2012 Forum

Viswa Lab - technical Forum

VISWA LAB Technical Forum Wednesday, 7th November 2012,
Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel, 15:00 - 16:45 hrs

Recurring Fuel related machinery problems and how to secure protection - Dr.R.Vis, Viswa lab

  In last year alone, Viswa Lab was involved with 3 ships that had a blackout, drifted and had to be towed to the nearest port. Each of these occurrences resulted in a $1.5 to $2.5 million loss.

Ever since Marpol Annex VI came into force in 2005, there has been pressure on bunker fuel suppliers to conform to increasingly stringent emission regulations. The regulatory screw has been progressively tightening, Emission Control Areas are expanding and certain global areas (California and EU) are laying down their own conformance regulations. Refineries and bunker fuel blenders and bulk suppliers are scampering hurriedly to find quick fix solutions. What used to be blending with cutter stock to reduce density and viscosity has now altered to blend to lower the sulfur content of the fuel. These occurrences have coincided with perhaps the worst period for this shipping industry itself with plunging profitability and bleak picture on cargo availability. Perhaps this has pushed some of the suppliers to resort to low cost cutter stock and other blending improvisations to bring down sulfur levels. The net result has been a spate of problem fuels causing machinery problems and machinery damage. We will address the most pressing problems below

A - Main Engine Piston Ring Breakage

Number of Cases - Over 130 cases.

Breakage associated with high wear of the piston ring. Reduction in width of the ring. Accompanied sometimes by high wear in the cylinder liner and also the piston groove.

Causes :

PFIN issues (Combination of High MCR, CCAI, Asphaltene, Reserve Stability Number and Xylene Equivalent Number) High catfines Scuffing due to CLO problems and alkaline fuels

B - Main Filter Blocking

Number of Cases - Over 200 Rapid filter choking with blackouts and in some cases drifting of the vessel in high seas.

Causes :

Contaminants in the fuel identified by FT-IR such as polymers Contaminants in the fuel identified by GCMS such as indene, styrene, DCPD, phenol, FAME's Stability problems caused by improper blending techniques or cutter stock such as shale oil

C - High Wear of Piston Ring and liner due to high catfines Number of Cases
Over 50 Increasing catfine content in ARA area.

Causes :

Purifier performance efficiency not monitored Poor management of onboard treatment plants

Viswa Lab has addressed each of these problems in detail. It provides solutions through value added services, which include additional instrumentation for FBTN (Filter Blocking Tendency Number), Scuffing etc. It also provides algorithms and benchmarks to flag each type of problem. In addition, it carries out a two-stage purifier efficiency determination (PED) service, which evaluates purifier performance through conventional means (mostly spectroscopic) and also additional patented particle count methodologies. These efforts represent the passion behind Viswa Lab's efforts to save the fuel users from the newly emerging problem fuels. The Best Protection in Prevention. The Best Prevention is Detection, prior to occurrence. Truth be told, detection will never be possible through routine testing alone. Additional testing is a small price to pay to detect and then to protect. Questions are often asked as to what use is detection since the fuel is already onboard and de bunkering is not easy. There are clear 3 benefits.

a. If additional tests identify a problem, mitigating it through blending or use of additives is possible.

b. Bunker purchase is a commercial transaction. In every transaction there is an element of faith and trust and integrity that is also transacted. Once the bunker buyer finds that he has been supplied a problem fuel and he informs the supplier, the supplier knows that his future business is in jeopardy if he does not resolve the problem satisfactorily. He may pay for the additives; he may agree to supply a small quantity of the good fuel to be blended; he may agree to give a discount to compensate for the problems.

c. Most importantly, testing which includes additional testing is like a lock on the front door. The thief can easily break the lock but he would prefer to burgle a house, which has no lock. In other words, there is significant psychological deterrence in carrying out comprehensive testing and letting the supplier know loud and clear that you will continue to monitor the fuel quality comprehensively.

Article by Dr.R.Vis, Viswa Lab. Not to be reproduced without his permission.

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