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Cat fines alert seen having little impact on South Korea’s bunker market

Bunker fuel quality issues relating to cat fines — aluminum and silicon — detected at several South Korean ports recently have had little impact on the market, industry sources told S&P Global Platts.

In an alert made available to Platts Tuesday, the Fuel Oil Bunker Analysis and Advisory Service or FOBAS run by Lloyd’s Register said recent testing of a number of bunker samples at the Ulsan, Yosu and Masan ports had detected cat fines values in the range of 80-90 mg/kg, exceeding the 60 mg/kg limit set in global IMO 8217:2017 specifications.

During catalyst cracking, the silica and alumina catalyst powder added to crack fuel gets carried into the distillate column, resulting in the residual oil and slurry containing an abrasive substance known as cat fines.

The carry-over of abrasive Al+Si material into bunker fuel may lead to damage to fuel pumps/injectors and cylinder components.

“Al+Si content at these concentrations may not readily reduce to acceptable levels by means of normal onboard treatment,” the FOBAS said in its alert.

“If your ships are planning to bunker in this port, then we suggest that the supplier is asked to provide a certificate of quality of the particular stem to ensure that the Al+Si concentration is known at the time of bunkering and within the limits of the stipulated grade,” it added.

Particular attention should also be given to the collection of fully representative drip samples to ensure all supporting documentation and samples drawn are witnessed and signed for by all parties present, FOBAS said, adding that during on-board treatment, system samples should be drawn and analyzed to verify system performance.

Industry sources late Tuesday said concerns over the bunker quality issues that emerged last month had largely subsided.

“One supplier’s fuel was heard to be off-spec in September, but it seems OK now,” one trader said.

Another trader said while the fuel samples did not meet the ISO 8217:2017 specification, they were still most likely within the earlier ISO 8217:2005 requirement of 80 mg/kg and as such did not pose a serious problem.

“The bunkers are mostly within spec now and the problem seems to be going way,” a third trader said.
Source: Platts

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