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VPS publishes 2023 annual review of its findings on bunker fuels

Findings in VPS’ review include 58% of its 2023 Bunker Alerts were for VLSFO fuels, followed by 24% for MGO fuels and 14% for HSFO; most common problematic parameter was Flash Point.

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Marine fuels testing company VPS on Tuesday (16 January) published an article titled ‘2023 Marine Bunker Fuels Review’ by Steve Bee, VPS Group Commercial Director, giving insightful annual review of VPS findings on both global and regional maritime fuel matters, focusing on marine fuels. 

Introduction

2023 saw the continuing evolution and the widening of available maritime fuel types and grades, as the global shipping industry gathered decarbonisation momentum to reduce its emissions and achieve current and future legislation targets. Existing CII and EEXI requirements, the incoming EU ETS legislation, plus the slightly longer-term IMO legislation, saw increasing demand for additional testing, lower-carbon fuels, data and digitalisation solutions across the shipping sectors.

As the leading maritime decarbonisation testing and advisory services provider, VPS continued to be at the forefront of marine fuels and lubricants analysis, utilising our experience, expertise and innovative approach, to support this drive for a more sustainable shipping fleet.  

Throughout the year, VPS witnessed further fuel quality issues with VLSFOs in terms of cold-flow property issues, sulphur compliance and cat-fines. HSFO and VLSFO suffered numerous degrees of chemical contamination, whilst MGO suffered from cold-flow, flash point and FAME off-specifications.

Biofuels usage certainly gathered momentum and the increased demand from the market led to increasing queries regarding their fuel management and their “fit-for-purpose” as a drop-in marine fuel, which in turn called upon VPS to provide answers and solutions to customers, utilising our extensive knowledge and understanding of biofuels and their associated test parameters. 

The Marine Fuel Mix

Across 2023, the fuel mix with respect to samples received for testing in VPS laboratories, equated to 62.7 million MT, which is over 5 million MT of marine fuels per month. VLSFO was the most popular marine fuel with 54.3% of the fuels used, followed by 29.5% HSFO (a growth of 15.4% over 2022), 14.2% MGO, 1.2% ULSFO and 0.8% Biofuels. Regarding biofuels usage, the samples tested by VPS equated to an increase from 231,000 MT in 2022 to 558,000 MT in 2023.

VPS 2023 MARINE BUNKER FUELS REVIEW

VPS Bunker Alerts

Bunker Alerts highlight short term fuel quality issues identified by VPS, for a specific test parameter of a specific fuel grade/type in a specific port. The service provides valuable information to customers, to assist in avoiding potentially problematic fuel types in a highlighted port or region, to further protect the customer’s asset and crew.

In 2023 VPS issued 28 Bunker Alerts, eight fewer than in 2022. The 2023 Bunker Alerts included all major fuel grades, i.e. VLSFO, HSFO, MGO and ULSFO, ten different test parameters, 12 ports and 9 countries.

58% of the 2023 Bunker Alerts were for VLSFO fuels, followed by 24% for MGO fuels and 14% for HSFO. The most common problematic parameter was Flash Point, accounting for 28% of the Bunker Alerts, followed by Sodium at 24%, with Sulphur and TSP at 10% each.

Singapore (32%) and ARA (21%) were the regions/ports most frequently requiring a Bunker Alert to be issued. But as these are the two busiest bunkering regions, it is not too surprising.

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Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 1

VLSFO Fuel Quality

As the most used marine fuel type, VLSFO accounts for more than half of the fuels tested by VPS. In terms of quality, Europe provided the highest level of off-specification VLSFOs in both 2023 (7.8%) and 2022 (7.9%). Africa provided the next highest level of off-specification fuels with 6.7% in 2023 and 7.0% in 2022, with North America third with 4.4% of fuels tested exhibiting at least one off-specification parameter in 2023 and 4.3% in 2022.

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Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 3

Sulphur is the most common off-specification parameter of VLSFOs, accounting for 26.6% of VLSFO off-specs in 2023 and 31.5% in 2022. 0.7% of VLSFOs tested in 2023 had a sulphur level of 0.50%-0.53%, with 0.5% of samples tested having a sulphur level greater than 0.53%.

Pour Point was also a common off-specification parameter for VLSFOs with 13.6% of VLSFOs off-specs relating to this parameter in 2023 an increase over the 11.4% level witnessed in 2022. 

