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VPS: The importance of bunker fuel chemical screening and why it can no longer be ignored

Shipowners who are not already conducting the chemical contamination screening test should review their fuel management strategy to minimise risk, VPS advises in list of recommendations.




MT pix 25 july 2022 37

Steve Bee, Group Commercial & Business Development Director of marine fuels testing company VPS, on Wednesday (2 November) shared the importance of using chemical contamination screening test to detect contaminants present in marine fuels – including contaminated bunkers delivered to vessels in the port of Singapore in February.

Earlier this year, VPS led the way in detecting and identifying the cause of the fuel contamination issue in Singapore, which raised widespread panic across the shipping industry.

An estimated 200 vessels received HSFO bunker stems containing chlorinated hydrocarbons, which caused damage to approximately 80 vessels. Whilst the Singapore case was one of the world’s largest ever fuel contamination events, the presence of this specific chemical contamination was not a unique occurrence. Almost twenty years ago, trichloroethylene was detected in heavy fuel oil supplied in Fujairah and over the past two decades, chlorinated hydrocarbons have been detected on numerous occasions across the world’s ports by VPS using GCMS.

The effects caused by the presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons witnessed onboard vessels range from, complete engine blackout (affecting  main engines and auxiliary engines), to fuel pump corrosion, plungers sticking in the barrel, main fuel engine plunger damage, fuel sludging, filter blockages  and elevated exhaust temperatures.

Vessel owners and operators are quite rightly concerned over the potential risks chlorinated hydrocarbons pose to their ships. Expensive engine and fuel delivery system damages, plus risks to crew health and safety and potential costly delays and loss of earnings, can all be consequences of such contaminated fuel being stored and used onboard.

But it is not only the vessel owners and operators who can potentially suffer damages and losses due to chemical contamination. Fuel suppliers are also at risk of unknowingly supplying such fuels containing chlorinated hydrocarbons and other potentially damaging chemical groups. Expensive claims, loss of operational licences and catastrophic reputational damage, have all been outcomes suppliers have suffered due to the presence of chemicals in their products.

For many years VPS have provided market- leading GCMS services, which protect our customers from potential damages due to chemical contamination of fuel.

The first step is to use the relatively inexpensive, GCMS-Headspace Chemical Screening, which is a rapid, pre-burn service, which qualitatively detects a range of volatile chemical contaminants. During 2021-22 almost 8% of all VPS screening tests indicated a “caution” result, meaning the test had identified a higher concentration of a potentially damaging chemical compound within the fuel sample.

When a “caution” result is seen, VPS conduct an Extended-Headspace GCMS analysis, which provides a more detailed analysis of   the sample. Following this if required, analysis can move on to an even further detailed quantitative GCMS-Vacuum Distillation test. Returning to the Singapore case back in March 2022, VPS identified the contaminants as four specific chlorinated hydrocarbons:

  •       1,2-dichloroethane (CAS No. 107-06-2)
  •       1,1,2-tricholoroethane (CAS No. 79-00-5)
  •       Tetrachloroethylene (CAS No. 127-18-4)
  •       Chloro-benzene (CAS No. 108-90-7)

These compounds are not part of the refining process of crude oil and as such, should not be present within marine fuels, as stated under Section 5 of the international marine fuel standard, ISO8217.

As a result of these initial findings, the MPA invited VPS to assist in their investigation. VPS were able to provide further evidence of the presence of the contaminants, their source, behaviour, plus how and why such chemicals cause the damages witnessed by the vessels, which suffered when using the fuel. VPS identified 8 supply barges within the port that were contaminated with these chlorinated hydrocarbons. Correlation of VPS results showed that when the concentration of total chlorinated hydrocarbons was less than 100mg/Kg, then no damage was caused to the vessels fuel delivery system or engines.

In Week 43 of 2022, the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC) published its findings on chlorinated organic compounds based on their research into the Singapore case. In their view, more than 100 vessels had suffered operational problems after taking on the contaminated HSFO fuel.

The CIMAC Working Group determined there was and is, a correlation between the  elevated levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons within fuel and vessel equipment failure. As a result, the Working Group recommends that marine fuels should keep the level of chlorinated hydrocarbons present, below 50mg/Kg, as a tolerable de minimis level.

CIMAC stated the EN14077 test method could be used to screen for the presence of total organic chlorides. However, the CIMAC Working Group also stated GCMS testing would be required to identify the individual contaminants, detection which the VPS GCMS methodologies provide.

GCMS-HS Chemical Screening can and will provide rapid detection of not only chlorinated hydrocarbons, but also a host of other potential contaminants. This technique can be a frontline defence in protecting vessels from the potential risks such chemicals can pose to the shipping industry and the damage they can inflict upon vessels and vessel operations. VPS has applied GCMS Chemical Screening to more than 100,000 bunker samples since 2016, serving over 400 shipping customers to protect their vessels.

VPS therefore makes the following recommendations:

  1.   Shipowners who are not already conducting the chemical contamination screening test should review their fuel management strategy to minimise risk.
  2.   Be clear on how the chemical screening will apply in terms of 1st level, 2nd level or 3rd level evaluation.
  3.   Once the chemical contamination review has started, build a database to evaluate higher risk ports & cause & effect considerations.

For more information regarding GCMS-HS Chemical Screening and further GCMS methodologies, please contact your local VPS Account Manager for details or mail to: [email protected]


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 4 November, 2022

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Singapore: EMA, MPA shortlist two consortia for ammonia power generation and bunkering

Chosen consortia are Keppel’s Infrastructure Division and Sembcorp-SLNG, and the bunkering players in these consortia are Itochu Corporation, NYK Line and Sumitomo Corporation.





