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Fuel Polishing - New diesel fuel standards discussed at Seawork

- Tuesday, June 14, 2011
09 Jun 2011

Changes to the standards for marine diesel fuels have been causing anxiety and some confusion throughout the industry.

The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) Small Ships Group has published a fuel guidance booklet to help maritime and inland waterway operators learn about the new regulations for red diesel fuel.

Alan Cartwright, Marine Engineer for the Port of London Authority and maritime industry consultant to the UK Department for Transport (DfT), co-edited the booklet with Colin Crimp and will give a presentation about the new regulations at the Seawork 2011 Conference on Thursday 16 June at 14:00.

The EU Directive 2009/30/EC, which came into force in the UK on 14 January 2011, introduced new standards for marine diesel fuel to be used for inland waterways and recreational craft when not at sea. There are engineering implications from these changes to fuel, which may affect the reliability of engine performance and could impact upon navigational safety. The purpose of the booklet is to help guide boat owners, operators, engineers and surveyors in adopting procedures that allow for safe operation and navigation within these amended fuel standards.

The background of this new Directive lies in the general consideration of health and environmental issues and the fulfilling of the European Community’s commitments on ‘greenhouse gas’ emission targets resulting from the Kyoto Agreement, adopted in 1997 and subsequently coming into force in 2005.

In the United Kingdom, the DfT has sought to implement the Directive through an amendment to existing regulation, namely ‘The Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) Regulations 1999’, which was enacted as Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 3035 ‘The Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) and Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2010’.

In March 2010, DfT prepared a draft amendment document and initiated a 12 week consultation process with interested parties including fuel suppliers, engine manufacturers, transport organisations and other user groups. This consultation was subsequently extended to six months, closing on 30 September 2010. The revised amendment, incorporating the results of the consultation process, were drawn up and laid before the UK Parliament on 23 December 2010 and entered into force on 14 January 2011.

As a marine industry response and significant contribution to the consultation process, the Small Ships Group of IMarEST held a seminar at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on 20 October 2010. The seminar was supported by the PLA, Conidia Bioscience Ltd and the Passenger Boat Association. It was entitled ‘A Marine Fuel Forum’ and presented a number of operational, scientific and technical papers, which informed the debate and the DfT consultation process.

A number of changes to red diesel fuel specification are caused by the new regulations, of which some information and advice has become available in the specialist press. While trials on engines have shown that the much lower level of sulphur in the new fuel is not a significant problem (as the fuel distillers and blenders have included lubricity additives to compensate for the sulphur’s most useful property), allowance in the regulations for the inclusion of up to 7% biodiesel (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester or FAME) remains of concern.

FAME is known to be hygroscopic (it picks up moisture from the surrounding air) and provides a food substance for microbiological contamination to be able to grow in tanks or fuel systems, where fuel is not turned over regularly (within 3 to 6 months). Where vessels lay up, with fuel in tanks topped up for periods exceeding 6 months, the risks of gross system contamination are very real indeed and could lead to sudden power failure, with subsequent navigational danger and risk to life.

This IMarEST Small Ships Group guidance booklet explains where the regulations apply (in which waters and for what operations), what the risks are in using the new fuels, and how best those risks can be avoided. Included in the guidance is a directory of useful companies and organisations, which can give guidance to sources of red diesel fuel that is compliant with the regulations, yet free of the potentially hazardous FAME. Also given are details of specialist companies that can provide testing systems for fuel and, should the worst happen, others who can help clean tanks from contamination and prevent reoccurrence.

The guidance booklet can be downloaded, for a nominal fee, from the IMarEST website shop, using the following link:

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