INTERVIEW: VPS on Quality Issues to Look For When Buying Biofuels


  • Six key high quality points to monitor
  • Tests designed for 100% biofuels not at all times appropriate for blends
  • New VPS biofuels service to be introduced later this week
  • 0.5% of samples VPS obtained final month had been biofuels

As the delivery trade quickly will increase biofuel mix purchases to reduce GHG emissions, patrons ought to pay attention to a brand new set of high quality pitfalls to keep away from, in accordance to testing agency VPS.

The Port of Rotterdam noticed a complete of about 329,000 mt of biofuel mix gross sales within the first half of 2022, whereas Singapore has seen about 70,000 mt in the entire yr to date. These numbers are probably to develop sharply subsequent yr as biofuel blends strategy the mainstream of bunker gross sales worldwide.

But patrons taking on these much less acquainted blends ought to pay attention to what they’re stepping into, Steve Bee, group industrial and enterprise improvement director at world testing agency VPS, mentioned in an interview with Ship & Bunker this week.

“Everyone calls it a drop-in gas, and that is precisely what it’s; you possibly can mainly put it into present engine know-how with out actual subject when it comes to burning it,” Bee mentioned.

“But you have received to perceive that the general gas administration operations from the purpose of it coming over the ship’s rail, the place it is saved and the way its dealt with, temperatures et cetera and the way you progress it round — that is the troublesome half.

“Once it will get to the engine, it is fantastic.”

Qualities to Watch Out For

Bee listed six explicit qualities to maintain a watch on when taking on biofuel blends.

The listing is as follows:

  • Renewable content material
  • Stability points
  • Energy content material
  • Cold movement properties
  • Corrosivity
  • Microbiological exercise

“The ISO 8217 exams are at all times an awesome place to begin, when it comes to the applicability of that exact gas as a marine gas,” he mentioned.

“However, on high of that, you have clearly received different issues.”

Renewable Content

“Accurately measuring the renewable content material of the gas goes to be important, as a result of that is going to be used to calculate and confirm the discount of CO2 emissions,” Bee mentioned.

“What we have seen is that the present FAME methodology is not truly that correct when it comes to reproducibility, precision and accuracy, so VPS made validated modifications to the strategy to enhance the accuracy.

“What we have been in a position to do is to enhance the check methodology so as to be certain that we’re getting a extra exact studying at that exact infrared wavelength,” he mentioned.

Stability Issues

“Also vital with biofuels is the soundness,” Bee mentioned.

“As we noticed with VLSFO, you will have a sure shelf life, which is way lower than the usual conventional hydrocarbon fuels that we used prior to VLSFO.

“With biofuels in all probability the most effective analogy to make is milk and butter; when you do not refrigerate them, they have a tendency to develop into rancid.

“We’re using a check known as the Rancimat methodology to measure oxidation stability.

“But we have one other couple of exams that we have a look at when it comes to bio-oxidation stability: iodine worth, a measure of the unsaturated materials inside biofuels, and linolenic acid, as one other measure of stability.

“Loads of these exams are designed to have a look at the pure biofuel, as an example 100% FAME, coming below the EN 14214 FAME customary.

“However, when you begin mixing these disparate supplies into both a VLSFO or a diesel MGO, a whole lot of the check strategies aren’t straight relevant to blends.

“So we now have modifications of sure exams, that gives you details about blended materials, however the first line within the sand is admittedly to do as many of those ISO 14214 exams as you possibly can on the bio a part of that materials as a pre-test.”

Energy Content

“Knowing the power content material is clearly key, as you need to understand how a lot bang you are getting on your buck,” Bee mentioned.

“Normally that is performed via ISO 8217 as a calculation; nevertheless, with biofuels, that is not relevant.

“So what you will have to do is a bodily check often known as a bomb calorimetry check.

“It’s an ASTM  check, below the ASTM D240 customary, and that measures the gross calorific worth.

Cold Flow

“Cold movement properties are a key subject,” he mentioned.

“With a blended bio-MGO, you would be cloud factors, and when you’re a darker mix materials — with VLSFO or HSFO — you would be trying on the wax look with temperature testing.

“This is only a measure of the potential for paraffin wax to precipitate out from the uncooked materials.”