RESIZED bunker tanker singapore

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday (25 July) said they have shortlisted two consortia that will proceed to the next round of evaluations of proposals to provide a low- or zero-carbon ammonia solution on Jurong Island for power generation and bunkering. 

The two consortia were selected from a total of six that were earlier shortlisted in 2023 to participate in a restricted Request for Proposal (RFP), following an Expression of Interest (EOI) called in 2022. The bids were assessed based on the technical, safety and commercial aspects of their proposals. 

The two consortium leads are Keppel’s Infrastructure Division and Sembcorp-SLNG, and the bunkering players in these consortia are Itochu Corporation, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and Sumitomo Corporation. The two consortia will proceed to conduct engineering, safety and emergency response studies for the proposed Project.

At the next phase, we will select one of the two bidders as the lead developer of the project. The lead developer will develop the end-to-end ammonia solution comprising (i) generating 55 to 65 MW of electricity from imported low- or zero-carbon ammonia via direct combustion in a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine; and (ii) facilitating ammonia bunkering at a capacity of at least 0.1 million tons per annum (MTPA), starting with shore-to-ship bunkering followed by ship-to-ship bunkering. 

Given the nascency of the technology and global supply chains, the Government will work closely with the appointed lead developer to implement the Project. We aim to announce the lead developer by Q1 2025.

The project is part of Singapore’s National Hydrogen Strategy launched in 2022, which outlines Singapore’s approach to develop low-carbon hydrogen as a major decarbonisation pathway as part of the nation’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

A key thrust of this strategy is to experiment with the use of advanced hydrogen technologies that are on the cusp of commercial readiness. Ammonia is currently one of the most technologically-ready hydrogen carriers with an established international supply chain for industrial use.

“If successful, the project will position Singapore as one of the first countries in the world to deploy a direct ammonia combustion power plant and support the development of ammonia bunkering for international shipping, EMA and MPA said.

“This will help to unlock the potential of low-carbon ammonia as a low-carbon fuel.”


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 25 July 2024

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LNG Bunkering

China: River-sea LNG bunkering vessel named and delivered in Shanghai

The 14,000 cubic metre ship, “Huaihe Nengyuan Qihang”, was independently developed, designed and built by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) for Huaihe Energy Holding Group.





China: River-sea LNG bunkering vessel named and delivered in Shanghai

China’s river-to-sea LNG bunkering vessel, which was built locally, was named and delivered in Shanghai on Monday (19 July), according to the Shanghai Association of Shipbuilding Industry (SASIC). 

The 14,000 cubic metre (cbm) ship, Huaihe Nengyuan Qihang, was independently developed, designed and built by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd for Huaihe Energy Holding Group as part of China’s "Gasification of the Yangtze River” project.

The ship is capable of travelling through the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge all year round and has been dubbed a “Customised Yangtze River” LNG refuelling and transportation ship.

The ship is equipped with the B-type LNG containment system independently developed by Hudong-Zhonghua and authorised by a national patent.

According to SASIC, this was the first time such a system has been applied to a domestic LNG  refuelling and transportation ship, marking a major breakthrough in the B-type LNG containment system developed by China with independent intellectual property rights.

Related: China’s first river-sea LNG bunkering ship completes inaugural bunkering operation

Disclaimer: The above article published by Manifold Times was sourced from China’s domestic market through a local correspondent. While considerable efforts have been taken to verify its accuracy through a professional translator and processed from sources believed to be reliable, no warranty is made regarding the accuracy, completeness and reliability of any information.


Photo credit: Shanghai Shipbuilding Industry Association
Published: 25 July 2024

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Singapore-flagged tanker “Hafnia Nile” to be moved to safe location for cargo transfer

“Hafnia Nile” and the Sao Tome and Principe-flagged “Ceres I” collided and caught fire about 55km northeast of Pedra Branca on 19 July.





Singapore-flagged tanker “Hafnia Nile” to be moved to safe location for cargo transfer

Shipowner Hafnia, the operator of Singapore-flagged tanker Hafnia Nile, is in discussion with The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on a safe location to transfer the ship’s cargo, MPA said on Wednesday (24 July). 

They are also discussing towage plans for repairs to be approved by MPA.

Hafnia Nile and the Sao Tome and Principe-flagged Ceres I collided and caught fire about 55km northeast of Pedra Branca on 19 July.

“An additional tug with deep-sea towing capacity has arrived on site on 23 July 2024, joining four other tugs equipped with oil response and firefighting capabilities,” MPA said. 

In a meeting with MPA on 23 July, Hafnia informed MPA of light oil sheens near Hafnia Nile

“As part of the towage plan, Hafnia will arrange for repairs, containment and clean-up of the assessed localised seepage,” it added.

Reuters reported Hafnia stating that an initial assessment by a team of specialists conducting inspections of damaged areas of the tanker, showed Hafnia Nile's engine room had suffered damage from the fire.

Hafnia also reportedly said a salvage team has boarded the vessel and transferred equipment from one of the attending tugs on site to contain and stop any localised seepage.

Manifold Times previously reported Ceres 1 allegedly leaving the site of the collision as of 20 July and turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) but was believed to be in Malaysian waters.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) was able to locate Ceres 1 some 28 nautical miles northeast of Pulau Tioman.

Related: “Ceres 1” goes dark after collision with Singapore-flagged tanker, located by MMEA
Related: MPA: Fire breaks out on two ships near Pedra Branca, search and rescue underway


Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 25 July 2024

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