In only six months since the first reported cases of contaminated HSFO fuel being delivered to vessels sourcing Singaporethe GPA concluded a thorough investigation and made a firm decision to suspend the supplier’s bunkering license, glencore.

This contaminated fuel, delivered between February-March 2022 to end 200 shipsnegatively affecting the functioning of more 80 shipswas first detected and reported by please.

Using proprietary Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) methodologies and many years of forensic fuel experience and expertise, VPS identified the contaminants as four specific chlorinated hydrocarbons:

  • 1,2-dichloroethane (107-06-2)

  • 1,1,2-trichloroethane (79-00-5)

  • Tetrachlorethylene (127-8-4)

  • Chlorobenzene (108-90-7)

These compounds are not part of the crude oil refining process and as such should not be present in marine fuels as discussed under Section 5 the international standard for marine fuels, ISO 8217.

Following these initial findings, the MPA invited VPS to assist in its investigation. VPS was able to provide further evidence of the presence of the contaminants, their source, their behavior, and how and why these chemicals cause the damage suffered by the vessels, which suffered during the use fuel.

The ships suffered damage as shown in the images below. The impact of this damage ranged from complete engine failure affecting the main engines and auxiliary engines, to fuel pump corrosion, pistons stuck in the barrel, main fuel engine piston damage, sludge fuel, filter blockages and high exhaust temperatures.

The damage is caused by the high pressure and temperatures in the fuel system, as well as the rapid movement of the pumps, causing the chlorinated hydrocarbons to form hydrochloric acid (HCl), which quickly corrodes metal surfaces .

It should be noted that the fuel samples did not show high TAN, but the above conditions caused the acid reaction in the fuel pumps.

VPS identified eight supply barges in the port contaminated by these chlorinated hydrocarbons. Correlation of VPS results showed that when the concentration of total chlorinated hydrocarbons was below 100ppmthen no damage was done to the ship’s fuel system or engines.

Following the submission of these findings to the MPA in early June 2022, the MPA and an investigative journalist from The time of the straits visit the VPS laboratory in Singapore, to see how VPS was able to detect contaminants in marine fuel. In a feature article in the Straits Times on June 7, 2022, the VPS work was flagged as a CSI-type forensic investigation due to the advanced detective nature of the work.

Since the incident in Singapore, another major case of fuel contamination has occurred in macaw during May 2022. This time the contaminants were a range of volatile organic chemicals, phenols, styrenes, alcohols and ketone compounds, ranging up to 40,000ppm (4%). While these chemicals were different from those found in Singapore, they caused similar types of damage to ships.

The MPA takes compliance with its bunker licenses very seriously and has reminded all licensed bunker providers to strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of their licenses. Emphasizing, they will not hesitate to suspend or revoke licenses if necessary.

GCMS chemical analysis is not part of the current ISO 8217 standard, but time and again chemically contaminated fuels cause unnecessary damage to vessels. This has been accentuated lately due to the advent of crises and world wars due to parties taking shortcuts by using cheaper mixing components. Therefore, VPS would advise fuel suppliers and vessel operators to utilize VPS’ experience and expertise in providing chemical contamination detection services, in order to protect their business, assets and reputation.

For more information on how VPS can advise and help you protect your vessels, your crew and the environment, please contact: [email protected]