Total Lubmarine on the new fuels and lubes landscape
The lead up to the IMO sulphur cap was a testing time for Total from two standpoints: first, the requirement to second guess market requirement and second, because the company decided to requalify its 40 BN product and put its Talusia Universal marine lubricant through a new round of tests on a mix of two-stroke and four-stroke engines.
“It is a common misconception that a vessel operating on lower sulphur fuel automatically requires a marine lubricant with a lower BN content,” says Total Lubmarine’s global marketing director, Serge Dal Farra from the company’s offices in Rueil-Malmaison, just outside Paris. “We try and counter that message by championing marine lubricant chemistry, but at the same time recognise that the market has moved toward lower BN marine lubricants.”
As of 1 January 2020, 50% of Total’s customers had opted for its 40 BN product and 30% had switched to Talusia Universal. “This product has the same neutralisation efficiency and detergency as a BN 70 marine lubricant and does not lead to the build-up of engine deposits, which has been associated with high BN products.”
Total observed a shift in buying patterns in October and November and this accelerated in December. “We knew that operators would wait until they burned their last drop of heavy fuel ahead of the deadline before ordering,” notes Mr Dal Farra.
Uptake of lower BN marine lubricants has largely been driven by the positions of the engine OEMs, explains Mr Dal Farra. In the run up to the sulphur cap legislation’s entry into force, MAN Energy Solutions advocated marine lubricants in a BN range between 40 and 70. WinGD has favoured marine lubricants in the BN range of between 40 and 60.
“BN is not everything,” says Mr Dal Farra. “It’s not the only way – or necessarily the definitive way – of measuring a lubricant. It’s about the chemistry. It’s about neutralisation efficiency, neutralisation speed and detergency.”
For this reason, Total had its BN 40 product, Talusia LS40, requalified by the OEMs. Today the range is supported by non-objection letters for all major engines burning 0.5%s fue.l Previously the OEMs had specified that the product was compatible with certain engines and fuel types.
“The latest generation of engines are prone to corrosive wear,” says says Mr Dal Farra. “When you factor that in with changing trade patterns and fuel availability, we believe the case strengthens for marine lubricants with a higher additive content as well as a higher BN.” The physical expression of this argument is Total’s Talusia Universal product.
“Engine cleanliness is not a superficial concern,” he adds. “If you have fouling, if you have deposits, especially in the ring grooves, then the rings lose their capability to move freely. You lose engine efficiency and risk ring breakdown, usually a gateway to more serious problems.”
A related issue is fuel quality, explains Mr Dal Farra: “This varies across the market and means owners face potential combustion issues, which carry a particular implication for engine cleanliness. We recognised this early on.”
Hand-in-hand with marine lubricant selection, Total has seen the uptake of its in-service monitoring programmes increase. There is what Mr Dal Farra terms ‘the gold standard’ programme – drain Oil Standard – where the company draws not only on its available operational data, but assigns one of its specialists to the client to advise and assist.
A second programme – drain Oil Advanced – provides information on operational performance, including lube oil performance depletion, stuffing box tightness and engine cleanliness. A third – drain Oil Optimize – is built around feed rate optimisation and operational expense control.
Mr Dal Farra says the surge in interest in these programmes has been driven by a new onus on the vessel owner and operator when it comes to fuels and lubes’ procurement, following the sulphur cap’s entry into force.
“Are crews prepared for changeover procedures during fuel switching from residual fuel oil to 0.5% sulphur compliant fuel oils?” he asks. “How will the crews handle new cylinder lubricants and cope with new procedures? Have they been trained on the new equipment needed to test both bunker fuels and lubricants? Will both the onshore and onboard teams be able to cope with the additional levels of administration? We try to be that bridge between the operator and the OEM. We seek to reassure the former with advanced monitoring and the latter with advanced testing.”
During the transition phase (and beyond) Total Lubmarine will be advocating the use of BN 57 Talusia Universal and will be recommending this be combined with regular engine monitoring through its drain Oil Standard, drain Oil Advanced or drain Oil Optimise programmes.
“This establishes the engines operating conditions and most effective lubricant feed rate,” says Mr Dal Farra. “The data generated will help us guide the operator, whether a BN 40 product makes sense or whether an alternate product is optimal. Talusia Universal 100 or Talusia Optima are likely to be the choice for the majority of customers using high-sulphur fuels, with the addition of Talusia Hr 140 for extreme cases.”
Another response to the new regulation is an even closer working relationship between Total’s marine lubricants arm and its fuel arm, Total Marine Fuel Global Solutions.
“Of course, all our fuel formulas are compliant with ISO 8217,” notes Mr Dal Farra. “However, they are not necessarily compatible with every marine fuel on the market,” he explains. A publicly available specification was released in September 2019. Fuels with a sulphur content up to 0.1% are mostly ISO 8217 distillates; 0.5% sulphur fuels are, on the other hand, mainly blends.
“We warranty that each Total formula meets the industry specifications – however, the market would have to pay quite a premium to have fuels compatible from all bunkering places,” says Mr Dal Farra.
What Total has in place, says Mr Dal Farra, is sufficient quantity of fuel to meet market demand: “In fact our volumes of low-sulphur fuels match our pre-sulphur cap stocks of high-sulphur fuel.”
The company has also made significant investments to support industry uptake of LNG as a bunker fuel. Total will have a bunker barge available in the Mediterranean Sea, off Marseilles, adding to the barges scheduled to operate in Singapore and Northern Europe, underlining its status as the world’s second biggest supplier of LNG as a fuel, with a total volume of 40 MT per annum and a liquefaction capacity portfolio of 23 MT per annum projected this year. Global LNG bunkering demand is projected to rise from 0.4 MT per annum in 2017 to 10 MT per annum in 2025.
SEA\LNG and SGMF published a study in April 2019 which concluded the absolute well-to-wake emissions reductions (including methane slip) benefit for LNG-fuelled engines compared with HFO-fuelled ships today is between 14% and 21% for two-stroke slow-speed engines and between 7% and 15% for four-stroke medium-speed engines. Around 72% of the marine fuel consumed today is by two-stroke engines, with a further 18% used by four-stroke medium-speed engines.