Commenting on the IMO’s recent announcement on new global sulphur limits, Sachin Gupta, Wilhelmsen Services (WSS) business manager, oil solutions explained why systematic fuel treatment is so important, as 2020 nears.
It’s vital that fuel oil on ships is kept in prime condition, to keep engines running smoothly and efficiently and to ensure full compliance with environmental and operational regulations, he said.
The recent decision from IMO to reduce the global fuel sulphur limits to 0.5% shows that our industry, more than ever, is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. Shipowners now have a number of fuel alternative options to choose from.
They can continue to use heavy fuel oil, however, if they do, they need to invest in scrubber technology. The second option is to switch over to low sulphur distillate or diesel oil, or gas oil. Third option is to explore new fuels, like bio fuels and last but not least, using LNG as a fuel is another alternative.
There is no clear frontrunner right now and each of the low sulphur solutions has its own set of combustion issues, Gupta warned.
Take for example low sulphur distillate fuel. Along with price volatilities, that may arise due to the economics of supply and demand imbalance, the two most common challenges with diesel or distillate oils is reduced lubricity or low lubricity and fuel degradation.
Whilst the refining process removes the sulphur and the aromatic compounds, it also reduces the polar compounds that aid lubrication. In simple terms, the refining process itself reduces the inherent lubricating priorities of distillate or diesel oil. It is also important to remember that the ISO spec for the fuel is 520 micron-meters, the wear scar limit. However, OEMs recommend it be much lower at 400, he said.
The refining process also removes the naturally occurring antioxidants in distillate oil or diesel oils. What this means is that diesel oils or distillate oils are always degrading. Whether they are sitting on shore in a tank, or on board a ship, as long as they are in contact with oxygen, they are always degrading.
Reduced lubricity increases the wear and tear of engine components like fuel pumps and injectors. Degradation of the fuel leads to an increase in fouling or choking of fuel injectors, or deposits on fuel filters and pumps, along with actually increasing emissions! Both, the reduced lubricity and degradation, increases vessel maintenance costs.
Often unmentioned, these challenges can be easily, and most importantly, with very little cost, be managed on board, Gupta asserted.
“We believe systematic fuel treatment is an absolute operational necessity as we approach 2020. Helping to maximise your low sulphur distillate fuel’s performance our dedicated, independently test-proven range of marine fuel treatment products will help ensure your low sulphur future, post 2020, is free from combustion issues,” he said.
Finally, he claimed that the patented Unitor fuel treatment chemicals improves fuel quality and reduces sludge and emissions.