Rising Trend in Fuel Pump Issues: 2023 Insights

by Viswa Group
Thursday February 1, 2024

In 2023, the maritime industry experienced a notable increase in fuel pump problems, representing a significant rise compared to 2022. According to Viswa Lab data, while only 7% of reported issues in 2022 were attributed to fuel pump issues, this number has increased to 27% in 2023.

This alarming trend points to the utilization of more complex blending streams with higher concentrations of chemical contaminants in the production of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) samples.

Among the key incidents reported in 2023, three major sets of fuel pump problem cases stand out.
The issues reported in these three sets of cases predominantly centered around fuel pump issues, encompassing problems such as corrosion of the pump, fuel pump sticking and seizures, pressure drop issues, and a drop in Pmax.

Furthermore, certain instances reported purifier choking and elevated exhaust gas temperatures.

The first set occurred in Houston bunkers between March and July, where fuels had normal ISO8217 parameters.

However, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) analysis revealed the presence of five different chemical compounds occurring together as reported by Viswa on the Ship & Bunker article on July 17th 2023.

Interestingly, our data indicates this appears to be a recurrence of this same set of chemical compounds which were identified in two problematic samples from Houston port in 2022.

The second set of fuel pump problem cases was identified in the ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) regions. This was detected in July and August. Despite having normal ISO8217 parameters, GCMS analysis revealed the presence of elevated levels of phenolic compounds in these fuels.

The third set of fuel pump problem cases emerged in New Orleans, starting from August onwards. Similar to the previous cases, fuels exhibited normal ISO8217 parameters, but GCMS indicated the presence of "2 Ethyl hexanol, tetrachloroethylene, and free fatty acids".

Free fatty acids can corrode metal components within the fuel system, such as pipelines, pumps, and injectors. This corrosion can compromise the integrity of these components over time, leading to leaks and reduced performance.

This rise in fuel pump problems when compared with 2022 highlights the evolving challenges stemming from the changing composition of maritime fuels and emphasizes that the ISO8217 specification alone cannot guarantee problem free operations.

It is highly recommended that additional screening and comprehensive fuel testing be performed for early detection of chemical contaminants and to find solutions to these problem fuels.