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Marine diesel engines

catalytic fines and
a new standard to ensure
safe operation
Separation Performance Standard

written by Alfa Laval, BP Marine and MAN B&W Diesel

MAN B&W Diesel

A joint effort
– good for the industry
This publication is intended to provide an overview of catalytic
fines and their effect on marine diesel engines, marine residual
fuel oils and fuel cleaning on board. It has been written by
members of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN)
Workshop No. 20 for separation performance standard, the
reference of which is CWA 15375:2005 Separators for marine
residual fuel – Performance testing using specific test oil.
Authors of this publication are Gunnar Åström of Alfa Laval, Adrian Daniels
of BP Marine and Kjeld Aabo of MAN B&W Diesel, whose collaborative efforts
have been key in establishing a new standard for separation performance.
All three companies, together with others, have been driving the marine
industry towards a standard for separation performance through their work
to establish and gain approval for a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA).

Gunnar Åström
Alfa Laval

Adrian Daniels
BP Marine

Kjeld Aabo
MAN B&W Diesel

............................. 2 Marine residual fuel ................................................................................................ 32 Conclusion .............................................. 4 Catalytic fines .. The importance of fuel cleaning .................................................................................................................................................................................... Stokes’ Law .............................................................................................................................................................................. 13 Catalytic fines in residual fuel oil – future trends ............................................................. Catalytic fines and engine performance ....................... 13 Marine diesel engines ............................................................................................................ 14 15 15 17 19 Fuel cleaning systems ........................................ 4 Refining processes .................................................................................... How fuel oil quality affects separation ............................................................................... Correlation to actual operating conditions ................... Model test method .............................................................................................................................. 11 ISO 8217 Fuel Standard ............ Case study: Land-based power plant .............. Economical aspects ................................................... Type approval ........... 32 Certified Flow Rate vs....................................................................................................................................... Maximum Recommended Capacity ........... 32 Sizing of centrifuges .................................................... Operating parameters ........................................................................................................Inside view Summary ................................... 26 27 29 29 30 31 Dimensioning of fuel cleaning systems .. 12 Measuring catalytic fines content ........................................................... Engine wear and damage from catalytic fines ..... 4 Residual fuel oil ............ The modern approach .................................................................................................................................................. Series or parallel operation? ........................................................................................................................................................................... 34 ................................................................................................................................. 20 20 21 21 23 24 New standard for separation performance ............................. Why a model test method ............................................................

is 80 mg/kg (ppm). in August 2005 that effectively established a new industry standard that defines the performance 2 . engine builders generally anticipate that this amount will be reduced by the fuel cleaning system onboard to a maximum of 15 ppm before the fuel oil is injected into the engine.Summary In general. called CWA. than others. the maximum allowable content of catalytic fines in bunkered fuel. marine diesel engines burn residual fuel oils. buyers cannot be sure that the centrifuges that are specified and installed using these tables actually ensure the safe removal of harmful solids from bunker fuels. For years engine builders. these catalytic fines can endanger ship safety by causing engine wear and damage. Some may contain higher levels of contaminants. However. The quality of the fuel oils varies widely. In June 2004 the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) began to establish an operational specification of a method to measure separation performance of centrifuges with regard to the presence of solid particles in residual fuel oils. The leading cleaning method used on board ships today is centrifugal separation. According to the ISO 8217 Fuel Standard for Specifications of Marine Fuels. depending on the grade and processing of the fuels. Manufacturers of centrifuges now supply buyers with their own maximum recommended capacity (MRC) tables as guidelines to select a fuel cleaning system. expressed as the total content of aluminium and silicon. such as water and abrasive solids. ship owners and classification societies have been missing reliable performance criteria to be able to compare how one manufacturer’s centrifuge performs against that of another manufacturer with regard to the removal of hard abrasive particles such as catalytic fines from marine residual fuels. To achieve reliable and cost-effective operation of the marine diesel engines it is necessary to clean all residual fuel oils before injection into the engines. If unchecked. However. The CEN Workshop finalised an agreement.

abrasive particles from marine residual fuels to safe operational levels. 3 . Separators for marine residual fuel oil – Performance testing using specific test oil. Hereby objective comparisons between centrifuges from different suppliers will be possible. which establish a fuel oil centrifuge’s ability to remove solid. This standard is based on controlled artificial particles. The reference number of this document is CWA 15375. The participants will investigate the prospects of developing the agreement to a full international standard recognized by the International Organization for Standardization. dated 2005-08-17.of centrifuges installed on board ships. which however are still considered as reliable performance criteria.

Over the past 15 years the worldwide demand for distillate grades has continued to rise. This fuel is consumed on board the vessel both by the main engine. which transports the vessel through the water. then in approximately 30 years there will be no residual fuel oil. If the reduction in residual fuel oil production continues to decline at the same rate of about 4. Some of the residual fuel manufactured is used by the marine industry. Some of the refinery processes are described below. compared to 14 percent today. Typically the source of all fuels is derived from crude oils. causing residual fuel oil to lose its current exclusive status as a cheap source of energy. refineries have incorporated more sophisticated processes in order to extract as much as possible of distillate feedstock from a barrel of crude oil.Marine residual fuel Marine residual fuel. In 1990 approximately 20 percent of a barrel of crude was processed into residual fuel oil.6 percent every decade. whereas the production of residual fuel oil has declined slightly (Figure 1). 4 . and by the auxiliary engines. used to formulate motor gasoline. which are applicable to the production of residual fuels. such as lighting. also called bunker fuel or residual fuel oil. Residual fuel oil Residual fuel is essentially a refinery by-product. The decrease is remarkably linear (Figure 2). The main drivers in the refining industry are the production of light and middle distillate grades. Clearly at some point in time between now and 2035 the demand for residual fuel oil will outstrip the capability to supply it. As a consequence of the relentless increase in demand for distillate fuels. Refining processes This section describes the basic refining processes. automotive diesel fuel and chemical feedstock. blended to satisfy market demand for a cheap source of energy. jet fuel. The net effect is a reduction in the percentage of the crude oil barrels produced as residual fuel oil. is the name given to the primary energy source used in the marine industry. which provide all the electrical energy for onboard systems. heating and engine auxiliary equipment.

