Fuel Pump Seizures on Board Three Ships – One of Them Towed to a Port!

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Alert – Bunkering at Fujairah? Watch out!

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Yesterday we published an interesting article on Fujairah fuel quality.  Here is an update from Viswa Lab which was circulated as a technical update.  After receiving the technical update, we got in touch with Mr. Amitava Talukdar, Technical Director, Viswa Lab, to know more about the damage due to the problem fuel bunkered at Fujairah.

Below is the technical update from Viswa Lab.

PROBLEM FUELS FROM UAE PORTS

Viswa Lab has recently received three complaints of machinery problems on vessels while using heavy fuel bunkered in United Arab Emirates ports between March 16 and March 23 2016.

Two of the fuels were bunkered in Fujairah by one supplier and third one was bunkered in Jebel Ali by a second supplier.

All three vessels reported seizure and wear of all fuel pumps including heavy filter choking.  One of the vessels had to be diverted to carry out repairs.

Detailed analysis of the fuels indicated the following:

  1. All 3 fuels were highly acidic.  The pH of the 3 fuels was 3.35, 4.2 and 4.2.  pH is a better indicator of acidity because the fuels that contain high Acid Number(AN) may also contain high Base Number (BN), therefore the acidity can be neutralized by the base number.  pH on the other hand represents free hydrogen ions and low pH number indicates the damage potential of the fuel.
  2. One of the samples had a Strong Acid Number (SAN) value of 0.875.  The SAN value is being repeated for confirmation.  Any SAN value greater than 0 is not acceptable in fuels.  ISO 8217 specifies that if strong acids are identified in the fuels, even at low levels, it is termed non‐compliant as there is a correlation between the presence of a strong acid and the corrosive activity of a fuel.
  3. All 3 fuels were unstable (non‐homogenous).  Unstable fuels can cause choking of purifiers, filters and excessive sludging.
  4. The Reserve Stability Number test (ASTM D7061) result was high at 15 indicating very poor reserve stability of the sample.  Normal fuels have a reserve stability number under 5.
  5. Xylene Equivalence Number was high at over 38 again indicating the fuel had poor stability.  Normal fuels have a xylene equivalence number under 30.
  6. The Problem Fuel Identification Number (PFIN – a proprietary algorithm developed by Viswa Lab) of the samples was extremely high at around 300.  When the PFIN number is over 130, problems such as piston ring breakage are experienced by the vessel in 80 to 85% of the cases.  A good additive treatment can bring down the PFIN number.

Please be aware of these problems and take due precautions.  Please let the supplier know that you are aware of these problems when you bunker in the UAE area.

When asked for more information to the Technical Director – Mr.Talukdar, hinted to observe the viscosity of the fuel bunkered.  He further added that if a 380 cSt fuel is ordered and the test results show lower viscosity (in the problem fuel case the viscosity was around 200 to 250 cSt for a 380 cSt fuel), then in most cases the fuel is likely to have a problem.  Not all, but most of them have reported at least filter clogging or heavy sludge formation at purifiers.

While the above is just a hint, this alone is not sufficient to conclude that the fuel is likely to have a problem.  Mr. Talukdar further added that several additional tests have been carried out and the fuel had multiple problems.

MFAME went one step ahead and asked on how to prevent or mitigate the problem.  In our next write-up we will cover on mitigation part with Viswa Lab’s technical expertise.

Source: Viswa Lab

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