Meeting New Sulphur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil

Meeting New Sulfur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil - Engine close up - Parker Kittiwake

The ability to spot check the Sulphur content of fuel oil onboard a ship will help shipowners and operators ensure compliance with the latest IMO (MARPOL) regulations.

From January 2020 the maximum allowable Sulphur content of marine fuels changed: for all areas outside the existing Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) the limit was reduced from the current level of 3.50% m/m to just 0.50% m/m. Introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the new limit was applied worldwide and covered the fuel oils used in main and auxiliary engines as well as in boilers. Compliance with the new regulations has since been monitored by Port State Control.

For shipowners and operators, the new limit leaves little room for error. The traditional method of Sulphur level confirmation by Bunker delivery note significantly increases the risk of non-compliance and subsequent penalties, furthermore waiting for laboratory analysis is equally flawed as the vessel could have sailed by the time that is received and the Sulphur level found to be outside the specified limit. With Parker's XRF Analyser, bunkers can be sampled during delivery and noncompliance could be identified in the first few minutes of delivery (and at any other time interval) thereby preventing expensive de-bunkering and payment for non-compliant fuel.


"The fuel variation from port to port will be vast and furthermore, at present, fines and penalties imposed on non-compliant vessels in the special environmental control areas vary considerably. As such, ensuring uniformity in enforcement poses a hurdle."

Scott Herring, marine account manager, Parker Hannifin


It is essential for each vessel to know and comply with Sulphur limits of 0.10% m/m in SECAs or 0.50% m/m in all other areas worldwide. On-Board testing is one of the most effective means of establishing fuel compliance with Sulphur regulations.


Meeting New Sulphur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil - download White Paper The Science of Compliance -- Parker Hannifin This white paper The Science of Compliance - Using Portable Field Instruments to Confirm Marine Fuel Compliance discusses recent technological advances and the benefits of using portable field spectrometers to measure sulphur and biodiesel concentrations within different fuels to help meet compliance standards.


Testing at sea, offshore or on land

Meeting New Sulfur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil - top view of marine engine roomAs a lightweight, portable and self-contained X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the XRF Analyser enables in-situ lab standard testing of fuel oils at sea or on land.  The XRF provides an accurate indication of sulphur content through the analysis of a small fuel sample in less than three minutes. This gives both shipowners and Port State Control (PSC) the ability to conduct laboratory-standard testing onsite before non-compliant fuel is bunkered and before a vessel carrying non-compliant fuel leaves port.

The XRF Analyser can, for example, be used in the engine room or control room of a ship to test the Sulphur content of fuel oil as it is being delivered. Checking the fuel during delivery allows ships personnel to verify that the Sulphur content shown on the bunker delivery note is correct, thus eliminating the risk of accidental non-compliance.

The XRF can be used by suppliers, brokers, surveyors and producers of bunker fuels. Faster and more accessible testing means that the XRF Analyser allows fuel oils to be tested more frequently and conveniently compared to sending samples to a laboratory. By allowing test results to be downloaded, or storing them for up to two years, the XRF Analyser also plays an important role in helping vessel operators to manage compliance audits more efficiently.

Traditional methods for confirming compliance with sulphur limits rely on paperwork requirements such as the Bunker Delivery Note (BDN). This not only significantly increases the risk of non-compliance and subsequent penalties for shipowners, but also heightens the environmental impact of burning fuel with a higher sulphur content. In addition, the delay incurred by laboratory analysis creates the risk that the vessel may have left port with non-compliant fuel onboard, or may require non-compliant fuel to be de-bunkered and compliant fuel re-bunkered, incurring significant delays and additional cost. The XRF Analyser provides a spot-check analysis of the sulphur content in fuel on site, allowing PSC to ascertain compliance almost instantly, and affording shipowners the opportunity to avoid fines, plus the time, expense and operational impact of bunkering non-compliant fuel.


“The XRF Analyser is factory calibrated according to ISO 8754 and makes field measurements that correlate strongly with ISO 8754 laboratory measurements."
Dr. David Atkinson - principal chemist, Parker Hannifin


Measure lube oil performance and accelerated wear

In addition to measuring the Sulphur content in fuel oils, the XRF Analyser can be used to measure a range of other elements that are common contaminants that can affect lube oil performance and indicate accelerated wear conditions. Wear elements measured by the Parker XRF Analyser and their likely sources on board a ship (if any):


Meeting New Sulfur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil



Portable XRF Analyser

Meeting New Sulfur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil - Chart with Analysis Types - Parker Kittiwake

The XRF Analyser combines simplicity with accuracy. Its standalone operation means that it offers immediate plug-and-play operation. Integrated into the small, lightweight housing is a high-resolution LCD touch-screen display that enables fast operation and delivers clear results.

The operator simply draws the sample of fuel oil from the ship’s system into the sample container, places it in the XRF Analyser and presses the test button. As the sample is not damaged or altered during testing, it can be retained for any additional sample analysis. 

The result of the test is displayed as the percentage of Sulphur in the sample. This helps to avoid ambiguity and human error by eliminating the need for the operator to interpret the test data. 


A proven partner

The XRF Analyser is part of Parker’s range of condition-monitoring equipment. This equipment is used where maximum efficiency and total confidence are vital in protecting capital plant and equipment. Our equipment is used extensively throughout the Marine, oil and gas, energy generation, aviation and industrial sectors. Sustained investment in R&D over the past 25 years has enabled Parker to produce best-in-class systems for the accurate monitoring and analysis of in-service lubricants, hydraulics, wear metals, fuels, gasses and acoustic emissions. In addition to ensuring compliance to global regulations, Parker’s conditioning-monitoring systems are used to provide the earliest indication of failure. This enables operators to use predictive and proactive maintenance to minimize repair costs and extend the lifetime of the equipment.

By supporting an intelligence-led approach to maintenance, condition-monitoring equipment can significantly reduce system downtime and make a direct contribution to increasing productivity and profitability.

Parker serves customers from a worldwide network of technical support centres. Parker holds several patents and its systems are used to monitor many thousands of vessels over the past 25 years at all levels of sophistication value and complexity. In every case giving the operator vital information in advance of the action required.

As a global leader in condition-monitoring equipment, Parker Hydraulic & Industrial Process Filtration Division EMEA is synonymous with efficiency and innovation and is trusted to ensure the highest levels of protection.


Meeting New Sulphur Limits for Marine Fuel Oil Download our latest White Paper The Science of Compliance - Using Portable Field Instruments to Confirm Marine Fuel Compliance






Meeting New Sulfur Limits for Marine Fuel OilArticle contributed by Dr David Atkinson, principal chemist, Parker Hydraulic & Industrial Process Filtration Division EMEA





Other related and helpful articles on this topic:

Fuel Switching: Monitoring to Prevent Damage

Bunker Quality: Why Changes to ISO 8217 Increase the Need for Condition Monitoring

XRF Analyzer Brochure 

Fuel Monitoring Matters

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