FUELS AND LUBRICANTS
VLSFO MAY STILL ADD TO NEW FUELS' DISRUPTION More problems are anticipated with VLSFO this year, adding to the potential of new fuels to “disrupt” the industry ahead of 2030 and 2050 “There will be very exciting years to come,” says Søren Høll, CEO of marine energy services provider KPI OceanConnect. “We have now overcome the 2020 mountain, and we can see the 2030 mountain and 2050 mountain ahead of us.” However exciting the future though, he warns that the 2020 mountain may not be completely behind us yet. Through 2020, only 55 cases of 0.50% compliant fuel being unavailable had been reported in IMO's Global Integrated Shipping Information System, and there have been fewer quality issues than many analysts predicted. However, potential issues may have been partly masked by the pandemic and depressed oil prices. More challenges may arise once the world starts to recover from Covid-19 and distillate demand and prices increase in other industries besides the bunker industry - and if unscrupulous suppliers start using cheaper components for blending, says Høll. Bharath, Technical Manager for Singapore-based bunker testing house Maritec, says that around 95% of VLSFO samples tested on a monthly basis are within ISO standards. “Of late, there are quite a number of cases where the fuel, despite meeting ISO specifications, is still found as unstable due to the nature of the blend or chemical contaminants/ deleterious substances that were detected. For the latter it is worrying to the vessel operator, as there are few countermeasures available to combat the issue.” He says one option is to dilute the fuel with a suitable bunker. “We have seen vessels suﬀer excessive wear to fuel injection components, total breakdown of fuel purifiers, sludging of fuel system filters and pipes, to name a few. In worst case scenarios we have seen the vessel debunker the fuel.” MEPC75 has clarified the 0.5% sulphur cap by defining the sulphur limit according to the specific sampling location. The MARPOL delivered sample will continue to have a sulphur test result limit of 0.50% maximum. “Due to the inherent variance in the test results, suppliers now need to have a lower blend target with respect to sulphur content (ideally below 0.47% m/m),” says Bharath. There is a leeway to the in-use and on board samples to have the sulphur test result limit of 0.53% maximum. “We advise not to accept any argument from suppliers with regards to the 95% confidence boundary of 0.53% when tested sulphur content of lab samples sourced at the manifold exceed 0.50% m/m,” says Bharath. “Your MARPOL delivered sample may very well be above the limit when it is from the same primary source during future verifications by the administration. Moreover, a higher sulphur content at the manifold inlet will raise the probability of in-use and on board samples testing above the 0.53% limit.” NOT JUST VLSFO Bharath foresees potential challenges with microbial growth and the oxidative and long-term stability of biofuels. “Biofuels may require a cleaner environment and to be kept away from moisture sources (of which there is plenty at sea.) There might be a need to periodically test the fuel as long as it is in
28 | MARCH 2021
storage to check its viability either by onshore lab tests or onboard test kits. “Like any clean fuel, biofuels have the tendency to flush out the previous fuel in use, and this will be an issue when changing over the plants. It has a higher wax forming temperature than conventional diesel oil which might pose some risk to the fuel gelling at lower temperatures. Due to the acidic nature of the fuel, there might be compatibility issues with the materials used throughout the fuel systems. Specialised tank and pipeline coating might be required. Fuel injection and combustion equipment materials will need to be assessed if they can sustain long term contact with the fuel.”
8 Søren Høll, CEO of marine energy services provider KPI OceanConnect
THE GOOD NEWS Dirk Kronemeijer, CEO at sustainable biofuel company GoodFuels and sustainable supply chain advisory GoodShipping, says there have been only a few filter clogging problems during fuel switchover in the last couple of years, and the root cause is linked to the fossil fuels used before. “Once the fuel system is clean, no sediments can be soaked oﬀ anymore and no problems will occur.” Regarding higher wax forming temperature, he says that some biodiesels have cold flow properties that meet the winter quality requirements of certain countries, for example the Netherlands. Meanwhile, some biodiesels have cold flow properties that are well above zero degrees Celsius.
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