1400 Tonnage (million tonnes) 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Year Middle distillates Gasolines Fuel oil Others Figure % of fuel oil consumer / Total oil products 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Year Fuel oil Linear (fuel oil) Figure 2. Source: BP Statistical Review. Oil consumption worldwide (excluding the former Soviet Union). Source: BP Statistical Review 2004 www. Residual fuel oil as a percentage of all oil products (excluding the former Soviet Union). 2004 5 .bp.bp.

The vacuum distillation process was developed to enable further refinement of atmospheric residue. which is fitted with perforated trays. Atmospheric distillation The first step in the refining process is the separation of crude oil into various fractions by distillation. vanadium content and in the yield of each product that can be produced by a refinery. Therefore subsequent and more complex refinery processes. If the vapours are cooled they condense back into liquids in the reverse order. known as secondary conversion processes. the original crude oil could be reproduced by mixing together all of the output streams and components in the appropriate proportions. see Figure 3. sulphur content. Because these processes do not chemically alter the structure of the oil. These two simple distillation processes however do not produce the amount of distillate oil products that is consistent with the increasing worldwide demand. the lightest and most volatile hydro-carbons boil off as vapours first and the heaviest and least volatile last. As the crude oil enters the tower all except the heaviest hydrocarbons evaporate and rise through the tower as vapours. No two crude oils are alike. 6 . there are significant variations in density.Crude oil Crude oil is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons that must be processed to provide both the products and the quantity of each product required to fulfil worldwide demand. Both atmospheric distillation and vacuum distillation are refinery processes based on the physical separation of crude oil components into distillate fuels. viscosity. Originally crude oil was distilled in an atmospheric distillation process to obtain the required grades at the required quantity. The temperature is restricted so as not to induce thermal decomposition of the crude oil. the heaviest first and the lightest last. The crude is heated to approximately 350°C and pumped into a section near the base of the tower. are required. The process takes advantage of the fact that the crude contains a complex mixture of hydro-carbons. When crude oil is heated. Distillation is carried out as a continuous process in a fractionating tower. which have different boiling points.

7 . Atmospheric distillation of crude oil.Further processing Petroleum gas (LPG) Vapours rise Further processing • Camping gas • Industrial gas gas Gasoline • Petrol Further processing Naptha • Chemical feedstock Further processing Kerosene Further processing • Aviation fuel • Domestic heating oil • Industrial heating oil Gas oil • Diesel oil Further processing Lubricants and waxes Liquids fall • Lubricating oil • Wax Preheated crude oil Further processing Residue • Fuel oil • Bitumen Figure 3.

As in atmospheric distillation not all the liquid vaporizes. At the same time the heat of the vapour causes some of the condensed liquid to re-evaporate thus steadily enriching each fraction with its correct components. which can become a component of a marine residual fuel. however. To satisfy demand. various fractions are drawn off for further processing. some of the vapour condenses due to the reduction of temperature caused by the cooler liquid in the trays. Vacuum distillation Vacuum distillation is another refinery process that is similar to atmospheric distillation but takes place under vacuum conditions. Atmospheric distillation is a simple physical process. additional refining processes. At successively higher points in the tower. what is removed from the base of the unit is called vacuum (or short) residue. Despite the addition of 8 . Boiling points vary from approximately 60°C at the top to over 300°C at the base. Some of the vapours flow out of the top of the tower as gases. Those components with the lowest boiling points collect at the top of the tower and those with the highest boiling points are collected at the base of the tower. lowviscosity crude oil yields more distillate fuel and a smaller proportion of the atmospheric residue than high-density. Since liquids in a vacuum boil at lower temperatures. The type of crude determines the percentage of each product that can be obtained. where the fuels are separated according to specific boiling ranges. Low-density. high-viscosity crude. Fractions of crude that have a boiling temperature above 300°C fall to the base of the tower. As mentioned. is not fractionated into distillate products. this product is known as atmospheric residue which can become a component of a residual fuel oil.As the vapours rise through the tower. All of the crude oil. the use of the atmospheric distillation process alone to refine crude oil does not satisfy the worldwide demand for fuel. must be employed. the atmospheric residue evaporates thus enabling more of the light distillate fractions to be drawn off without exceeding the temperature at which thermal cracking will take place. which reduce the amount of residual fuel and increase the amount of distillate fuel.

