Tech File: Fuel Monitoring Matters

By Larry Rumbol
Whether you choose distillates, liquefied natural gas (LNG) or scrubbers to meet the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) fuel regulations in 2020, it will be ever more critical to regularly monitor the condition of vital equipment to ensure there is no adverse affect on operational efficiency.
Industry opinion ahead of the implementation of the 2020 global sulphur cap remains fragmented to say the least. With only a relatively short timeframe remaining before ship owners will be facing the reality of compliance, there is no real consensus as to the spread of the three main compliance solutions. 
A recent survey by the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) found that, while the majority of respondents advocate distillates as the compliance solution of choice, the majority was slim with 42 percent favoring LNG, and the remaining 8 percent favoring emissions abatement technology such as scrubbers. However many still believe that, given the higher cost of distillates over heavy fuel oil (HFO), the industry will turn to scrubbers ahead of 2020. A recent statement by Foreship announced that it expected a third of global shipping to have installed scrubbers by 2020, with less than 500 vessels using LNG as an alternative marine fuel. However this could all change as fuel prices alter and newbuild vessels come online in coming years. 
Whatever the jigsaw of compliance solutions the shipping industry creates, 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 will impact stability and compatibility, all leading to unexpected and costly machinery damage. Moving into 2020 it will become ever more critical to regularly monitor the condition of vital equipment to ensure there is no adverse affect on operational efficiency. 
Understanding 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, will become vital for engineers and operators. With the industry disjointed on how best to achieve compliance, it’s difficult to predict what the multi-fuel market of the future will look like. 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 – all of which will be influenced by fuel price.
What will remain constant is the need for real-time information on equipment performance and “smart” maintenance of onboard systems. And this is because effectively understanding and harnessing the power of condition monitoring data yields tangible efficiencies for ship owners 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. Furthermore, it can create customer confidence that the operator values and embraces modern technology and efficient practices.
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. This new form of condition monitoring best practice has the capability to measure a variety of parameters and equipment, bringing a sophisticated monitoring capability onboard. This gives operators the insight they need into the operating conditions within vital equipment, 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.
Frequent oil testing is essential to understanding the operating conditions onboard and in real time, 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 analyzer allows operators to combine all of these tests and measure seven key parameters simultaneously using a single, onboard test kit. Through measuring multiple parameters in one test, operators spend significantly less time conducting testing and monitoring, allowing them more time to conduct other vital maintenance work, thereby maximizing both uptime and operational efficiency. Without the need for reagents, the ATR has no requirement to ship the required chemicals to the vessels throughout the lifetime of the testing device, negating costs associated with purchasing the chemicals, as well as freight, and the required time and resource to raise purchase orders. As reagentless testing also requires no mixing of chemicals by onboard engineers, test results are more accurate and repeatable. 
Condition monitoring tools and techniques need to stay ahead of the game to ensure that ship owners and operators are able to protect operational efficiency and profitability, regardless of industry trends and market conditions. Reagentless testing is key to preparations for the 2020 global sulphur cap and its impact on the future fuels market. Given the plethora of challenges faced by ship owners, undertaking proactive condition monitoring should be as simple and cost effective as possible. Engineers should have easy access to the tools they need, as this 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.
The Author
Larry Rumbol is the Marine Condition Monitoring Manager at Parker Kittiwake.
(As published in the February 2018 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News)
Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 66,  Feb 2018

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