The importance of the additional cold-flow test of Wax Appearance Temperature (WAT) and Wax Disappearance Temperature (WDT), was highlighted in 2023 with 63% of VLSFOs exhibiting WAT of 31-40ºC and 14% having WAT between 41-50ºC. 55.7% of VLSFO samples had a WDT of 41-50ºC, with 28.1% having a WDT of >50ºC. VLSFOs cold-flow properties are a definite concern with wax precipitating from the fuel at temperatures way in excess of 10ºC above the pour point, potentially causing numerous operational problems such as filter and pipework blockages.

Sulphur is the most common off-specification parameter of VLSFOs, accounting for 26.6% of VLSFO off-specs in 2023 and 31.5% in 2022. 0.7% of VLSFOs tested in 2023 had a sulphur level of 0.50%-0.53%, with 0.5% of samples tested having a sulphur level greater than 0.53%.

Pour Point was also a common off-specification parameter for VLSFOs with 13.6% of VLSFOs off-specs relating to this parameter in 2023 an increase over the 11.4% level witnessed in 2022. 

The importance of the additional cold-flow test of Wax Appearance Temperature (WAT) and Wax Disappearance Temperature (WDT), was highlighted in 2023 with 63% of VLSFOs exhibiting WAT of 31-40ºC and 14% having WAT between 41-50ºC. 55.7% of VLSFO samples had a WDT of 41-50ºC, with 28.1% having a WDT of >50ºC. VLSFOs cold-flow properties are a definite concern with wax precipitating from the fuel at temperatures way in excess of 10ºC above the pour point, potentially causing numerous operational problems such as filter and pipework blockages.

2023 also saw a significant increase in cat-fine levels in VLSFOs, with 12.7% of all off-specifications relating to this parameter, compared to 8.5% in 2022. 16.2% of all VLSFOs showed a cat-fine level greater than 40ppm. Frequent checking of purifier efficiency via VPS’ Fuel System Checks (FSC) service is a highly recommended proactive safeguard in respect to increased cat-fines within VLSFOs.

VLSFO viscosities vary enormously depending upon to blend components used. In 2023 VLSFO viscosities ranged from <20Cst to >380Cst. 16% of all VLSFO off-specifications were due to viscosity. Only 0.5% of VLSFOs had a viscosity of >380Cst. 68% of all VLSFO viscosities were less than 180Cst. Viscosity is such a key operational parameter, determining the transfer and injection temperatures of fuel onboard ships and therefore determining the exact viscosity of VLSFOs is crucial to ensure optimal efficiency.

Biofuels

As global shipping looks towards low-to-zero carbon fuels to answer many emissions reduction challenges, biofuels offer an immediate “drop-in” solution. As such VPS tested the equivalent of over 500,000 MT of biofuels in 2023 compared to ca. 230,000 MT in 2022.

Europe, (mainly ARA-region) provided the highest volume of biofuels at almost 400K MT (ca. 74%) and Singapore second (ca. 21%), providing just over 100K MT.

The most common biofuel blend was B30 (10-30% bio), which accounted for 34.3% of biofuel samples tested by VPS. Yet, B100 (>90% bio) was not far behind with 30.1%.

The majority of biofuels contained Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) as the bio-component, although VPS did test others containing HVO, HEFA, Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) and Tyre Pyrolysis Oil (TPO).

Where FAME is the bio-component within marine biofuels, the key considerations are:

  • Energy Content, Renewable Content
  • Fuel Stability, Cold-Flow Properties
  • Corrosivity, Microbial Growth

Of the biofuels tested by VPS in 2023, 9% of those tested for oxidation stability gave the concerning result of <5 hours, highlighting a high degree of instability, whilst 6.7% gave a result of 5-8 hours which is still a cause for concern.

In terms of corrosivity, 11.9% of those biofuels tested provided an amber/caution result, whilst 8.5% of those tested provide a red warning, indicating potential high levels of corrosivity.

It is fully expected that the growth in biofuels usage for marine applications will continue to increase across 2024 and the VPS Additional Protection Service (APS) when using biofuels, will only increase in importance as the industry looks for more information regarding the fuel management of biofuels.

Summary

2023 once again highlighted the importance of bunker fuel quality testing, as a proactive means to protect vessels, their crew and the environment. With additional tests, currently not included within ISO8217, providing further  vital information in achieving heightened levels of protection.

