100 times more acidic than a pH of 6,” he said.

“SAN which represents presence of strong acids covered in ISO 8217:2005, ISO 8217:2012 and ISO 8217:2017 para 5.1 states that the “fuels shall be free from Inorganic acids...".

“Maritec recommends testing SAN along with Total Acid Number (TAN) via ASTM D664 method for all bunker fuels.”

VPS

Capt. Rahul Choudhuri, President Strategic Partnerships of VPS, felt the move is certainly a positive step to improve the level of confidence for shipowners receiving bunkers at Singapore port.

“MPA formed the Industry Expert Group (IEG) in 2022 right after preliminary investigations on the chemical contamination case that rocked the industry - and sought advice from local marine fuel testing agencies on implementing additional fuel quality checks that would screen for unacceptable chemicals,” he said.

Capt. Choudhuri noted VPS was in fact the first testing company to detect chemical contaminants at Singapore port using its proprietary GCMS Headspace Screening method, and later supported MPA in extensive sampling and fingerprinting of the contaminated fuels.

“The port authority has shown it has taken bunker quality assurance seriously and will not hesitate to take necessary actions against relevant parties. This is a testament to Singapore’s drive as the premier bunkering port of choice,” he continued.

“This case also shows that marine fuel quality complexity cannot rely on ISO 8217 standards alone, and additional quality checks are needed for the betterment of the industry in general & shipowners in particular.”

Intertek

Ang Chee Teck, Regional Managing Director, Intertek Caleb Brett SEAsia and Japan, believed the new implementation will provide additional assurance to bunker oil end users.

“For this mandatory implementation to be possible, we would expect more extensively stringent verification which would imply the need to increase the quantity of testing parameters on the bunker oil,” he noted.

“We welcome MPA’s measure in introducing more stringent standards on local bunker fuel supply, which is aligned with Singapore drive in driving quality standard.

“Apart from that, it will be instrumental in the reduction of pollution to environment and vessel sailing disruption due to engine damages.

“Currently, fuel oil from most suppliers are able to meet the enhance testing measurement. The key is the priority balancing between quality and profit.”

FOBAS

Partha Das, Global Technical Manager at FOBAS, felt the move to prevent chemical contamination in bunker fuel delivered at Singapore port was a “very good initiative by MPA”.

“In 2022, we saw about 200 ships effected by contamination of Organic Chloride in the bunker. Organic Chlorides are highly corrosive, which can cause increase wear of fuel pumps,” he explained.

“Also, the solvent nature of these chemicals can affect the lubrication surface of the fuel pumps which can cause seizure and excessive sludge which can block the filters/purifier.

“Please note, bunkers are purchased as per ISO8217 specification. So as per the specification, there is an important clause, which states that the fuel shall not contain any additive at the concentration used in the fuel; or any added substance or chemical waste that jeopardizes the safety of the ship or adversely affects the performance of the machinery; or is harmful to personnel; or contributes overall to additional air pollution.”

Eurofins Mechem

Dr Cai Qiantao, Technical & PIP Director at Eurofins Mechem, said the company has been taking steps to ensure full compliance.

“With over 95% of our analyses already accredited in the required list, we are working tirelessly to complete the remaining accreditations before the deadline,” he stated.

“Our dedication to compliance is rooted in the Asian ethos of adaptability and resilience. We understand the importance of staying ahead of the curve and are committed to being ready for any changes. Our team has been working hard to update our testing methodologies, incorporating the latest innovations to meet the MPA's standards. Even the analyses that have not yet been accredited maintain the highest quality, reflecting our commitment to excellence.

“Our blend of tradition and modernization mirrors Singapore's journey towards progress and tradition, where we respect our heritage while embracing the future. Our focus is on achieving full accreditation with diligence and determination, just like the Singaporean spirit.

“Rest assured that our commitment to excellence and reliability remains unwavering. Our dedication to compliance reflects the very essence of Singapore's success story.”

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

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 13 March 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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