2020 Vision: Monitoring for future fuels

A cylinder damaged by cat fines, which Rumbol believes could be present in increased quantities in some post-2020 fuels A cylinder damaged by cat fines, which Rumbol believes could be present in increased quantities in some post-2020 fuels

In the first instalment of our new series looking at the 2020 sulphur cap, Larry Rumbol of Parker Kittiwake explains how cutting-edge monitoring can help ship operators address fuel concerns.

Industry opinion ahead of the implementation of the 2020 global sulphur cap remains divided. Some advocate that continuing to burn heavy fuel oil and installing emissions abatement technology such as scrubbers will be the preferred solution. Others assert that, given the perceived lack of readily available, proven and cost-neutral technologies, low sulphur fuels will be the chosen route for compliance.

Whatever happens, it is inevitable that there will be an impact on the future fuels market, and this will certainly have a knock-on effect on vessel operations and efficiency. Operators will find themselves facing a number of challenges including increased cat fines, and differing parameters regarding viscosity, flash point, and pour points, which could all lead to unexpected and costly machinery damage.

It’s vital for all operating personnel to understand the physical characteristics of fuel, hydraulic and lubricating oil, coupled with an awareness of sampling and testing systems and processes, and the significance of test results. With such a diversity of options, it’s difficult to predict what the fuel choice of the future will be. Indeed it is likely to comprise a whole range of options, chosen to suit a host of factors including vessel type, size, and operating pattern.

What will remain constant is the need for real-time information on equipment performance and “smart” maintenance of on-board systems. And this is because effectively understanding and harnessing the power of condition monitoring data yields tangible efficiencies for shipowners and operators. Data covering the performance of every vessel function or equipment installation can be transferred to shore and continuously monitored. Smart condition monitoring can improve operational uptime and reduce vessel maintenance bills, lowering the overall total cost of ownership.


Condition monitoring has moved on in the last decade. At one point the only way to see abnormal wear was in a laboratory report, then that became possible on board, and now equipment is continuously monitoring a variety of equipment and parameters. Reagentless testing is the next evolution in condition monitoring, and it’s here today. Traditional testing methods require a constant feed of chemical consumables throughout their working lifetime, and customers do not like the hazard associated with the reagents, nor the cost of transporting them around the world.

Frequent oil testing is essential to understanding the operating conditions in the system, allowing engineers to prevent unnecessary damage to critical and expensive engine components. Until now, operators have required a suite of condition monitoring tools to determine the operational integrity of the system, testing for each potentially damaging element separately. This increases cost, the time needed to carry out the testing, and the amount of equipment required. The recently launched Parker Kittiwake ATR oil analyser allows operators to combine all of these tests and measure seven key parameters simultaneously using a single, onboard test kit.

Reagentless testing that has the capability to measure a variety of parameters and equipment brings a sophisticated monitoring capability onboard, without the need for extensive additional training, without the costs and hazards associated with transporting and storing reagents, and without the need for numerous test kits and sensors.

Given the plethora of challenges faced by shipowners, and especially ahead of the 2020 global sulphur cap, undertaking proactive condition monitoring should be as simple and cost effective as possible. Providing engineers with the tools they need, without increasing the need for extensive training or complex equipment, is the best way to ensure they have the information required to effectively manage the operational efficiency of the vessel – whatever the fuel of choice.


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