Thermal cracking Thermal cracking uses temperature. Here the catalyst in the form of fine particles that are approximately 20 to 100 microns in diameter circulates between a reactor and a regenerator in a fluidised bed process (Figure 4). Typical thermal cracking processes include visbreaking which significantly lowers the viscosity of a heavy residue to enable blending with other fuel oils and coking which destroys the fuel oil. producing only distillate fuel and coke which is a form of carbon. The catalyst is a substance that assists the process of the chemical reaction. Large catalytic crackers will contain about 500 metric tons of expensive catalyst. There are two basic types of cracking processes: thermal cracking and catalytic cracking. pressure and time to provoke a chemical reaction that alters the structure of the oil. The most common process is fluid catalytic cracking (FCC). They use a catalyst rather than high pressure to break down complex hydrocarbons into simpler molecules. Secondary conversion processes In order to satisfy the demand for distillate fuel products. which use some of the product streams from the distillation processes and alter the chemical structure of the oil. Secondary conversion processes include “cracking” processes that break the long molecules of the heavier fuel fractions into shorter molecules that can more easily be processed into fuel oil products that are in demand. This reduces the amount of residual fuel oil and increases the amount of distillate fuel. 9 .vacuum distillation as another means to refine crude oil by means of physical separation. refineries use secondary conversion processes. Catalytic cracking Catalytic cracking processes also alter the chemical composition of residual fuel oil. but does not change its own properties. worldwide demand for light distillate fuel still outstrips the supply. which can convert gas oil and residual oil into high-octane gasoline and diesel fuel. Thermal cracking can be carried out on both distillate fuels and on residual fuels.

The product drawn off the bottom of the fractionator is called slurry oil. The catalyst and the vapours are separated in the reactor. which is also known as decant oil or FCC bottoms. generally about 1000 kg/m3 at 15°C and a low viscosity of approximately 30 to 60 cSt at 50°C. Upon contact with the catalyst the feedstock vaporizes and the vapours in turn react. the slurry oil has a high density.Reactor Flue gas Gasoline Light cycle oil Regenerator Heavy cycle oil Catalyst Air Fractionator Feed Steam Decant oil Origin of catalytic fines in HFO Figure 4. Highly aromatic. The hot catalyst from the regenerator mixes with the feedstock and then enters the reactor. breaking the chemical bonds to achieve the desired product quality. 10 Courtesy of DNVPS Gases . The reaction causes some carbon to be deposited onto the catalyst. The vapours rise and flow into a fractionating tower for further processing. It is from this refinery source that catalytic fines enter residual fuel. The catalyst flows back into the regenerator. which confers stability to the finished fuel. Equipment for the catalytic cracking process. Although refiners attempt to minimise the loss of catalyst from the catalytic cracking process some carryover of the expensive catalytic fines from the unit is inevitable. It is an ideal blending component for residual fuels due to its high aromaticity. which heats the catalyst to burn off the carbon prior to mixing it with the feedstock and passing it back into the reactor. The continual recycling of the catalyst causes the catalyst structure to break up primarily due to attrition and some of these small particles are carried over into the fractionator.

BP investigation Particle size distribution (micron) By number 5–10 10–15 15–35 35–100 57 27 15 1 (%) 5–10 10–15 15–35 35–100 Figure 5. Catalytic fines are formed through the break up.Catalytic fines The composition of catalytic fines varies depending on the type of feedstock and on whether the main unit of the cracker is intended to optimise gasoline (light) grades or diesel (heavier) grades. Both the zeolite and the active matrix are forms of aluminium oxide and silicon oxide. Det Norske Veritas (DNV) determined that the annual worldwide average ratio of silicon to aluminium was 1. Whilst they are considered to be spherical particles this is not necessarily the case. which consists of an active matrix. clay and binder.64:1 based on analyses of fuel oil samples. of the catalyst. In the mid 1990s.65:1 to 2:1. 11 . ranging from 0. Particle size distribution of catalytic fines. Exact catalyst compositions are never quoted today but all of them contain some form of synthetic crystalline zeolite material. A typical particle size distribution of catalytic fines in heavy fuel oil is shown in Figure 5. The ratio of silicon to aluminium in the catalyst varies considerably. The zeolite is dispersed in a matrix.2:1 and that this ratio is likely to fall because modern catalysts tend to contain a higher concentration of aluminium. Catalytic fines are variable in size with a range from sub-micron to approximately 30 microns and occasionally up to 100 microns. Recent analyses indicate that the worldwide average ratio is currently about 1. primarily due to attrition. as it is recycled through the cat cracker plant.

purification and filtration. References: 1. “Fuel Quality Statistics”. Nearly 80 percent of all bunker deliveries in the marine market contain less than 20 ppm of aluminium plus silicon. 12 . These specifications define the limit for catalytic fines in fuel oils. September 2004. <=60 < 20 0. Det Norske Veritas. including settling. In September 2004 DNV published statistics indicating that the percentage of bunker fuel deliveries that contained specific ranges of aluminium and silicon2. It is generally accepted that onboard fuel cleaning systems.ISO 8217 Fuel Standard ISO 8217:1996 is the current international standard for specifications for petroleum products for marine diesel engines and boilers. September 2004. will reduce the level of catalytic fines in bunker fuel at delivery below the 15 ppm level that is acceptable in order to inject the fuel into an engine. <=80 >20. 13th Sibcon 2004. Number 3. Volume 24.7 19 79 Source: “Fuel Quality Statistics”. Wanda Fabriek: “Further Development of the International Marine Fuel Standard Third Edition of ISO 8217”. 2. which will soon be issued1. Det Norske Veritas. This limit will remain the same in the revised edition (third edition). expressed as Al + Si (aluminium plus silicon).3 1. at 80 ppm. Al + Si (mg/kg) % of deliveries >80 >60.

