30 years of progress in bunker testing

18 Jan 2011
DNVPS received its first two samples for testing from the bulk carrier ‘Mosbrook’ on 15 January 1981

DNVPS received its first two samples for testing from the bulk carrier ‘Mosbrook’ on 15 January 1981

DNV Petroleum Services (DNVPS) recently celebrated a milestone in its marine residual fuel testing service. Following its launch on Jan 1, 1981, DNV says that ship operators could, for the first time, scientifically analyse the quality of fuel supplied to their vessels.

DNV claims its fuel quality testing (FQT) programme is today the biggest service of its kind in the shipping industry, with a cumulative volume of over 1.4 million tested fuel samples. Before its lauch, ship operators were unable to comprehensively predetermine the quality of bunkers to be consumed by their vessels. This became a serious constraint during the oil crisis in the 1970s when the increased application of ‘deep conversion’, high-yield refining techniques caused residual fuel quality to deteriorate considerably. In turn, the shipping community saw a drastic increase in damage to fuel pumps, piston rings, cylinder liners and other costly engine parts.

DNV says its FQT programme was therefore a significant breakthrough as ship operators enrolled in the programme could then detect poor quality bunkers delivered to their vessels and take appropriate actions.

DNVPS managing director Tore Morten Wetterhus says the company’s first fuel sample – tested and reported on Jan 16, 1981 – holds special meaning.

“Of all the fuel samples we’ve analysed, the first one speaks best about the successful partnership between DNV and industry researchers in developing a reliable way to ascertain bunker quality. That’s how DNV Petroleum Services came into being,” Wetterhus said.

DNVPS went on to develop and disclose its proprietary test method for determining fuel metals content, including highly abrasive aluminium and silicon compounds commonly found in heavy residual fuel. This test method became the basis for the IP377 procedure adopted by both ASTM and ISO.

“Regulations such as IMO Marpol Annex VI, SOLAS and the EU Directive 2005/33/EC are making a huge impact in the value chain – from fuel production to bunkering to ship operation. DNVPS helps ship operators manage the resulting challenges with our expert advice, training initiatives, and direct intervention through our participation in industry working committees,” Wetterhus said.

Notwithstanding the increasing variety and sophistication of today’s fuel management solutions, he said operators should still observe the basic precept of testing bunker quality delivered to their vessels.

“Fuel quality testing is a risk management fundamental, alerting the ship operator to potential engine damages that can be caused by consuming bad fuel delivered to the vessel,” Wetterhus explained. He said the test data is also useful for various aspects of fuel performance benchmarking and improvement. 30 years from now, Wetterhus believes his company will still be supporting ship operators with industry-leading fuel management services.

“That’s our raison d’être. DNVPS grew out of a research collaboration with the industry to solve a long standing problem, and over the years, we’ve constantly expanded our knowledge and partnership bases. I am confident this will allow us to progress continually and be a part of the exciting developments ahead,” Wetterhus added.

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