Q&A: VPS on marine fuel testing for the shipping

Written by Heather Ervin
Chemist undergoing marine fuel testing in a lab.

Sponsored: Jack Grogan, senior account manager for marine fuel specialist, VPS, answers some questions on marine fuel testing, VPS’s portfolio, biofules, and more in this sponsored Q&A. The company recently presented at TTB 2023 in Mobile, Ala.

From the introduction of IMO MARPOL Annex VI in 2005, environmental legislation aimed and reducing SOx, NOx and particulate-matter emissions has driven many developments in marine fuels and lubricants.

Before the International Marine Fuel Testing Standard, ISO 8217, was introduced in 1987, Oslo-based VPS was established as global-leaders in marine fuel quality testing.      

To achieve a sustainable shipping industry, attention is now focused on reducing CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next 30 years and VPS is at the forefront in testing and advisory support of the maritime sector to achieve these goals.

Marine Log (ML):  VPS was originally known for its global marine fuels testing service. But you have added some complimentary services over the years. Can you elaborate on those?

Jack Grogan (VPS):  It is true that VPS tested its first ever marine fuel sample back in 1981, more than 40 years ago. And fuel testing certainly remains as one of our core services, but the marine industry has changed considerably since 1981 and VPS has never stopped innovating and enhancing its service offering to keep with the times. Our purpose is to protect our customers, people and the environment. We do this by testing and inspecting fuel and oil and using this information to provide advice based on legislative and technical specifications. Our guidance enables our customers to improve business performance by optimizing their use of resources, minimizing their environmental emissions and operating in a more sustainable manner.

Our vision is to be the global leader of fuel and oil testing and advisory services in our chosen sectors, trusted to deliver a sustainable future.   

By bundling our fuels testing, lubes testing, decarbonization services and laser-driven stock emissions monitoring, clients can operate more profitably and reduce their impact on the environment.

ML:  What types of customers use VPS?

VPS:  VPS has a wide cross section of customers from tugs and towboats, cruise ships, container vessels, tankers, and all sectors of the shipping industry. We also provide services to power plants, oil majors, government entities and P&I Clubs. In fact, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) purchases services from us. Despite our global reach, VPS serves customers with as little as one vessel and owners with hundreds of vessels. 

ML:  VPS just recently acquired Emsys Maritime.  How does that acquisition fit into your portfolio?

VPS:  In Emsys Maritime, we have acquired a company with a strong technical capability and excellent reputation, helping us to deliver our ambition to be the leading service provider in fuel performance optimization and emissions reduction.

The addition of real-time emissions measurement data complements our existing marine fuel analysis data to provide a comprehensive understanding of GHG emissions in the maritime sector. The integration of real-time emissions monitoring into our existing portfolio of digital decarbonization services (which currently includes Maress, NOxDigital, CORE and PortStats) within a single, unified platform will provide added value throughout the VPS digital customer journey. This new flow of information will assist us in providing our customers with the tools required to understand, control and reduce GHG emissions, moving the industry forward toward achieving carbon emission reduction targets for 2030 and beyond.

ML:  Biofuels are emerging as an alternative fuel that reduces the carbon footprint of vessel owners.  How are they different from traditional marine gas oil?

VPS:   Biofuels are reliable drop-in fuels that can be readily used with existing engines on vessels. Their renewable status can reduce GHG emissions significantly for ship operators, but their main drawbacks are poor storage stability making them more susceptible to degradation than conventional fossil fuels and lower calorific value. They have a greater affinity towards water that can form emulsions and generate microbiological growth that can produce sulfide reducing bacteria which can cause corrosion to tanks and pipes. Some have poor cold flow properties and can form wax/gel at approximately 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  For this reason, VPS has developed multiple custom test scopes under our Additional Protection Services to help owners properly assess their biofuels.

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