Biodiesel growing hazard in marine fuel

The presence of trace amounts of biodiesel in marine diesel is becoming increasingly hazardous to shipping, according to marine fuel specialists.

Marine fuel is often transported in pipelines also used to transport biodiesel. Trace contamination of marine fuel is therefore almost inevitable.

‘Since there is today no accepted test method available to quantify biodiesel in marine fuels, assessment of limit values for biodiesel in marine fuels is yet not viable. However, as the ISO working group (ISO/TC28/SC4/WG6) is currently reviewing the international bunker standard, the issue of biodiesel trace level contamination in marine fuels is being addressed,’ Monica Vermeire of Chevron says.

While blending biodiesel into road transport fuel is actively encouraged, and even mandated, in many countries, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) forbids marine diesel to contain hydrocarbons not derived from petroleum refining.

This is because Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) are hydrophilic, have a solvent nature, and can be corrosive to certain metals and rubber gaskets. They also have a poor life when stored at room temperature and can begin to oxidise within four weeks.

Despite this, there is growing interest in research into bio-derived fuels in shipping, as they have the potential to reduce emissions of sulphur and particulate matter, both of which are currently being targeted by environmental legislation.

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