As the shipping industry strives to improve its environmental sustainability and minimise its greenhouse gas emissions, the utilisation of biofuel blends in marine engines has emerged as a promising solution. Ongoing tests are being conducted on fuel blends that incorporate up to 50% Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) and 100% FAME biofuels, reports WEST.
Maintenance of biofuels
One important factor is the cold properties of biofuel blends. The cloud point of biofuels can be higher than that of conventional diesel, necessitating tank heating in case the temperature drops below the cloud point. Proper storage temperature, typically 2 to 5°C above the cloud point and 10°C above the pour point, should be maintained to prevent issues related to wax appearance and poor flow.
Extended storage of biofuel blends requires special precautions. Although these blends have adequate storage stability for normal use, monitoring quality and taking measures to prevent microbial growth are essential. Microbial contamination can lead to operational problems such as tank corrosion and filter clogging. Regular tank maintenance, such as frequent drainage of settled water, helps minimize the impact of microbial growth.
Compatibility with other materials is another aspect to consider. FAME may cause degradation of certain types of rubber compounds used for hoses and gaskets what will eventually lead to leakages. It can also form sediments when in contact with specific metals such as copper, lead, tin, or zinc. Additionally, some plastics may be permeated by FAME over time, rendering them unsuitable for storing biofuels. Therefore, it is recommended to consult engine and equipment manufacturers regarding material compatibility.
Biofuels can have a cleaning effect, potentially loosening or dissolving varnish and sediments left by conventional fuels in tanks and fuel systems. Prior to bunkering biofuels, it is advisable to clean the tanks and fuel systems where sediments may be present. An initial increase in filter plugging can indicate the cleaning process, with filter change intervals returning to normal over time.
Elevated levels of phosphorus and/or potassium in biofuels may impact emission control systems and should be monitored accordingly.
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