Industry Insight: Success Demands a Greater Effort

by Larry Rumbol, Parker Kittiwake, Marine Condition Monitoring Market Development Manager
Tuesday December 13, 2016

Sluggish demand. Weak global macroeconomics. Supply overhang. Not to mention new regulations requiring the installation of costly equipment, like Ballast Water Management systems. For many owners and operators this year has been nothing but headwinds, and with the news that the IMO will impose a mandatory global sulphur cap from 2020, one more challenge can be added to the agenda: cat fines.

When cracking fuel, refiners typically use silica and alumina catalysts, of which, as a result, and recently more often get carried over into the distillate column. The end result is a concentration of highly abrasive particles – or catalytic (cat) fines – in the fuel, and these particles are harder than many mating surface within an engine. Without taking proactive, preventative measures, allowing cat fines to enter the system causes significant damage to critical engine components including the cylinder liner.

The most commonly used ISO 8217: 2005-2012 marine fuel specifications allow up to 60-80 ppm cat fines in bunker fuels, despite engine manufacturers recommending a level of no more than 15 ppm entering into the engine. According to Veritas Petroleum Services Group's technical manager Md Harun Ar Rashid the cat fine level has increased from 27 ppm last year to 28 ppm, and our proprietary research suggests that this is a problem that isn't going to disappear soon.

The cost of replacing the parts for just one liner damaged by cat fines is estimated at US$65,000, and this number can rapidly escalate to more than US$1 million when the associated costs of labour, repair, off hire and the likelihood that multiple cylinders are affected are also factored in.

In the post-financial crisis economy, efficiency is critical to business success, and technology plays a key role in driving this effectively. Businesses of all sizes face the same challenges and competitive pressures. What they don't share is the budget. That differential will impact in many ways, but often the most damaging is the loss of vessel uptime to unforeseen infrastructure failure. The best way to level the playing field is through the use of proactive condition monitoring.

Becoming efficient is about smarter processes, planning, and innovation in operations. But it's also about having the right tools to get the job done. For example, the award-winning Parker Kittiwake Cat Fines Test Kit is a simple, onboard test kit that can detect the presence of cat fines in a representative sample of fuel oil. This means that engineers are able to take preventative action before the fuel oil enters the system. It's a proactive step that will help to avoid serious downtime and costs that most can ill-afford.

Across the marine sector, we're finding that owners are looking to use technology to improve their operational efficiency, and the service they can offer to their clients. For example, preventing damage across the board and extending the life of critical engine parts and vessel equipment is central to improving operating margins. But that efficiency isn't just about cost reduction; it's about finding ways to get the same or greater value with a lower investment.

Similarly, the engineering distinction between a well maintained and a badly maintained vessel can be stark. Performed effectively condition monitoring technology provides new opportunities for increased revenue growth, reduced costs, and the ability to deliver day in, day out. But true condition monitoring is more than just a toolkit. It's a specific set of behaviours and techniques that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage. Like success, it's a discipline of its own.