The importance of chemical screening of bunker fuels and why it can no longer be ignored

Earlier this year, please paved the way for detecting and identifying the cause of the fuel contamination problem in Singaporewhich caused widespread panic in the shipping industry.

About 200 ships received HSFO bunker rods containing chlorinated hydrocarbons, which caused damage to approximately 80 ships. While the Singapore case was one of the largest fuel contamination events in the world, the presence of this specific chemical contamination was not a unique event. Almost twenty years agotrichlorethylene has been detected in heavy fuel oil supplied in Fujairah and over the past two decades, chlorinated hydrocarbons have been detected numerous times in ports around the world by VPS using GCMS.

Effects caused by the presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons observed on board ships range from complete engine failure (affecting main engines and auxiliary engines) to corrosion of the fuel pump, stuck pistons in the barrel, damage to the piston of the main fuel engine, fuel sludge, filter blockages and high exhaust gases. temperatures.

Ship owners and operators are rightly concerned about the potential risks that chlorinated hydrocarbons pose to their vessels. Costly engine and fuel system damage, as well as crew health and safety hazards and costly potential delays and loss of revenue, can all be the consequences of storage and use. of this contaminated fuel on board.

But it is not just shipowners and operators who can potentially suffer damage and loss from chemical contamination. Fuel suppliers also risk unknowingly supplying such fuels that contain chlorinated hydrocarbons and other potentially harmful chemical groups. Costly claims, loss of business licenses and catastrophic reputational damage are all consequences that suppliers have suffered due to the presence of chemicals in their products.

For many years, VPS has provided market-leading GCMS services that protect our customers from potential damage due to chemical fuel contamination.

The first step is to use the relatively cheap GCMS-Headspace chemical screening, which is a rapid pre-combustion service, which qualitatively detects a range of volatile chemical contaminants. During 2021-22 almost 8% of all VPS drug tests indicated a “cautious” result, meaning that the test had identified a higher concentration of a potentially damaging chemical compound in the fuel sample.

When an “Attention” result is displayed, the VPS performs a Extended Headspace GCMS analysis, which provides a more detailed analysis of the sample. Then, if necessary, the analysis can move on to an even more detailed quantitative analysis. GCMS-vacuum distillation test. Returning to the case of Singapore in March 2022VPS has identified contaminants as four specific chlorinated hydrocarbons:

  • 1,2-dichloroethane (CAS No. 107-06-2)

  • 1,1,2-trichloroethane (CAS No. 79-00-5)

  • Tetrachlorethylene (CAS no. 127-18-4)

  • Chloro-benzene (CAS No. 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 GPA invited VPS to assist in its investigation. VPS was able to provide additional 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. 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 100mg/Kgthen no damage was done to the ship’s fuel system or engines.

In week 43 of 2022, the International Combustion Engine Council (CIMAC) published their findings on chlorinated organic compounds based on their research on the Singapore case. According to them, more than 100 ships had suffered operational problems after taking on the contaminated HSFO fuel.

The CIMAC working group determined that there was and is a correlation between high levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons in the fuel and the failure of the vessel’s equipment. Accordingly, the working group recommends that marine fuels keep the level of chlorinated hydrocarbons present below 50mg/Kgas a de minimis tolerable level.

CIMAC said that EN14077 test method could be used to screen for the presence of total organic chlorides. However, the CIMAC working group also stated that GCMS testing would be needed to identify individual contaminants, detection provided by GCMS VPS methodologies.

GCMS-HS Chemical Screening can and will provide rapid detection not only of chlorinated hydrocarbons, but also of a host of other potential contaminants. This technique can be a first line defense to protect ships against the potential risks these chemicals can pose to the shipping industry and the damage they can inflict on ships and ship operations. VPS has applied GCMS chemical screening to over 100,000 bunker samples since 2016serving more than 400 shipping customers to protect their ships.

VPS therefore makes the following recommendations:

  1. Shipowners not already testing for chemical contamination should review their fuel management strategy to minimize risk.

  2. Be clear on how chemical screening will apply in terms of 1st level, 2nd level or 3rd level assessment.

  3. Once the chemical contamination review has begun, create a database to assess high-risk ports and cause-and-effect considerations.

For more information regarding GCMS-HS chemical screening and other GCMS methodologies, please contact your local VPS account manager for details or send a letter to: [email protected] .