Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Bunker Fuels Need to be Treated Cautiously as Dangers for Engines Can Lurk in Low Sulphur Products

Problems Range from Hard Deposits Scarring Cylinders to Biological Attacks on Pipework
Shipping News Feature

CANADA – WORLDWIDE – As the saying goes 'There's no such thing as a free lunch', and that seems to be the case with the International Maritime Organization's mandatory legislation on the sulphur content allowable in marine fuels, at least according to specialist fuel treatment firm Aderco.

Aderco has recently released a new fuel guide intended to improve fuel performance and prevent damage to maritime diesel engines. The report follows a series of tests conducted in Belgium and Singapore on low sulphur fuels over recent months. The authors claim that the tests show that incorporating a fuel additive can help mitigate problems such as commingling whilst improving fuel stability, reducing sludge and removing water from the new fuels.

Aderco asserts that the IMO’s reduced sulphur fuel regulations have not eradicated the potential threats from such sludge, compatibility issues, asphaltene, fuel instability and catalytic fines, the five key issues it says that can damage the health and maintenance of diesel engines. Being so very hard catalytic, or cat, fines become embedded in the softer metals which make up cylinder liners, piston rings etc., sometimes with catastrophic effects.

Engine makers normally consider 15 ppm of cat fines the maximum level for bunker fuel, with ISO Standard 8217:2012 stating a maximum permissible 60 ppm level, a figure reiterated in ISO 8217:2017. However low level sulphur fuel oils can see high levels of cat fines ending up in the low-sulphur by-products from refining processes which are then blended with other residual fuels to reduce their sulphur content, so it is necessary to ensure fuel is of good quality and purified before it enters the engines.

Fuel treatments can also reduce the level of water in the fuel whilst reducing the sulphur content in the compliant fuels and, more especially with Ultra Low Sulphur Marine Gas Oil, one can see a marked increase in microbial growth. ULSMGO is well known for this issue. The use of biodiesel in the blending process can generate a high water content which is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. This poses a real risk to the engine’s pipework and filters which could again result in failure. Olivier Baiwir, CEO of Aderco, says the latest report demonstrates the overall benefits of using fuel treatment technology:

“The new low sulphur fuel hasn't stopped the issues of fuel instability and contamination which are of primary concern for ship owners, ship managers and operators. VLSFO is still prone to the five issues that can cause engine breakdowns and poor performance and our tests prove that the damaging issues of cat fines, sludge, corrosion, contamination and fuel stability can be reduced and eliminated with a fuel treatment.

”At Aderco we have been working with customers since last year on the lead up to the 2020 low sulphur cap and continuously since its introduction to ensure our fuel treatments will protect engines from corrosion and microbial damage, as we are acutely aware that these issues have not disappeared with the introduction of the new blended fuels in 2020.

”By using a reliable fuel treatment, ship owners, ship managers and operators can operate diesel engines without the worry about costly engine failures, lay-up or any off-hire caused by contamination, fuel instability and its associated problems. This use of a fuel treatment seems a small price to pay for peace of mind and operational efficiency.”