IBIA Convention 2- Residual fuels are “not dead yet”

Residual fuels have not reached the end of the road yet, Michael Green told delegates at the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) Convention in Cancun, Mexico. Speaking on the first afternoon of the two-day event, Intertek Shipcare’s technical manager looked at how the make-up of of fuel samples submitted to Intertek for testing had changed since the introduction of the 0.1 percent sulphur in fuel limit for ships in Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in January this year.

The most dramatic change had been the almost complete disappearance of 1.0 percent sulphur fuels, which had previously been ECA compliant. Mr Green noted that this had been accompanied by a significant increase in fuel quality. This was because the blending and/or treatment of residual fuel to meet the 1.0 percent limit led in some cases to: high levels of cat fines within fuels, increased stability related issues and chemical contamination.

Immediately after the introduction of the new ECA limit the proportion of distillate samples increased considerably. Clearly this coincided with increased use of distillates to comply with the 0.1 percent limit. However at the same time samples of ‘hybrid’ fuels started being submitted in increasing numbers. These fuels meet ISO 2817 specification for RMD 80 and have few quality issues as they are produced by the oil majors in the refineries.

Based on the experience of continuing use of residual fuels in ECAs, as hybrid fuels, and the prospect of the widespread use of scrubbers to meet the likely introduction of a global 0.5 percent sulphur cap Mr Green said residual fuel use was not about to whither and die. He asked the question, “Is the the end of the road for residual fuel?”, and answered it with an emphatic “No”.

During his presentation IBIA chairman Jens Maul Jorgensen answered a different question with an equally definite “No”. Mr Jorgensen, who is the director of Oldenforff Carriers’ Bunker Department, asked: “Do we get what we pay for?”. He added: “The quality is bad.” With Oldenforff’s substantial time chartered fleet of dry bulkers, he said that a third of the problems lay with the ship, caused by mistakes often due to inexperience. The same issue of inexperience was why another third of problems were down to the surveyors. he said: “There are too many inexperienced surveyors who do not know what they are doing.”

But the remaining third of bunkering issues, according to Mr Jorgensen, were caused by suppliers. Under supply was a problem as was poor quality caused by blending. He said that the ISO specification system was not effective and he repeated a call he has made on previous occasions for International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulation of fuel quality.

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