31 December 2014

Clean, efficient and safe bunkering on the waves


Neste Oil is helping its shipping company customers make the transition to the era of low-sulfur bunker fuels required by the new EU directive.

In December 2014, Neste Oil began to distribute low-sulfur MDO (marine diesel oil) with a sulfur content of less than 0.1 percent to its customers. Ships have usually been fueled with heavy fuel oil that contains one percent sulfur.

EU provisions now require lower sulfur emissions from ships operating in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel. This requirement has accelerated shipping companies' switching to the use of cleaner fuel.

Neste Oil's first customers to start using the low-sulfur bunker fuel are Tallink Grupp and Finnlines. Tallink Silja will start using the new fuel on its vehicle-passenger ferries serving routes from both Turku and Helsinki. Finnlines uses low-sulfur fuel on its ships serving the route between Naantali and Kapellskär.

From ship to ship

Neste Oil has time-chartered the M/T Lotus, owned by Sirius Shipping and sailing under the Danish flag, for the purpose of bunkering at the three ports in Helsinki: South Harbor, West Harbor and Vuosaari Harbor. The ship specializes in bunkering and its crew has long experience in the business.

The M/T Lotus is a 90-meter double-hulled tanker with cargo capacity of 4,400 cubic meters. The ship’s 1B ice class means it meets the requirements for medium ice conditions. In practice, this means that the ship is suitable for assisted navigation in ice up to 60 cm thick. Naturally, the ship uses Neste Oil's low-sulfur MDO as fuel.

"We chose the shipping company and the ship after long consideration. We wanted our partner to have plenty of experience and adhere to strict safety standards," says Neste Oil's Key Account Manager in Oil Products, Suvi Molander.

Neste Oil cooperated closely with experts from the Port of Helsinki during the planning of the bunkering operation.

"Both the Port of Helsinki and our customers have been very interested in this new and effective fuel distribution method,” Molander continues.

Guaranteed refueling

The bunkering vessel is able to serve all berths at the ports in all kinds of weather.

During bunkering, the bunkering ship ties up to the receiving ship, after which a fuel hose is coupled. On average, 200 cubic meters (200,000 liters) of fuel can be transferred in an hour. Large passenger vessels may have fuel tanks with a capacity of thousands of cubic meters, but it is more economical to only refuel a reasonably small amount of fuel at a time in order not to use more of the ship's cargo capacity than necessary.

The bunkering ship fills its tanks at the Porvoo refinery, where the new low-sulfur marine diesel oil is produced by combining the various stages of the current production process.

"This fuel is of significantly higher quality and has a higher degree of refining than the heavy fuel oil usually used on ships. It differs from the diesel used in cars, for example, in terms of its higher viscosity", Neste Oil's Product Manager Hilkkaliisa Siro-Minkkinen explains.

Neste Oil has been developing this product for a long time and has tested its operation on many ships and different types of ship engines. The product's compatibility with many other fuels has also been ensured.

"It's important to us that our customers can use our product safely in all circumstances," Siro-Minkkinen says.

Cleaner engines

The new MDO prevents crusty deposits from forming in the engines as it burns much more cleanly than conventional heavy fuel oil. The service interval of the engines will also be extended. The introduction of the new fuel only requires small adjustments to the engines.

"In addition to sulfur emissions, MDO produces much lower particle emissions than heavy fuel," Hilkkaliisa Siro-Minkkinen says.

Neste Oil's customers are also happy with the new fuel.

"The product's environmental friendliness and high technical quality, together with Neste Oil's logistics expertise and reliability as a supplier, convinced us of the benefits of this cooperation. The new low-sulfur fuel reduces the sulfur and particle emissions of our ships considerably," explains Tarvi-Carlos Tuulik, Tallink Grupp's head of ship management.