VPS sounds fuel quality warning
Leading marine fuel testing company Veritas Petroleum Services has sounded a warning on bunker fuel quality based on the findings from its marine fuel quality database.
VPS tests well over 100,000 fuel samples globally each year. Recent figures taken from its database show that over the past two years, 15 per cent of residual fuels tested exceed the standards specification for at least one test parameter. Meanwhile, distillate fuels show 9 per cent of all samples tested exceed their specification for at least one parameter. That means that vessels that do not test their fuel run the risk of one in every seven residual fuels giving a higher probability of problems and just over one in 10 distillates doing likewise.
Over 250 million tonnes of marine fuel are delivered to the global fleet each year and, while there is an international quality standard in place (ISO8217), testing marine fuel is not mandatory. That is the case even though testing can assist in monitoring fuel quality prior to burning, helping protect the vessel, crew and environment. Not testing fuel prior to burning raises the level of probability of poorer quality fuel causing costly damage or failures on board.
Determining when and where in the world such fuel will be delivered opens up another area of uncertainty. For this reason, VPS has long monitored fuel quality on a daily basis and, when necessary, issued ‘Bunker Alerts’ exclusively to shipowners and managers that are using its testing programme.
These bunker alerts inform clients of specific ports where a short-term quality issue relating to a specific fuel grade and parameter has been identified through VPS testing. This in turn provides information to help the client decide whether or not to take the risk in bunkering such fuel in that port at that particular time.
In the first six months of 2017, VPS issued 33 alerts to its clients. These have highlighted short-term quality issues in 24 ports, covering 22 cases relating to residual fuel and 11 relating to distillates.
The most common problematic parameter for residuals is density, with nine alerts issued so far this year. Density has both commercial and technical impacts for owners and managers.
In the Americas alone there have been six alerts relating to density, including three separate cases in New York over the first half of 2017. Other residual parameters requiring bunker alerts have included: sodium (4); cat fines (3); sediment (3); chemical contamination (2); flash point; sulphur; and used lube oil.
By far the most common problematic parameter for distillates is flash point. Seven alerts were issued during the first half of 2017, four in the Americas and three in Europe. This continues a trend seen in 2016, indicating the continuing use of low-flash blending components, with the probable aim of achieving lower sulphur containing distillate products. The remaining distillate alerts have covered pour point (2) and viscosity (2). Of course, pour point, as one of the three parameters used in monitoring the cold-flow properties of distillates, is of key interest and attention.
Of the 24 ports requiring a Bunker Alert release, 10 were in the Americas, nine were in Europe, three were in the Middle East and two were in Asia.
If the rate at which VPS has issued alerts over the first half of 2017 continues, then this year will see a record number.
Bunker price indications (US dollars) – 14 August 2017
Latest prices BRENT WTI MGO
Settle $52.10 +$0.20 $48.82 +$0.23 $482.50 -$4.00
IFO-380 3.5% MGO 0.1%
Rotterdam MTD $299-$305 $460-$465
Antwerp MTD $302-$308 $465-$470
Lisbon MTW $314-$320 $495-$500
Gibraltar MTD $315-$320 $495-$505
Gothenburg MTD $315-$320 $485-$490
Las Palmas MTD $318-$325 $505-$510
Malta MTD $318-$326 $493-$500
Piraeus MTW $312-$320 $485-$490
St. Petersburg MTD* $270-$280 $475-$485
IFO-380 3.5% MGO DMA
Fujairah MTD $308-$315 $540-$550
Durban MTW $335-$345 $520-$525 Barging $11.50 pmt
Dammam/Ras Tanura MTD $316 $530 PPDD
Jeddah/Yanbu/Rabigh MTD $324 $530 PPDD
Richards Bay MTW Subject Enquiry Subject Enquiry Barging $14.00 pmt
IFO-380 3.5% MGO 0.1%
New York MTW $310-$324 $490-$515
Houston MTW $290-$308 $485-$500
New Orleans MTW $300-$310 $485-$495
Vancouver MTW $305-$315 $600-$615
Panama MTW $312-$318 $515-$530
Santos MTD $311-$312 $646-$647 DMA
IFO380 3.5% MGO 0.1%
Hong Kong MTD $314-$320 $492-$497
Singapore MTD $311-$327 $475-$485
Busan MTD $332-$335 $507-$517
Tokyo Bay MTD $336-$340 $570-$580 Diesel LSDMB
Shanghai MTW $330-$335 $590-$595
Qingdao MTW $334-$337 $590-$595