The current and approved method. The residue and crucible are then transferred to a muffle furnace held at 550 ±25°C to reduce the carbon residue and provide the ash.Measuring catalytic fines content Several methods for directly measuring catalytic fines in the fuel have been developed. tried and discarded. measures catalytic fines using an indirect method whereby a weighed quantity of a homogenised fuel oil sample is heated in a platinum crucible and the combustible material is removed by burning. 13 . The solution is then aspirated in the plasma of an inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometer or absorption spectrometer. Catalytic fines in residual fuel oil – future trends As the world demand for distillate fuels continues to increase. the adoption of more advanced refining processes will slowly populate the globe. and the aluminium and silicon elements are detected by radiation emissions. The ash is then fused with a lithium tetraborate/ lithium fluoride flux and the fused mixture is dissolved in a mixture of tartaric acid and hydrochloric acid and diluted with water to achieve the desired volume. It goes without saying that the contents of aluminium and silicon measured in this way are independent of particle size distribution. The natural consequence of this is that more marine residual fuels will contain some levels of catalytic fines. The quantity of catalytic fines is then derived through the comparison of the emission results with standard calibration solutions. However with the combined forces of marine fuel specifications and properly designed and maintained centrifuges it is highly likely that the issue will pass unnoticed by the shipping community. ISO 10478.

80 ppm catalytic fines Max. Max. 14 Engine . To clean the fuel oil of catalytic fines and other impurities before injection into the engine. the engine builders expect a related reduction in the amount of catalyst fines in the fuel entering the engine. 21 recommendation. fuel cleaning systems are required on board. an abbreviation for parts per million which is expressed as a weight-to-weight ratio. Both ISO 8217 and CIMAC fuel recommendation specify that the content of catalytic fines in the fuel oil delivered on board may not exceed a maximum of 80 ppm. As the level of catalyst fines in the bunkered fuel is lowered. 15 ppm catalytic fines Separator Fuel conditioning module Figure 6. Reduction of the catalytic fines by the fuel cleaning system on board. Engine builders generally anticipate that the maximum level of 80 ppm catalytic fines will be reduced by the fuel cleaning system on board to a maximum of 15 ppm before the fuel oil is injected into the engine.Marine diesel engines Two-stroke marine diesel engines today are able to operate within the ISO 8217 fuel standard and the CIMAC HFO 55 No. The condition is that the fuel is properly cleaned in the centrifuge. The design of the fuel cleaning system to be used on board is the critical factor for optimal reduction of catalytic fines content in fuel oil from 80 ppm upon delivery to the ship to 15 ppm before injection into the engine. This is to ensure safe operation and optimal engine performance.

that remain in the fuel oil after centrifugal separation have the potential to cause abrasive wear and damage to the engine. which in turn can lead to potentially unsafe operating conditions. catalytic fines are very hard and capable of severely scratching. there is an increased risk for breakdown and it is likely that the engine will require more frequent maintenance than what has been recommended by the engine manufacturer. Though virtually invisible to the human eye. For this purpose. defined as mean time between overhaul. All catalytic fines. Catalytic fines smaller than five microns are considered to be less harmful than larger cat fines. which is specified by engine suppliers. Filters are only considered as a safety to pick up larger particles so that these particles do not reach the engine. that remain in the fuel after employing catalytic cracking processes to refine crude oil into more valuable fractions. That is why the level of catalytic fines must be reduced as much as feasibly possible by the fuel cleaning system. a well-designed fuel cleaning system is a must.Catalytic fines and engine performance Catalytic fines are small particles of spent catalyst. a heavy fuel oil that meets ISO 8217 and the CIMAC fuel recommendations should be cleaned by an onboard fuel cleaning system that satisfies these conditions: 15 . The importance of fuel cleaning Marine diesel engines are designed to be capable of accepting all commercially available fuel oils. Centrifuges in combination with a settling tank are generally accepted within the marine industry as the fuel cleaning system of choice. These particles vary in size anywhere from submicron to tenths of microns. enriched in contaminants. If the amount of catalytic fines is removed at optimum efficiency by the fuel cleaning system. the greater the risk for unsafe operating conditions due to engine wear and breakdown. ranging from a speck of dust or pollen to the width of a strand of coarse human hair. The higher the amount of catalytic fines is. To ensure safe operation. and do not as such “clean” the fuel. provided they are adequately treated on board. metal. if not cutting. leaving residual fuel oil as a bottom phase. according to experience the engine has a controlled and acceptable wear. Under such operating conditions.

e. In order to check the efficiency of the centrifuges.. however. these components can be hurled up and fed into the centrifuges.• Preheating the fuel oil to the correct temperature before the centrifuges. Centrifuges If properly operated. Samples should be taken more frequently whenever operating on fuel oil with more than 25 ppm of catalytic fines when the fuel is bunkered. • Proper operation and maintenance of the centrifuges. The presence of such heavy components influences the purity of fuel after the fuel cleaning system. at high sea and rough sea conditions. a centrifuge has the capability to remove nearly 100 percent of all catalytic fines that are larger than 10 microns. • Correct capacity/layout of the centrifuge (i. Settling and service tanks Heavy components of large sizes. This is because 16 . Positioning homogenisers upstream from the centrifuges. it is recommended that samples be taken before and after the centrifuges at least every four months and sent to an established institution for analysis. See “Sizing of centrifuges”. correct throughput of fuel through the centrifuges). the majority of catalytic fines smaller than five microns will not be removed due to small size and their relative light weight. Homogenisers Some fuel cleaning systems use homogenisers. it is virtually impossible for any engine builder to specify the exact size requirements for the individual centrifuges that are part of an onboard fuel cleaning system. The correct sizing of the centrifuges depends on the daily fuel consumption and on the design viscosity of the system. is not currently recommended. However. which split any water present in the fuel into small uniform droplets. in the fuel oil settle on the tank bottom due to gravitational force. such as large catalytic fines. Engine builders can only provide recommendations for optimal engine performance. However. which must then be confirmed by centrifuge manufacturers. It is therefore important to drain the settling and service tanks regularly. Because of continuous advances in centrifuge technology. and.

