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Fujairah bunker market little impacted by FOBAS alert on fuel tested with high acid number

Singapore — The Fujairah bunker fuel market has not been deeply impacted following the release of an alert by the Fuel Oil Bunkering Analysis and Advisory that a number of marine fuels had been tested with high total acid number, or TAN, in the Middle Eastern bunkering hub, industry sources said this week.

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Bunker quality issues are monitored closely in the Port of Fujairah, which is a major bunkering hub. According to some market sources in the Middle East, the issue was not that significant and has subsided for now.

The ex-wharf 380 CST Fujairah bunker fuel premium over the Mean of Platts Arab Gulf 180 CST high sulfur fuel oil assessments averaged $5/mt in H1 April, nearly steady compared with H2 March, S&P Global Platts data showed.

"I did see an alert, but I am not sure which supplier. We did not receive such cargoes and we did not really hear much [of an impact]," a bunker supplier in Fujairah said.

A bunker trader said that the quantity of the cargo was likely to be small as this issue had not affected the market.

"It's likely to be just a one-off tiny lot... there is always a certain level of TAN anyway, as per ISO specs. So it just depends on whether it's a detrimental amount," he said.

Another supplier echoed a similar sentiment and said that he had not received any complaints.

"I heard about it but have not seen it myself and am not aware of any problems," he said.

On April 12, FOBAS said in a release obtained by Platts it had tested a number of bunker fuel samples from Fujairah with an elevated acid number

The tested TAN values were all well above the average for the port, FOBAS said.

Acid number can be a reflection of naturally occurring naphthenic acids in the fuel from the crude source or a reflection of contamination with acidic compounds.

High acid number fuel due to naphthenic acids are common in certain parts of the world and are not considered problematic during use, FOBAS said.

Fuels contaminated with extraneous acidic compounds however, have been linked to many operational problems in the past, FOBAS said.

ISO 8217 recognizes that presence of acids even if within the specified limits of ISO 8217:2010 -- 2.5 mg KOH/g -- can cause operational problems if the acids present in fuels are not naturally occurring naphthenic acids, it said.

KOH, or potassium hydroxide, is an inorganic compound.

Investigative analysis has been carried out on a selection of these fuels and the results show a mixed picture of contamination with low levels of certain fatty acids and phenols, it said.

Some of the specific compounds detected include 4 cumyl phenol, bisphenol and commonly found fatty acids palmitic and stearic acids, FOBAS said, adding that while individual components were found at low levels, in combination with a number of unidentified components the total concentration in some cases turned out to be much higher.

Past experience has shown that some of these components have been linked with severe operational problems, particularly around filters, fuel injection pumps and fuel injector, FOBAS said.

"We would like to reiterate that any such contaminants even at low levels contravenes the stipulations of Revised MARPOL Annex VI regulation 18.3 and International Marine Fuel Standard ISO 8217, Clause 5," it said.

"We would recommend as a precaution to test any HFO for its acid number if not already doing so as standard and confirm with suppliers that they are supplying fuel in compliance with MARPOL Annex VI Reg 18.3 and ISO8217 general requirements clause 5," it added.

-- Jeslyn Lerh, jeslyn.lerh@spglobal.com

-- Surabhi Sahu, surabhi.sahu@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, newsdesk@spglobal.com