Whilst we can expect a new revision of ISO8217 in early 2024, additional tests will still hold an important role in fuel management.

Biofuels usage will continue to increase in demand and importance, as ship owners and operators look to achieve improvements through CII and EEXI, as well as looking to counter the financial impact of the EU ETS scheme.

Methanol demand and usage will also grow, following the recent success of Maersk’s Laura Maersk and the rapidly growing order book for methanol-powered vessels.

So 2024, suggests another year of widening marine fuel types and grades coming to market, coupled with their growing fuel management considerations.

Note: The full article titled ‘2023 Marine Bunker Fuels Review’ with related graphs and charts can be found here

Related: World’s first methanol-fuelled boxship christened and named “Laura Maersk”

 

Photo credit: VPS
Published: 30 January, 2024

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Bunker Alerts

Bunker Flash: High cat fines found in ARA bunker fuel samples, alerts CTI-Maritec

Out of 22 samples representing both HSFO and VLSFO deliveries in ARA, CTI-Maritec found Aluminium and Silicon concentrations in two samples to be above 100 mg/Kg and in one sample at 68 mg/Kg level.

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Bunker fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) on Friday (12 July) issued an alert regarding high levels of Aluminium and Silicon (Al+Si) concentrations — referred to as catalytic (cat) fines —found after testing multiple samples from various bunker deliveries from the ARA region:

Findings & Insights:

From the period of 08 May 2024 to 05 July 2024, Maritec Pte Ltd (hereafter referred to as CTI-Maritec) tested twenty-two samples representing both HSFO and VLSFO deliveries from various suppliers in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region, which showed Aluminium and Silicon (Al+Si) concentrations ranging from 40 mg/Kg up to 177 mg/kg.

Out of the twenty-two samples, CTI-Maritec found Aluminium and Silicon (Al+Si) concentrations in two samples to be above 100 mg/Kg and in one sample at 68 mg/Kg level.

While the rest of the samples fell within the specifications of ISO8217:2005 (80 ppm) and even within the ISO8217:2010/2017 specification (including permitted limits of 72 PPM as per ISO4259 for a single test result), the Cat fines content were still considered at high levels. Many of these samples were also found to have high density, high TSP and high CCAI.

Aluminium and Silicon are main classes of abrasive solids found in fuels. High levels of abrasive particles at the engine inlet may lead to abnormal wear and tear of the fuel system components, piston rings and cylinder liners. To control the maximum amount of catalyst fines delivered to the engine, many engine builders specify a maximum limit of 15 mg/kg of Aluminium plus Silicon at engine inlet.

An efficiently operating fuel purification system is the main way of removing these particles. Measuring the fuel’s Aluminium and Silicon concentrations before and after centrifuge provides an indication of the efficiency of the system in removing catalyst fines.

Due to relatively high TSP, fuels might generate increased sludge formation, especially at the Purifiers and filters. Due to high CCAI, fuels might have ignition and combustion related issues.

Our Recommendations:

CTI-Maritec recommends collecting samples from within the fuel system at points such as the fuel oil tank transfer pump, before and after centrifuge, service tank and after filter samples to check the fuel cleaning efficiency.

This document, however, does not reflect on the overall quality of fuel being supplied in ARA region, if you intend to bunker at this region please request for a Certificate of Quality prior to loading.

 

Photo credit: Hans Reniers on Unsplash
Published: 15 July 2024

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Fuel Quality

FOBAS: CIMAC publishes more documents on ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specs

FOBAS has highlighted that CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) has released several documents including on diesel engines to support the adoption of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel standard.

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Lloyd’s Register Fuel Oil Bunkering Analysis and Advisory Service (FOBAS) on Friday (5 July) released a bulletin to highlight that CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) has released more documents to support the adoption of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel standard:

Further to our last bulletin, please note that CIMAC WG7 (Fuels) has released a very comprehensive document titled Design and operation of fuel cleaning systems for diesel engines

This document has three sections, first part discusses the properties of conventional fuels, second part reviews the corresponding fuel system designs, and third part provides best practice approach to handling marine fuels onboard.

Similarly, CIMAC has also published a guidance document titled The interpretation of marine fuel analysis test results which is effectively a revision of the CIMAC WG7 guideline No. 02:2016. 

