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Light fuel oil blends emerge in Singapore that can clog ship engines

LIGHTER fuel oil blends that may be derived from blending with waxy diesel oil that can result in excessive sludge have surfaced in Singapore's bunker stream

23 January 2020 - 19:00

LIGHTER fuel oil blends that may be derived from blending with waxy diesel oil that can result in excessive sludge have surfaced in Singapore's bunker stream. This development is said to be raising serious implications for ships refuelling at the world's top marine fuel hub.

This comes as ship operators are grappling with unprecedented bunkering uncertainty in the wake of the introduction of the UN's International Maritime Organisation (IMO) new cap on sulphur content in marine fuel of 0.5 per cent under IMO 2020, reported London's Lloyd's List.



Several traders have indicated their intent to introduce compliant fuel oil blends with viscosity closer to marine diesel oil in the coming weeks, according to bunker industry veteran Simon Neo.



This can be deemed as inevitable in light of demand for 3.5 per cent sulphur fuel oil, or high sulphur fuel oil, outstripping supply following steep drops in HSFO cracks last year, as research from shipbroker Braemar shows.



Compliant fuel oils are typically derived from blending HSFO with much lighter distillates - usually gas oil or diesel oil - to bring the sulphur content down to the 0.5 per cent limit imposed by the IMO.



One industry source suggested that a narrowing of price spread between marine gas oil and 0.5 per cent sulphur fuel oil since the regulatory cap came into effect at the beginning of this year, may have encouraged refiners and traders to even contemplate supplying vacuum gas oil into the bunker market.



One flip side from rising use of hydrocracking processes to refine heavier oil products is they may yield waxier diesel fuels.



Douglas Raitt of Lloyd's Register has warned that excessive sludging of wax and sediments may arise from burning much lighter compliant fuels derived from blends made up of waxy diesel oil.



'We have encountered this phenomenon especially in fuel blends with viscosity ranging between 20 cSt and 100 cSt,' he said.



If not properly handled, excessive sludge can clog up ship engines and cause engine failures.



Lloyd's List added that it understands from one bunker insider that compliant fuel blends of less than 80 cSt have already surfaced in Singapore.


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