13 Mar 2014
An independent engineering firm has raised concerns about the use of mass flow meters in the shipping and bunkering industries.
Tommy Christensen, project and business development for CBI Engineering A/S, says there are issues about where such meters should be installed and their practicality.
Mass flow meter technology aims to give accurate measurement of bunker quantity.
Leading shipping group Maersk has said it will continue to install mass flow meters on its fleet, with a long term target to have the technology on all its ships.
“This raises the question of where a meter should be installed,'' Christensen told Bunkerworld.
He said that if different readings are taken from flow meters on the receiving vessel and on the bunker tanker there would be disputes.
He claimed that the industry view was that the meters should be on the bunker tanker.
Christensen said he was also worried about the flow meter's accuracy, particularly in detecting the presence of captured air.
Maersk on the other hand, says it is "very optimistic" about the use of flowmeters "following an encouraging first wave of flowmeter installations and bunkerings".
The company is in the process of finalising its first wave of installation consisting of 50 flowmeters, Jesper Rosenkrans Ødum, Business Development Manager, Maersk Oil Trading, told Bunkerworld.
He said the first wave was set to be followed by "a large scale roll-out" of the technology on its ships.
Maersk believes the ability of Coriolis-based flowmeters to accurately to determine supply volumes during bunkering operations will be a great benefit to the industry compared to traditional methods.
Another representative for Maersk Oil Trading, Claus Møller Petersen, told the 30th International Bunker Conference (IBC) in Oslo in April that current practices for measuring bunker quantity "belong to the stone age" and that it was time for the bunker industry to adapt its operations to the 21st century.
Møller Petersen argued that bunker quantity measuring methods employed on barges around the world leave a lot of room for error.
In a recent letter to the editor, Rosenkrans Ødum responded to concerns raised by CBI Engineering about the accuracy of mass flowmeters, and whether there will be a conflict between vessel-mounted and barge-mounted flowmeters.
He defended their accuracy over "potentially inaccurate estimates based on volume, density and temperature," that other methods rely on.
Rosenkrans Ødum also downplayed the potential for conflict between ship and barge-mounted flowmeters.
"The high accuracy of Coriolis flowmeters means that potential discrepancies between two certified flowmeters will be insignificant. Should readings from two certified meters on the same bunkering differ slightly, one can easily envision a resolution of settling at the midpoint between the two," he suggested.
"Further, the efficiency gains from time-saving benefits both parties. As the hassle and haggling is eliminated, ships are able to comply with their schedules and barges are able to complete their bunkering more quickly," he observed.
He claimed that these efficiency gains were "generating excitement in all corners of the industry" and that bunker suppliers have reacted positively.
"Suppliers have recognised the flowmeter's ability to level the playing field and to provide the sort of transparency the industry has been seeking for years. A number of suppliers have been keen to get engaged in the process and are eager to stay on top of the development rather than being left behind as the industry progresses," he told Bunkerworld.
He said Maersk was likely to favour suppliers "who have embraced this new technology" and that those who failed to do so would place themselves in a disadvantageous position.
Currently, the industry relies on manual tank gauging or sounding to determine the quantity of bunkers delivered or received, a process that can be time consuming and which requires calculations.
In light of these conflicting and sometimes controversial takes on mass flow meter technology, and with regard to your own business operations, where do you think mass flow meters should be installed, or not at all?
on both vessel for everyone to be satisfied
In the short term, I think it's not so much where the meter should be, but who can benefit from the technology. A system like this should be viewed as any other: it is a management tool to support operations and improve decision making. The ship should have it if the owners feel they need to get better control of an expensive purchase. The barge should have it for the reasons mentioned above. The terminal or refiner should have it to make sure that they are providing a quality product. Taken in this light, the focus is on improving the business process and not the specifics of the technology. The tech has been proven since 1977.
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