The document provides information on how to apply the ISO 4259 approach to the interpretation of the analysis test results in respect of the marine fuel characteristics given in ISO 8217 from both the recipient and the supplier perspectives. This revision includes tests added in ISO 8217:2024 and incorporates updated method precision data where relevant.

Moreover, CIMAC has published important guidance titled Overview and interpretation of total sediment test results in the context of ISO 8217:2024

This document provides an overview of test methodologies for assessing stability and cleanliness of residual marine fuels through the interpretation of the accelerated total sediment (TSA), potential total sediment (TSP) and existent total sediment (TSE) test results.

We hope you will find these documents useful. Please note that FOBAS experts are an integral part of CIMAC WG7 who along with other members, worked extensively to produce these guidance documents.

Related: CIMAC Working Group Fuels publishes first of five guidelines supporting release of ISO 8217:2024
Related: FOBAS highlights publication of CIMAC biofuel guidance document
Related: FOBAS announces publication of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specifications and FAQs
Related: VPS shares review and position on new ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specs

 

Photo credit: Louis Reed from Unsplash
Published: 8 July, 2024

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Bunker Fuel

VPS shares review and position on new ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specs

VPS believes new revised standard ISO8217:2024 is a major step forward from the previous 2017 6th revision and will provide global shipping and bunker industry with greater support than its predecessor.

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Steve Bee, Group Commercial Director of marine fuels testing company VPS, on Thursday (4 July) highlighted on the latest ISO 8217:2024 revisions and their impact on maritime emissions compliance:

Ever-increasing environmental legislation in relation to reducing emissions from the global maritime fleet, has driven the development of numerous new fuels, since the last revision of the international marine fuel standard, ISO 8217:2017. 

We have seen in recent years the introduction of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oils (VLSFOs) to support meeting the IMO2020 change in reducing the global cap for sulphur levels within marine fuels to 0.50%. This has been followed by a transition to include synthetic, renewable and recycled content within marine fuels, in the form of biofuels. These will support the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to help comply with the IMO 2030/2050 targets and numerous other legislative requirements such as, Monitoring, Recording & Verification (MRV), CII & EEXI, EU Emissions Trading Scheme and FuelEU Maritime.

As the world’s leading marine fuel testing company, VPS has over the years witnessed a slow uptake of new revisions of the ISO 8217 standard, due to a combination of price and initial availability.

According to our most recent data, 12.6% of fuel samples that are received for testing were purchased in accordance with the 2005 standard, 47.7% with the 2010 revision, 19.3% with the 2012 version, and just 20.4% with the most recent revision published in 2017.

VPS shares review and position on new ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specs

Testing to a standard specification which is almost 20 years old and superseded by four revisions, the 2005 revision offers little in the way of vessel and environmental protection with respect to modern fuels, yet over 12% of fuels are still purchased against this revision. The cat-fine limit of 80ppm, has elevated risk of vessel damages than the 60ppm limit introduced as far back as 2010. Sulphur limits are widely outdated with the requirements of the IMO2020, 0.50% limit, stating sulphur limits of 3.50%, 4.00% and 4.50%, for the various residual grades, offering little in regard to today’s SOx regulations. In addition, Clause 5 of ISO 8217:2005, offers no consideration of today’s more complex fuel mix and the presence of FAME, HVO, GTL, or BTL in today’s fuel supply chain.

Today, the most popular revision of the standard is still ISO 8217:2010, accounting for almost 50% of all fuel samples received for testing. This 14-year old fuel standard, pre-empted the future changes in sulphur limit regulations, by removing sulphur limits from Table 2. However, this old standard revision did not account for the statutory requirements of IMO2020 and the introduction ten years later, of the 0.50% sulphur VLSFO fuels which came to the market to address the legislative reduction in SOx emissions from global shipping. There is no specification within this revision for VLSFOs, currently the most popular marine fuel type purchased today. 

In addition, for VLSFOs there has been a reduction in the spread of viscosity range from 2021 to 2024. In 2021 the majority (37%) of the VLSFO’s supplied in the marine industry had a viscosity in the range of 80 to 100 cSt. This has changed over the years showing an increasing trend in the viscosity, so that in 2024 we see an increase to 43% of the VLSFO’s supplied in the marine industry with viscosity in the range of 80 to 100 cSt. 

However, all samples are tested to a 380Cst specification, with only a maximum viscosity specification and no minimum viscosity limit, which would have been extremely helpful especially to the operators to plan ahead. Yet, a positive introduction was the Cat-fine limit reduction to 60ppm.

