A Low Sulphur Future (video)
Sachin Gupta , Chemical Products Director
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.
It is long overdue and an incredibly positive step. Ship owners 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. Last but not least, utilizing LNG as a fuel is another alternative.
There is no clear frontrunner right now and each of the low sulphur solutions brings with it its own set of combustion issues.
Take for example low sulphur distillate fuel.
What are the challenges with 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.
Why does distillate fuel suffer from low lubricity?
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.
What causes fuel to degrade?
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 onboard a ship, as long as they are in contact with oxygen, they are always degrading.
How can low lubricity and fuel degradation affect equipment?
Reduced lubricity increases the wear and tear of your engine components like fuel pumps and injectors.
Degradation of the fuel leads to an increase in fouling or choking of your fuel injectors, or deposits on fuel filters and pumps, along with actually increasing emissions! Both, the reduced lubricity and degradation, increases the maintenance costs of your vessel.
Can these problems be managed?
Often unmentioned these challenges can be easily, and most importantly, with very little cost be managed onboard.
Systematic fuel treatment is key
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.
Unitor™ fuel treatment chemicals to improve your fuel quality and reduce sludge and emissions.