On board Compatibility Testing – It is More Important Now than Ever Before!

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There have been days when charterers and ship managers were worried about increase in fuel consumptions.  Today with such low oil prices, and especially bunker fuel prices being low, the fuel suppliers and other stakeholders worry about dwindling profit margins.

“We do not risk pumping bad bunkers or less quantity – as Ship Owners/charterers permanently ban us from their vendor list. This means we are losing business for playing simple tricks.  We cannot afford to loose fuel buyers!” said one of the fuel suppliers during a casual conversation in a recent seminar.

Fuels have been supplied to ships by mixing them with chemical wastes or other contaminants, and such activity was aimed to make more profit when supplying fuels.  These chemical wastes have caused serious machinery problem and at times a complete blackout making the vessel drift at sea.

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With canals getting bigger and deeper, ships becoming fatter and taller – the need to supply fuel of a particular grade and from same crude source is of very high importance.  However, with the recent oil trade pattern and sanctions being lifted from Oil producing nations, the oil/energy dynamics throughout the world has undergone a ‘paradigm shift’.

No party can guarantee that the fuel being supplied to a ship is from the same crude source or of the same grade.  Recently Iran started to ship its crude/fuel throughout the world mainly towards middle and far east, rest to Europe (as per reports from various sources). Thus, a fuel supplied from Fujairah or Singapore need not be originating from the same place. With the advent of IoT (Internet of Things), the suppliers and traders are well connected enabling the fuel supply to be subcontracted with ease and further down in the supply chain.

While the whole world is busy worrying about oil prices and global energy trade pattern, MFAME gives a thought to the quality of fuel being supplied to ships.

It is evident:

  1. The source of fuels being supplied need not be from the same source of crude,
  2. Any two fuels may be blended to attain the desired viscosity to meet CP agreements,
  3. Fuel supply may be contracted to one, and the actual supplier who supply to the ship may be a completely different company and this is mainly due to the connectivity, the price war on fuel supply, and IoT.

Thus, it is more important to check the fuel stability/compatibility as charterers do command to mix two different grades to ensure a ship’s endurance is maximum.

Purifier sludge formation and filter clogging are not very uncommon and these problems do occur when a new bunker is being put in use or when the bunkers are stored for a long time without proper treatment.

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In minutes you can prevent sludge deposits, eliminate failure of fuel handling systems and reduce costly combustion related engine damage with a simple quick fuel oil compatibility/stability testing and Viswa Lab says that this can be carried out on board with ease.

Whilst every fuel is refined/produced and supplied to be stable within itself, in that, it does not have the tendency to produce asphaltenic sludge.  It does not necessarily follow that two stable fuels are compatible when blended or mixed together.  A blend is regarded as being stable only if it is homogeneous immediately after preparation, remains so in normal storage and at no time produces or tends to produce sludge on a significant scale.  Under these circumstances, the fuels forming the blend can be considered as compatible with each other.  Incompatibility is the tendency of a residual fuel to produce a deposit on dilution or on blending with other fuel oils.  Typical incompatibility problems are sludging and blockage of bunker and service tanks, pipe runs, filters and centrifuge bowls.  In extreme circumstances, the only remedy is a manual removal of the sludge build up, both time consuming and extremely costly.

The general recommendation is that mixing and blending of fuels from different sources should be avoided where possible.  We are all aware however that this is not an option when using differing ports or fuel suppliers and when combined with the fuel switching implications of IMO annex VI regulations it is no surprise that the industry is blending and mixing fuels more often than ever before.  The end result is always going to be more and more incompatibility issues.

Thus, it is essential these days to check compatibility/stability of the fuels and take necessary precaution/action to ensure safe operation of marine machinery.

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Viswa Lab has come out with a state-of-art, user-friendly, robust onboard compatibility/stability test kit.  The kit has all consumables within to carry out compatibility tests between any two fuels or a fuel’s stability.  This simple onboard test may be completed in just 30 minutes to an hour.  There is no need to send samples ashore and wait for 3 or more days just to check whether the fuels are compatible.  This kit is self-contained and needed no additional expensive test setup or procedure.

We asked about the cost of the kit to Viswa Lab and “The kit is the least expensive one available in the market and we additionally supply video instructions along with the kit for the ship’s’ staff to handle the instrument on the go without wasting time to read manuals” said Mr. Tin Tun, Marketing Director, Viswa Lab – Singapore.

For orders or bulk orders: write to [email protected]

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Disclaimer: The Opinion expressed in the above article are not necessarily of Viswa Lab or MFAME. Should you have concerns on the article – please write to [email protected]

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