How to Deal With Low Flash Point Fuel

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Two important facts to know before we proceed to deal with Low Flashpoint fuels.

  1. IMOs regulation on low sulfur fuel stipulates vessels can burn fuels with a sulfur content no higher than 0.10%. Therefore, dependency on Marine gas oil (MGO) is an expensive yet most suitable alternative for ship operators.
  2. ECA compliance with LSMGO costs less – It is essential and worthy to note that Purchasing ECA compliant 0.10% sulphur (LSMGO) is only $470/MT in Rotterdam, $560 in Houston and $485 in Singapore. This is at least $200/MT below the low sulphur 380 fuel in the middle of 2014. It is also $150/MT less than the price of high sulphur 380 fuel in June last year when bunker prices were at their peak.*

Thus as the price of LSMGO falls, more ships look forward to bunker LSMGO. As the demand increases, it seems more of automobile gas oils are being supplied to ships, which has a risk of a low flash point.

How to deal with a distillate fuel when it has a Low Flashpoint?

MGO with less than 60 deg C Flashpoint

A fuel with flashpoint less than 60 deg C falls outside the SOLAS requirement of a flashpoint of 60 deg C minimum and also the ISO 8217 specifications. As per SOLAS requirements, the minimum flash point of any fuel carried in the tanks of a ship should be not less than 60 deg C. There is no permissible negative tolerance. This applies to any fuel onboard the vessel (with an exception of fuel for lifeboats which can be grade DMX with a flash point min of 43 degC). 

It is essential that the fuel supplier must be notified for supplying off-specification fuel. Further actions are required as per charter party clause and other legal procedures. If you have no option but to use this fuel, we give our recommendations below.

If a fuel has a small quantity of lighter fractions mixed in it which gives a low flashpoint, as the lighter fractions keep evaporating the flashpoint improves.  For example, a fuel with Flashpoint of 57degC could come up to 60 degC.  We have only seen this when the flashpoint has been 57 degC or higher.

Blending with another fuel to raise the flashpoint is an option. There are a few points to note with regard to blending.

  1. Blending a clear and bright MGO with another clear and bright MGO can be done without checking compatibility.  Blending to raise flashpoint in not a straight line calculation.  We give below two example of actual lab tests.
    • 50 % of MGO with FP of 57 blended with 50% of MGO with FP 68 – Resultant mix had flashpoint of 61 deg C
    • 70 % of MGO with FP of 57 blended with 30% of HFO with FP 68 – Resultant mix had flashpoint of 60 deg C”
  2. Blending with a heavy fuel is an option but the compatibility of the two fuels has to be checked.  Heavy fuels tend to have higher flash points (over 100 degC).

If the above options are considered, we recommend that the flashpoint be tested on a small portion of the mix before the entire quantity is mixed.

If you think that there could be an additive to increase the flashpoint, then you have to note that – till now there are no additives to increase the flashpoint of the fuel.

(*Prices quoted above are from last quarter of 2014 and from other statistics).

Do voice your queries/comments below.  We would be highly happy to answer them.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The article covers the practical aspects of handling the fuel, but what are the commercial and legal aspects of storing and using this fuel. If an explosion or fire were to occur, what would be the ramifications.
    Any comments??

    • Dear Mr. Dadachanji, Thank you for your comment.
      With regard to Legal implications – SOLAS clearly specifies it. As you very well know – QUOTE “A fuel with flashpoint less than 60 deg C falls outside the SOLAS requirement of a flashpoint of 60 deg C minimum and also the ISO 8217 specifications. As per SOLAS requirements, the minimum flash point of any fuel carried in the tanks of a ship should be not less than 60 deg C. There is no permissible negative tolerance. This applies to any fuel onboard the vessel (with an exception of fuel for lifeboats which can be grade DMX with a flash point min of 43 degC)” UNQUOTE.

      Thus if a fuel is found with a flash point below 60 degree Celsius, then it cannot be carried onboard.

  2. Wonder will the high flash point of other blended fuel raise the flash point of lower flash point fraction of the fuel in such blending. When the blended fuel reach 57 deg C will the evaporation of lower fraction be suppressed to calculated 61 deg C ? Can we use this logic to convince port authority ?

    A 56 or 57 degree flash point may not be effected much in ship, for practical point of view. But to be cautious to keep it content, avoid any spill in engine room, do not use for cleaning purpose in work shop, ventilate thoroughly and not to allow hot work for few hours after spill. Try to use and get rid of it as soon as possible, preferably in cold weather. Chances of danger is more in tropical weather, especially area like Suez, where E/R temp could be high while transiting in summer.

    • Dear Mr.Ali,

      Thanks for your comments. There are two ways in which Low Flash Point fuels can be addressed. The First action is to notify the supplier for off-spec fuel. Further, if there is no other option of de-bunkering or when the vessel is at sea – 1. Co-mingling with compatible high flash point fuel will definitely increase the flash point – however, the degree of increase is not straight forward. This increase will not follow a linear curve. 2. It is also noted that a fuel with a flash point in the range of 57 or 58 degree Celsius – over a period of time (on board storage) and further testing revealed that there could be a marginal increase in flash point and the reason is vaporization of lower volatile fractions in the gas oil. However, the dangers are always associated with low flash point fuels. IMO is considering a revision on Lowering flash point and the outcome is awaited.

  3. hello. with imo 2020 coming in and more shale oil / opec cuts .. diesel is becoming more valuable than gasoline. can gasoline be blended into the marine gasoil and still meet specs .. or can you blend fuel oil, gasoline and others to make 0.1 marine gasoil ?

    what would a refinery need to do to make this happen ?

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