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Bunker Fuel Contamination Uncovered in Houston, Texas

The Houston Ship Channel and adjacent refineries, part of the Port of Houston, are seen in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Bunker Fuel Contamination Uncovered in Houston, Texas

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4451
July 11, 2023

Marine fuel testing company Veritas Petroleum Services (VPS) says it has uncovered a case of marine fuel contamination in Houston, Texas.

The company says the contaminated fuel was delivered by a single supplier between March and May of this year. Issues with the fuel was not detected until after it was burned several weeks after bunkering.

Eleven vessels using the fuel have reported loss of power and subsequent loss of propulsion, VPS said.

VPS’ analysis of the contaminated fuel detected high levels of Dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) and associated isomers in the VLSFO bunker fuel. The DCPD compounds detected ranged from 3,000 to 7,000 ppm, causing damage to the fuel injection system and excessive sludge formation over time.

These effects resulted from fuel leakage in the ICU (Injection Control Unit) units and fuel pumps not being able to develop the required fuel pressure, resulting in failures of both main and auxiliary engines, although auxiliary engines were more commonly affected.

A widespread fuel contamination issue in 2018 affected hundreds of tankers and containerships in Houston, Malaysia and Singapore, with some suffering damage such tainted fuel clogged filters and jammed injection pumps. Several lawsuits were filed in response to the contamination, alleging millions of dollars in engine repairs and replacement fuel deliveries.

Last year, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) launched an investigation after learning that a number of ships had been supplied with High Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) containing high levels of chlorinated organic compounds (COC), which are not normally found in bunker fuel.

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