For distillate grades, ISO 8217:2010 introduced a new grade, DMZ, with minimum viscosity 3.000 mm2/s at 40°C. Specification limits were added for hydrogen sulphide, acid number, oxidation stability and lubricity. In addition, the minimum viscosity requirement for DMA was raised to 2.000 mm2/s and a minimum viscosity requirement of 2.000 mm2/s added for DMB.

Some changes were also made to the residual grades.

Yet Clause 5 within ISO8217:2010, has the following statement: 

5.4 The fuel shall be free from bio-derived materials other than 'de minimis' levels of FAME (FAME shall be in accordance with the requirements of EN 14214 or ASTM D6751). In the context of this International Standard, “de minimis” means an amount that does not render the fuel unacceptable for use in marine applications. The blending of FAME shall not be allowed.

The ISO 8217:2017 revision currently accounts for only 20% of fuels purchased, which is astonishingly low, considering that up to May 2024, it was the most recent revision? This revision did move nearer than its predecessors towards accounting for the presence of renewable feedstocks and FAME.

This sixth revision had changes in the general requirements to allow hydrocarbons from co-processing of renewable feedstock with petroleum feedstock and hydrocarbons from synthetic or renewable sources. Additional marine distillate grades, DFA, DFZ and DFB were added with a maximum fatty acid methyl ester(s) (FAME) content of 7.0 volume % 

Requirements to report cloud point and cold filter plugging point were added to winter grades of DMA and DMZ, whilst the sulphur content of DMA and DMZ was reduced to a maximum of 1.00 mass % and the sulphur content of DMB reduced to a maximum of 1.50 mass %. Along with these changes, the “de minimis” FAME level was increased to approximately 0.5%.

Finally, Clause 5 contained the following statement:

5.1 The fuel composition shall consist predominantly of hydrocarbons primarily derived from petroleum sources while it may also contain hydrocarbons from the following:

- synthetic or renewable sources such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Gas to Liquid (GTL) or Biomass to Liquid (BTL);

- co-processing of renewable feedstock at refineries with petroleum feedstock.

Therefore, whilst upon release, each revision of ISO8217 has introduced many improvements relating to marine fuel quality at the time of release, the drive to reduce emissions from global shipping has seen many changes in fuels, introduced at a faster rate than the updates within ISO8217. As a consequence,

buying fuels to older revisions, will only elevate the levels of risk to a vessel, crew health & safety and the environment. So, in May 2024, 80% of marine fuels are still being purchased to ISO82217 revisions which are between 12-19 years old, bearing little resemblance to the fuels available in today’s marine fuel market.

The introduction of the latest and 7th revision of the standard, ISO 8217:2024, released on 30th May 2024, has now addressed a number of the requirements associated with these newer fuels, to support the industry on its decarbonisation journey.

In addition to ISO 8217:2024, ISO 8216:2024, released prior to the release of ISO 8217:2024, identifies the various fuel grades introduced within the new standard and explaining the designated fuel codes.

VPS Review of ISO8217:2024

VPS believes the new revised standard ISO 8217:2024, is a major step forward from the previous 2017 6th revision and will provide global shipping and the bunker industry with greater support than its predecessor. Further to this, VPS would like to provide additional fuel quality and fuel management considerations:

Table 1 and Table 3 emphasises on distillates and biofuels with residual and distillate blends including FAME, HVO, GTL and BTL. VPS have tested several biofuels over the recent years with different bio-components, such as Cashew Nut shell Liquid (CNSL) and Tyre Pyrolysis Oil (TPO), Bio FAME residues, Algae oil all of which exhibit different behaviours and fuel management challenges, to those vessels choosing to use such fuel blends. Some of the key parameters that are required to identify the quality of such fuels are not considered in this revision of the standard.

Note: The full article by VPS’ Steve Bee and tables mentioned can be found here

Related: Integr8 report: Two-thirds of residual bunker fuels still sold with pre-2017 ISO specs
Related: CIMAC Working Group Fuels publishes first of five guidelines supporting release of ISO 8217:2024
Related: Singapore: CTI-Maritec outlines key changes of newly released ISO 8217:2024
Related: FOBAS announces publication of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specifications and FAQs
Related: FOBAS issues industry update of new ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specifications

 

Photo credit: VPS
Published: 5 July, 2024

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