17 . which are also removed by the centrifuges. which enables the injectors to deliver the correct amount of fuel to the engine under the different operating conditions. Engine wear and damage from catalytic fines Abrasive wear is mainly caused by the failure of the centrifuges to remove catalytic fines from the fuel oil. The fuel pump consists of a plunger that slides back and forth within the fuel pump barrel. they are normally less harmful and are found in the fuel in much smaller quantities. sand and dust are other components. which include any salt water and attached catalytic fines. however. Rust.catalytic fines are hydrophilic. Filters Filters in relation to fuel cleaning are to be considered as additional protection. Figure 7. which means that they are attracted to any water present in the fuel oil. guarding the engine from large particles. Fuel injection system The fuel pump is the first component on the engine that is subject to the harmful effects of catalytic fines. Fuel pump spindle guide with scuffing and excessive wear. It is therefore expected that it will be difficult for the centrifuge to remove the small homogenised water droplets. Any catalytic fines that approximate the size of these clearances will be forced between the plunger and barrel and may become embedded in the material of the plunger and/or the barrel (Figure 7). The fuel pump pressurises the injectors. There are relatively small tolerances between the components.

If abrasive wear to the fuel pump has occurred. Changes in the fuel injection pattern also result in fouling of combustion chamber components and increase the amount of unburned hydrocarbons (HC) emissions in the exhaust gas. it is impossible to maintain the correct compression pressure for the individual cylinder units. Catalytic fines embedded in the surface of a piston ring. Any catalytic fines that are not taken out by the exhaust gas or drained to the bottom of the cylinder unit can become embedded in the softer material of the piston rings. which in turn can decrease combustion efficiency. the catalytic fines become trapped in between the various working components of the combustion chamber – between the piston ring and ring groove or between the piston ring and liner. Any change in the size and shape of the holes alters the injector pattern of the fuel oil. This creates a potentially high-risk situation in the combustion chamber.Excessive wear of the plunger or the barrel affects the injection pressure and thereby performance. Combustion chamber When the fuel is ignited. This quickly creates wear on both the liner and the chrome-plated piston ring or piston ring grooves (Figure 8). Figure 8. where excessive wear can change the size and shape of the injector holes. 18 . Catalytic fines that manage to pass through the fuel pump will reach the fuel injectors.

19 . Figure 9. Moreover.Case study: Land-based power plant The quality of fuel delivered to a land-based power plant varied widely in the levels of catalytic fines. Good maintenance practices are critical to the proper operation of auxiliary machinery. it is virtually impossible for engine designers to predict the mean time between overhauls (MTBO) if the engines and fuel cleaning system are not properly maintained and the fuel oil specifications are not followed. several possible reasons for excessive wear were investigated. Catalytic fines became embedded in the piston ring surface. At various times and with various fuels. The high level of catalytic fines resulted in heavy wear and scuffing on the cylinder liners and pistons. Before determining that catalytic fines were the root cause of engine malfunction. the amount of catalytic fines contained in the fuels was measured at up to 125 ppm. Wear on a cylinder liner. causing excessive wear on the cylinder (see Figures 8 and 9). the fuel quality after cleaning was not acceptable due to complications relating to the operation of the fuel cleaning equipment. The situation for this plant could have been avoided if the fuel had been in accordance with ISO 8217 and CIMAC recommendations and the fuel cleaning system had been functioning properly.

Fuels in excess of the 80 ppm limit as specified in ISO 8217 and recommended by CIMAC should be handled with great care. As the level of catalytic fines increases in a fuel then it is important to ensure that that fuel is handled with increasing levels of care. and for the efficient operation of the engine. to compare the capacity and price of different centrifuges before making their purchasing decision. the new separation performance standard which was defined in August 2005 now enables buyers. The modern approach Since 1980s. 20 . the efficient cleaning of heavy fuel oil is mandatory for the reliable and cost-effective operation of marine diesel engines.Fuel cleaning systems As mentioned earlier. Centrifugal separation is widely accepted as the most effective means to clean fuel oils before injection into diesel engines. in order to achieve complete separation of the contaminants from fuel oil. When the fuel cleaning system is correctly dimensioned this will ensure the reduction of catalytic fines to an acceptable level in order for the fuel oil to be injected into the engine. fuel cleaning is required. Fuel from the storage tank is fed into a vessel’s settling tank where the force of gravity causes contaminants (water and coarse solid particles) to sink to the bottom of the tank. such as water and catalytic fines. Until now. centrifuges without gravity discs have been the standard solution for fuel cleaning. on a given separation performance level. However. A fuel cleaning system that includes a settling tank and/or a service tank. it has been virtually impossible to compare centrifuge performance because the manufacturers’ maximum recommended capacity (MRC) tables were the only way to gauge performance. However. centrifuges and protection filter(s) is the general practice of the marine industry. Cleaning is required to remove impurities. This modern approach will be explained in the “New Standard for Separation Performance”.

