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Monday, November 23, 2020

Maritime Logistics Professional

Increasing engine damage caused by catalyst fines

Posted to Marine Propulsion Report (by on April 29, 2010

Last month a briefing to underwriters in London covered the increasing incidence of severe engine damage. The drive towards low sulfur fuels is causing fuel refining processes to change, some of which result in below standard HFO being delivered to ships. A higher presence of particles called catalyst fines is precipitating very costly engine damage. Cat fines have always been present in bunker oils and standard ISO 8217 (2005) permits up to 80 ppm, but the problem is that more than 15 – 20 ppm already causes damage to engine parts. The components most at risk to accelerated wear are: the fuel pump, piston rings and cylinder liners. Sadly the prognosis is that with the increasing demand for low sulfur fuel, engine failures are going to increase. Until fuel standards improve a 100 per cent fuel management policy to purify the fuel is the only guarantee to avoid these problems.

Last month a briefing to a group of marine insurance underwriters in London covered the subject of deteriorating fuel quality and the increasing incidence of severe engine damage.

The drive towards low sulfur fuels is causing fuel refining processes to change, some of which result in below standard HFO being delivered to ships.

A higher presence of tiny (5 – 30 microns) but very abrasive particles called catalyst fines is precipitating very costly engine damage. Comprising aluminum and silicon oxides, they are carried over from the catalyst during the refining process and find their way into the fuel. As these particles are harder than the engine surfaces, it’s the engine that wears  - not the particles.

Cat fines have always been present in bunker oils and standard ISO 8217 (2005) permits up to 80 ppm, but the problem is that more than 15 – 20 ppm already causes damage to engine parts.

Engines suffering the most problems are medium and high speed diesels, burning low-sulfur fuels. The vessel size is, on average, less than 5,000 Dwt, is 15 plus years old and plies Europe and the Mediterranean, going in and out of SECA areas. The components most at risk to accelerated wear are: the fuel pump, piston rings and cylinder liners.

Sadly the prognosis is that with the increasing demand for low sulfur fuel, engine failures are going to increase as more catalyst fines are found in fuel. Using MDO will guarantee better fuel quality than HFO but it is 40 per cent more expensive

Until fuel standards improve the only guaranteed way to avoid these problems will be continued vigilance in adhering to a 100 per cent fuel management policy to purify the fuel on board before it goes into the engine.

Tags: Coast Guard Auxiliary USCGAUX