“In phrases of corrosivity, we have clearly received the acid quantity, which is a normal check,” Bee mentioned.

“But then biomaterial can assault sure surfaces like copper or metal, so there is a copper corrosion check, and a metal corrosion check, which may be utilized to the biomaterial itself.”

Microbiological Activity

“Esters by their very nature take in water and when you will have heat gas being saved at elevated temperatures, you’ll get microbial development on the gas/water interface.

“These bugs can get to a sure stage the place they will begin corroding tank partitions, pipework et cetera, and so they can type sludges because the bugs die off.

“So measuring micro organism, yeast and fungi throughout the gas is a key subject.”

Other Pitfalls

Beyond the principle listing of high quality issues, Bee outlined two extra potential areas of concern with biofuel blends.

The first was points arising from the upper flashpoint of those blends.

“FAME has a excessive flashpoint, and together with a excessive oxygen content material this will increase gas consumption, but additionally probably NOx formation,” he mentioned.

“This can lead to faster accumulation of unspent biofuel, and will lead to soot within the lubrication oil and NOx within the exhaust system.”

The second was glycerides.

“Another factor to pay attention to is the presence of glycerides,” he mentioned.

“Glycerol is used as a elementary building-block within the manufacturing of FAME; you employ glycerol with an alcohol, usually methanol, to produce fatty acid methyl esters.

“This response can truly go by hook or by crook relying on circumstances like temperature.

“If you discover that you’ve larger glyceride content material in your ultimate product, then these elements could cause issues like sticking to metallic surfaces, and negatively have an effect on the vessel’s operation.

“We’ve had to develop fuel chromatography strategies to measure these elements inside a blended gas.”

The Trappings of FAME

It’s notable in discussions round biofuels that patrons at the moment are actively paying massive sums to add FAME to their bunkers, the place beforehand it was handled as a contaminant to be averted the place potential.

Earlier units of ISO specs had a de minimis FAME content material requirement, that means its presence within the gas must be negligible for the gas to be discovered on-specification.

But as Bee defined, this was at a time when FAME content material in highway diesel was for the primary time up to 7%, and the priority was that it might find yourself within the marine gas provide chain accidentally with ship operators unprepared with how to deal with it. With patrons now intentionally taking it on for its GHG-saving properties, they’ll familiarise themselves with its idiosyncrasies and find out how to keep away from issues.

“I do not assume the problems have truly modified,” he mentioned.

“If you recognize it is there and you recognize what to count on, you possibly can mitigate a whole lot of the dangers which are related to that exact sort of fabric.”

New VPS Biofuels Service

VPS is now launching a brand new service to assist its clients work with the brand new biofuel blends, Bee mentioned.

“Before VLSFO got here alongside, we put collectively an extra safety service to assist give our clients a higher stage of safety when it comes to harm prevention,” he mentioned.

“That was mainly your ISO 8217 exams with some further exams like lubricity or GCMS.

“And now we have performed an identical factor for biofuels, an extra safety service known as APS Bio.

“This covers 100% FAME fuels, blends with MGO and blends with VLSFO or HSFO.

“We’ll be launching that by the tip of this week.”

Biofuels’ Growing Bunker Market Share

While biofuel blends at the moment take up a small part of the market — the 70,000 mt of biofuels bought in Singapore to date this yr was about 0.2% of the standard fuels whole bought there in January to September — the share is rising.

Biofuel blends took up about 0.5% of the samples obtained by VPS in September, Bee mentioned. however that share has roughly doubled prior to now three or 4 months.

Quality issues within the samples seen to date have been skinny on the bottom. But it’ll take greater than quarter-hour of FAME for points to emerge; the market must be ready for these issues to come up as biofuel blends begin to be dealt with in a extra standard manner after the present trial intervals have ended, Bee mentioned.

“I’ve not encountered any actual issues with biofuels in any respect to date,” he mentioned.

“But what I might say is that for the time being you are speaking about biofuels that are taken as comparatively small stems after which used in a short time; they are not on board the ship for an extended time frame.

“Things like oxidation, stability, microbial development and corrosivity might not have had the time to have an effect.

“As this materials will get saved on our ships for longer, then clearly these issues will develop into extra of a difficulty.”

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