Marine Fuel Issues During Winter Operations

23rd October 2018

As winter approaches, we are reminding ship owners and operators about two important marine fuel procurement issues to be aware of – an expected shortage of road transport capacity between November and March, and the risk of waxy build-up in fuel used in winter operations.

When the weather is very cold, there is a surge in demand for the Kerosene heating oil that is used to fuel homes and businesses that do not have a mains gas supply.

The road haulage companies that transport Kerosene to inland destinations also transport marine gas oil to ports. They have a limited number of trucks and qualified drivers, who are restricted by legal limits on their working hours, and therefore there are fewer trucks and drivers available across the country to make marine fuel deliveries in the winter. When demand for road transport outstrips supply in this way, marine fuel suppliers and their customers come under increased pressure to book road transport earlier than during the warmer months.

Furthermore, ship owners and operators also need to be aware that the specification of marine fuel changes when the temperature of the sea is very low. The Cold Filter Plugging Point (CFPP) is the lowest temperature at which a ship’s fuel will flow properly through a standard fuel filtration device. If the sea temperature drops below this level, the liquid wax in the fuel thickens and solidifies, collecting on the fuel tanks, blocking the filters and depriving the ship’s engine of fuel.

When the weather is warm, we supply fuel with a CFPP of -4˚C, whereas in the winter it is between -8˚C and -12˚C, depending on the vessel’s geographical location. We offer a guarantee that fuel for the North Sea offshore sector will always have a CFPP of -12˚Cin the winter, ensuring that there is no risk of waxy build-up of the fuel on board our customers’ vessels.

Adrian Proctor, Commercial Director of the Geos Group (Sea Bunkering), said: “We have excellent partnerships with our road transport suppliers such as Par Petroleum, but the cold weather always puts them under increased strain, so we are advising our customers to book their transport early to secure their preferred delivery times.”

He added: “Marine fuel buyers also need to be aware that thick waxy fuel that is under-performing in the cold can cause significant operational and technical difficulties on a ship, and may have to be off-loaded. As fuel is not tested for its CFPP during bunkering operations, we are reminding our customers to source their fuel only from trusted suppliers, who can be completely sure that it is fit for purpose during the winter months.”