The settling velocity increases rapidly with particle size. which in this case is fuel. Density and viscosity are important parameters for efficient separation. This expression takes into account the particle size. separation temperature is the critical operating parameter. and the viscosity of the medium. Operating parameters Various operating parameters affect separation efficiency. which controls both fuel viscosity and density. the term (g) represents the centrifugal force. The settling velocity increases in inverse proportion to viscosity. In a centrifuge. the more challenging the separation task.Stokes’ Law The operating principles of centrifugal separation are based on Stokes’ Law. These include temperature. The rate of settling (V) for a given capacity is determined by Stokes’ Law. flow rate and maintenance. This means that the smaller the particle. the higher the separation efficiency. the difference between density of the particles and the medium. The general formula for Stokes’ Law is: V = gd2 (ρp–ρl) / 18µ V g d ρp ρl µ = = = = = = settling velocity (m/sec) acceleration in centrifugal field (m/sec2) diameter of particle (m) density of particle (kg/m3) density of medium (kg/m3) viscosity of medium (kg/m. because both density and viscosity vary with temperature. Centrifugal force enables the efficient separation of particles that are only a few microns in size. However. Particle size is another important factor. s). which is several thousand times greater than the acceleration due to gravitational force. The greater the difference in density between the particle and the medium is. 21 .

a centrifuge operating with an inlet temperature of 90°C would require a reduction in the throughput of at least 23 percent in order to obtain the same separation efficiency as a centrifuge operating with an inlet temperature of 98°C. Relationship of throughput and temperature. or that the steam supply of the preheater is limited or that they have too low a set point in temperature. In order to ensure that the centrifugal forces separate the heavy contaminants in the relatively limited time that they are present in the centrifuge. For example. Temperature of HFO before centrifuges It is often seen that the HFO preheaters are too small. the centrifuge should always be operated with an inlet temperature of 98°C for HFO. 22 . Often the heater surface is partly clogged by deposits. These factors all lead to reducing separation temperature and hence the efficiency of the centrifuge.Capacity for same separation (%) 100 90 80 70 88 90 92 94 96 98 100 cSt at 50°C 180 cSt 300 cSt 700 cSt Figure 10. Figure 10 shows the relationship between temperature and suitable throughput.

The flow rate is usually constant and based on the highest viscosity. Flow rate It is known that separation efficiency is a function of the centrifuge's flow rate. The new separation performance standard establishes a uniform method to find the capacity at which a particular level of performance is achieved. Characteristics that differ between fuel oils and affect separation efficiency include: 23 . This decreases separation efficiency. How fuel oil quality affects separation Fuel oil quality varies considerably. This in turn tends to drag particles with the liquid flow towards the bowl’s centre. deposits will form on the bowl discs. the more particles are left in the oil and therefore the lower the separation efficiency. Maintaining an inlet temperature of 98°C for fuels above 180 cSt (at 50°C) is therefore of critical importance. however. despite the fact that the fuel oils may be nominally classified as the same type.Because the throughput is normally controlled by a constant flow pump. it is not possible to reduce the flow of fuel to the centrifuges if the preheating temperature is reduced below 98°C. but often overlooked. If the bowl is not cleaned in time. and flow velocity increases. essential to know at what capacity adequate separation efficiency is reached in the typical case. there has not been any common practice among the suppliers of centrifuges for sizing equipment. It is. This in turn makes it impossible to foresee the actual separation result and therefore equally impossible to provide any process guarantees. the free channel height will be reduced. Because of wide variations in quality it is impossible to predict the separability of a given batch of fuel oil based on its chemical analyses. Up until now. operating parameter that is difficult to quantify. the efficiency with which particles are removed increases and cleaning efficiency thus improves. As the flow rate is reduced. Maintenance Proper maintenance is an important. The higher the flow rate. See the “New Separation Performance Standard”.

When a fuel oil is unstable. and may contribute to the creation of stable emulsions. such as sand. However. Series or parallel operation? Centrifuges can be operated in series or in parallel. More than 20 years ago when centrifuges with gravity discs were common. Heavily cracked fuels are typically more difficult to treat than the straight-run fuel oils from less sophisticated refining methods. Contaminants Beside catalytic fines. which is an important factor for water splitting and emulsions. contaminants include water and any insoluble residues.Polarity This defines how the molecules of the oil are arranged according to the positive and negative charges of the molecules. which make the separation process difficult. the standard industry practice was to operate purifiers as stand-alone units. Mixing or blending two incompatible fuels together may also cause the coagulation of precipitated asphaltenes and the formation of a substantial amount of asphaltenic sludge. these precipitated asphaltenes tend to produce asphaltenic sludge as a function of time and/or temperature. Stand-by centrifuges are also part of a typical installation. Polarity is critical in determining how susceptible the fuel oil is to the formation of hard-to-handle emulsions as well as the degree of surface tension of water droplets. 24 . it contains precipitated asphaltenes that can be separated when the particles created have amassed to a sufficient size. or both. Over the years. Fuel cleaning systems typically consist of centrifuges that are sufficiently large enough to handle the flow of fuel that will be burned. These small particles are not derived from processing fuel but come from other sources. dirt and rust scale that taint fuel quality. Stability This is the ability of a fuel oil to remain in a constant state despite conditions that may cause the structure of the fuel oil to break down. such as the storage tank or pipes used to transfer of the fuel oil. there has been much discussion about which method of operation provides the best separation efficiency in theory and in reality.

