Houston’s contaminated fuel oil confirmed in Singapore

1 Aug, 2018

Bunker fuel oil contaminated with cumylphenol was finally confirmed in Singapore which had been earlier reported in Houston, US. According to fuel oil quality testing companies, six severe damages were reported that some sticky substances caused clogging of centrifuges, pipelines and fuel filters. Suppliers have worried the spread of the contaminated furl oil in Hong Kong, South Korea or Taiwan where traders import bunker fuel oil from Singapore. In the regions, market players are concerned that the contaminated fuel oil would prevail. 


As reported, a large amount of sticky substances would be attached to fuel supply machines if vessels keep using the contaminated fuel oil. That could lead to clogging of pipelines or fuel filters, and unintended shutdown of the main engine or generators in the worst case. Specialists perceive that operation of a vessel would be uncontrollable until emergency generators activate.   Since the first contamination occurred in Houston on March 2018, one trouble after another has been reported. The problem is complex in part because the root cause had yet to be found out. Furthermore, ISO 8217, which is a standard for the quality contracts, defines no strict rules for contamination of cumylphenol. Cumylphenol is a petrochemical substance that is refined from benzene series. Suppliers refuse to compensate against claims from shipping companies as ISO 8217 doesn’t mention any strict rules for additives of petrochemical substances. Moreover, limit of compensation (time-bar) could expire as it takes time before a problem surfaces after fuel oil is supplied to a ship.  


Shipping companies have stopped taking bunker at Houston and Panama. One of solutions is to procure bunker fuel oil at Japan, Far-East Russia or Thailand where bunker fuel oil from refiners are available. However, not all vessels are able to drop by the ports owing to their routes or prices. Furthermore, they are considering to mix MGO with the contaminated fuel oil. However, that could be a huge burden on shipping companies. Prices for bunker fuel oil in August at Singapore, the world largest bunker supply ports, are going to increase due to the spreading concerns of the contaminated fuel oil. It is also affecting the market in some Asian ports such as Hong Kong and South Korea where fuel oil are imported from Singapore. 


Contributed by:



Malaysian Petrochemicals Association (MPA)
Wisma FMM, No. 3, Persiaran Dagang, PJU 9,
Bandar Sri Damansara, 52200 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +603-2171 3456 / +603-2171 3521
Fax: 03-2171-3535

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