Saturday, June 14, 2014

For the love of sulfur: Putting together a nice list

...these uneven, multiple-product cargo loads are killing me. Figuratively, I mean. Not literally. They're actually just really, really annoying.

 See, the US, EU and some other uncivilized places too now require that ships burn a low-sulful content fuel oil when in their ECA (Emissions Control Area), which is often up to 200 miles from their shores.  The end result is that ships burn slightly cleaner oil closer to an ECA area's shores, and then switch to the high-sulfur product when out of an ECA area. End result is a wonderful exercise in environmental theatre, since the net sulfur reduction to the atmosphere is a drop in the bucket.

 How big a deal is this? well, let's look at the fuel. RMG-380 is the standard ship fuel. It's got to be heated over 90 degrees to flow properly (preferably 120+), and under 80 degrees, has viscosity properties almost identical to molasses. It's a Residual fuel. Take crude oil, remove the gasoline  (30-50%), remove the light aromatic hydrocarbons (20-30%), remove the dirt and water, and then remove the medium-length chain polyaromatic and polycyclic hydrocarbons. What's left is a foul-smelling tarry paste that you can use for fuel if you heat the shit out of it and then atomize using ultra-high pressure or water mist (seriously, steam boilers use this shit- you spray water with the oil, the oil sticks to the water droplets exterior, goes into the fire and burns almost completely up, leaving less soot than just burning this shit alone).

 RMG-380 has a sulfur content of 2.0% to 3.3ish %, depending on what you're getting. The Low Sulfur variant is usually sold with just under 1% sulfur. So, if you're burning, say, 4,000 tons a month, you're putting 40 tons of sulfur in the air. The hi-test stuff, at, say 3%, is 120 tons. This is for a large ship, of course. The problem is the price. figure 20-40% more for the low-sulfur. Believe it or not, shipping has an awful profit margin. Fuel costs are usually the largest expense, and there's a reason why small shipowners really struggle to survive. Arbitrarily tack a 25% increase in expenses for fuel, and you get the shitshow that is modern shipping economics.

 Now, I mostly told you that so that you can understand that this cumbersome business practice results in most shipowners having to manage multiple grades of fuel on board, on ships which often were not designed to accept multiple grades of fuel. End result is often that ships will purchase a small volume of the expensive LS (low sulfur) stuff, and a larger volume of high sulfur fuel. Which results in my living on a vessel with a strong list, all too often.

Seriously, YOU try enjoying your morning shit like this. Ruined.

Everything goes sideways. Starting with the office chairs. While we're in them. Cooking? Wildly uneven. Your food gets a list, too. Showering? A little more challenging, and forget being able to get soap off your feet. Sleeping is more variable- you can 'go camping' (switch around the rack, and put your pillow where your feet usually lie), prop up the mattress with dunnage, or sleep half on the mattress, half on a wall, depending on how your rack lies. But you do sleep. Only once did I roll off my bunk, and that sucked. I caught the mattress with an arm, and since my rack is jacked up 5 feet off the deck, I swung around and landed, catlike, on the deck. Which, since it was tilted, resulting in me doing a one-man bumrush the 10 feet across the room, where I was able to stop my forward momentum on some lockers, using my face.

 Here's the thing I remember, however, however annoying this may be. It's still easier than eating a meal in a heavy sea on a ship, or, God forbid, trying to launch the Brown October in 30-foot seas,

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