This ensures the longest possible residence time in the centrifuges and thus increases separation efficiency. However. the recommendation in the 1980s was to start up the stand-by centrifuge and operate it as a clarifier in series after the purifier. However. In order to avoid alarms under normal operating conditions. the interphase level setting was therefore often positioned too close to the centre of the disc stack. which quickly became overloaded and resulted in poor separation.To achieve optimum separation results using purifiers with gravity discs. the recommendation is now to operate all available centrifuges in parallel. To compensate for this effect and to best utilize the centrifuges installed. Operating centrifuges in parallel instead of series enables the reduction of the throughput of each centrifuge in half. this effectively blocked the upward flow outside the discs and directed an excessive portion of the flow through the lower part of the disc stack. with the introduction of modern centrifuges without gravity discs. close to the edge of the top disc. 25 . which created problems as described above. This is because modern centrifuges operate correctly without the need for constant adjustments. Any fluctuation in the operating parameters will cause the interphase level to shift. the interphase level has to be positioned just outside the disc stack.

manufacturers of centrifuges supply buyers with maximum recommended capacity (MRC) tables.New standard for separation performance Purchasers of fuel cleaning systems will now have access to an industry standard for separation performance. On the other. The new standard makes it possible to relate operational experiences of both ship operators and centrifuge suppliers to well-defined separation efficiency. Up to now. Certified flow rate is defined as the throughput rate in litres per hour at which 85 percent of five-micron mono-dispersed artificial particles. The separation performance standard is based on a new test method that closely approximates normal operating conditions. which simulates a high viscosity fuel oil. On the one hand. It provides independent verification of separation performance according to separation efficiency rather than throughput. which is specific for the centrifuge in question. centrifuge suppliers may refer to their experiences using data from a large installed base in order to ensure satisfactory separation performance. which simulate harmful catalytic fines. This enables more accurate dimensioning and the fair comparison of different centrifuges from different suppliers. which makes it possible to verify that a new type of centrifuge operates with an agreed efficiency at a flow rate. It is scheduled for distribu- 26 . such as catalytic fines. buyers cannot be sure that the centrifuges that they specify and buy using these tables actually remove a sufficient amount of solids and abrasives particles. However. The new standard enables manufacturers to establish a certified flow rate (CFR) for every centrifuge. from heavy fuel oils. The separation performance standard will contribute to the safety of the ship by safeguarding the engine from excessive wear. are removed from a synthetic fuel oil. but provides highly accurate and highly reproducible results. operators may refer to wear and maintenance data of their diesel engines.

The test method is known as the Dyno Test Method due to the spherical plastic dynosphere particles that are dispersed in a particle-free synthetic oil of defined viscosity. 27 . Catalytic fines in relation to dynospheres. these five-micron particles simulate harmful catalytic fines (Figure 11). The intention is to advance the new European standard into a full international standard recognised by the International Organization for Standardization. The five-micron particles also help discriminate between good separation and poor separation at those capacities recommended by centrifuge suppliers.tion by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) in August 2005. Figure 11. Model test method In order to compare different centrifuges. Identically sized. this test method enables fair comparison of the performance of different centrifuges. Alfa Laval successfully developed a model test method that simulates normal operation and provides highly accurate and highly reproducible results. Based on actual separation tests.

A 30-minute duration after discharge has been selected because separation efficiency generally decreases approximately 15 to 20 minutes after a discharge and then stabilises into steady-state condition. Capacity and efficiency are measured accordingly. The mixture is then fed through the centrifuge at different feed rates. During laboratory tests principally shown in Figure 12. and samples are taken at defined intervals after a discharge. The certified flow rate of a centrifuge is defined as the capacity at which 85 percent of plastic particles are removed 30 minutes after the start of the test. Separation efficiency can only be correctly measured after this steady-state condition has been achieved.Cin Cout Separator Feed tank Reception tank Figure 12. 28 . All centrifuges are capable of cleaning particles that are larger than 10 micron. while particles less than 2. when heated to the normal separation temperature of 98°C.5 micron prove too difficult to separate at the capacities of interest. the mixture of synthetic oil and plastic particles is heated to a temperature that provides the same viscosity as fuel oils (380 cSt and 700 cSt @ 50°C). Simplified schematic sketch of the test rig for measuring certified flow rate.

including catalytic fines. the fuel oil contains only large particles and the separation efficiency is 100 percent. The definition of CFR is based on well-established centrifuge capacities that have been used in the marine industry for decades. A comparison of the results indicates that the model test method provides results that are in line with those of real heavy fuel oils. Why a model test method? Let us look at two different scenarios where fuel oil contains catalytic fines at the maximum allowable values. found in heavy fuel oil.Correlation to actual operating conditions It is impossible to create a standard based on the evaluation of tests using real catalytic fines in real heavy fuel oil. In the first and best-case scenario. it contains all submicron particles and the separation efficiency is zero (Figure 13). but where the distribution of particle size differs. 29 . While the model test method has little to do with real bunkers and contaminants. the differences noted in performance between the different centrifuges were similar regardless of the oil type tested. such as density and viscosity. In addition. it is by far more realistic than any theoretical calculations and simulates the particles. Therefore ranking centrifuges according to the results using the model test method provides a good indication of how the centrifuge will perform under real operating conditions and that any differences between centrifuges under test conditions will most likely be the differences that will be experienced under real operating conditions. Tests of centrifuges from three different suppliers were conducted in a model test rig using the synthetic oil as well as real heavy fuel oils. in the second and worst-case scenario. This translates into reliable separation performance when CFR capacities are employed. Due to these wide variations. In other words. Fuel oils also vary in terms of chemical characteristics and in terms of physical characteristics. the centrifuges that provided the best performance when using real heavy fuel oils also provided the best performance when using synthetic oil. it is impossible to obtain repeatable and comparable results from tests using actual bunkers.

Given the specified limit of 80 ppm of catalytic fines for fuel oil and the maximum value of 15 ppm that is generally accepted by engine builders. 30 . Difference in separation performance due to particle size. six classification societies have granted type approval for certified flow rate. This indicates why a reliable model test method that simulates actual operating conditions is required to compare the performance of different centrifuges. fuel cleaning systems therefore must deliver a separation efficiency of a minimum of 81 percent. Alfa Laval is the first supplier to receive type approval (CFR). In reality. This concerns its complete range of new SPS-separators. which includes Type Approval (CFR). the particle size distribution in heavy fuel oil falls somewhere between these two extremes. Det Norske Veritas is one of these classification societies and has in addition defined a new voluntary Class Notation Fuel. Type approval So far.Best case Worst case 80 ppm 80 ppm 0 ppm Large particles all separated 80 ppm Small particles nothing separated Figure 13. The other five classification societies are: • • • • • American Bureau of Shipping China Ship Classification Society Germanischer Lloyd Lloyd’s Register Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

Currently. If a reduction in wear of 10 percent is achieved. then the installation of a centrifuge based on CFR tables essentially pays for itself within one to three years. If on average a reduction in wear of five percent may be achieved. This one-time investment would then enable cheaper fuel oil to be purchased over the long run. 31 . however. a major upfront investment in a fuel cleaning system based on the new separation performance standard may deliver more savings in operating costs in the long run without compromising ship safety. the results include improved separation efficiency and a reduction in the amount of catalytic fines present in the fuel that is injected into the engine. will improve the chances of avoiding engine component breakdown. This not only will lower maintenance costs since there will be less abrasive wear. there is not any objective data to compare the actual impact of using CFR tables rather than MRC tables. then the payback time is considerably shorter – anywhere from between six months and two years. rough calculations for pay-off time as a function of assumptions about the reduction in engine wear are indicated below. The investment in a fuel cleaning system is typically between 0. This is due both to the various process parameters that cannot be controlled and to the variable quality of the fuel. a centrifuge installation based on CFR tables will therefore typically consist of larger and more expensive centrifuges than the same installation based on MRC tables.5 percent of the total costs for annual fuel consumption. In return. In other words.Economical aspects It is impossible to calculate what economic benefits may be realised by using certified flow rate (CFR) to dimension centrifuges for marine fuel cleaning systems rather than manufacturers’ maximum recommended capacity (MRC) tables. However. This indicates that it would be wise to invest in an amply dimensioned fuel cleaning system.5 and 1. but more importantly. Because the capacities specified in MRC tables are higher than those of CFR tables.

the appropriate centrifuge is selected from the capacity tables issued by the centrifuge suppliers and engine manufacturers. It is assumed that the engine supplier includes this value in the factor b above. Certified Flow Rate vs. 32 . Q = P · b · 24 (l/h) ρ·T Q = Fuel oil consumption (l/h) P = MCR (kW or HP) b = Specific fuel oil consumption (kg/kWh or kg/HPh) specified by the engine supplier ρ = Fuel oil density (Presumed to be 0. Maximum Recommended Capacity Maximum Recommended Capacity Suppliers of centrifuges determine the maximum recommended capacity (MRC) for each unit according to individual criteria. When specifying the total required flow rate of the fuel cleaning system. To base oil consumption on the Maximum Continuous Rating (MCR) of the engines. and the results may have to be adjusted by a factor for so-called non-ISO conditions. the following formula can be used.96 kg/l) T = Daily net operating time (Number of operating hours per 24-hour day) Tests for finding specific fuel oil consumption are normally conducted using distillate fuel. the fuel consumption of auxiliary engines and boilers. if any. which are not commonly known and not absolutely comparable. Suppliers have been inclined to recommend higher capacity values for individual units as a simple way to remain competitive.Dimensioning of fuel cleaning systems Sizing of centrifuges Correct sizing of the centrifuges is of utmost importance. must be taken into account. Currently.

Matching size to requirement Given the information above. whereas 85% is the typical power A non-ISO factor of for instance 1. precision in matching size to requirement would be gained by eliminating the non-defined margins of both requirement and of centrifuge capacity. dimensioning a centrifuge using the conditions below will result in a far higher given requirement for separator size than is actually needed. • • • • Requirement for stand-by centrifuges Dimensioning for 700 cSt HFO. The conventional requirement. This will lead to considerable oversizing of the centrifuge installation. which is based on centrifuge size. which together ensure that the selected centrifuge will perform well.18. 33 . Conventional capacity requirement The capacity requirement takes into account several safety factors.Certified Flow Rate A centrifuge’s certified flow rate (CFR) is measured according to the separation performance standard. which has become a generally accepted means of countering functional problems. For example. Accurate capacity requirement Using an accurate calculation of fuel consumption and eliminating “extra” safety margins provides a requirement that is considerably smaller than the output using conventional methods. whereas 380 cSt will typically be burned Operation on 100% of MCR. A recommendation therefore is to abandon the wide margins used to define size requirement and to use CFR to define the correct centrifuge size. is not uniform and generally employs a number of unknown safety margins. even if this factor is already included in the Specific Fuel Oil Consumption (SFOC) provided by the engine supplier. Using CFR to specify centrifuges ensures the selection of the correct centrifuge size for the performance required and thereby ensures safe engine operation. This approach can to some extent be explained by the fact that certain installations have historically provided insufficient performance.

It is important that centrifuges are correctly operated on board the vessel. High levels of catalyst fines entering the engine have catastrophic effects.Conclusion The levels of catalyst fines in bunkered fuels are controlled by the ISO 8217 marine fuel standards and CIMAC fuel recommendation. However it is important that bunkered fuels are cleaned on board all vessels to ensure that the fuel is suitable for use in the engine. but equally important that the centrifuge is of a suitable size for its intended purpose. The new Separation Performance Standard. 34 . which uses the test method that determines the Certified Flow Rate of each centrifuge. will ensure that vessels are equipped with centrifuges that are correctly sized.

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