A large component to global trade is commercial shipping operations. Like accurately filling and paying for the gas that goes in your car, these ships require accurate custody transfer from the supplier of the fuel used to propel them over great distances.
I caught up with Emerson’s Charles Bogenberger, a member of the Micro Motion mass flow measurement team for the marine industry. He shared the history of establishing an automated measurement technique for custody transfer of bunker fuel in order to eliminate the need for manual sounding measurements.
It was important to have 3rd party certification that would result in being able to use the measurement for custody transfer to bring much added transparency to the industry. Micro Motion Coriolis mass flow measurement used in this marine bunker measurement application made it apparent to shippers that there was a wide variance between bunker deliveries, across suppliers and ports.
As these shippers collected data from all of their vessels, Charles noted that it became apparent that searching for the lowest priced bunker fuel was not the best strategy. The bunker fuel traders needed to look for not only the best price, but also the most reliable delivery to prevent short delivery.
For instance, while one supplier may have a higher price per metric ton of bunker fuel, by supplying every metric ton paid for, the cost per ton is actually less than from a competitive supplier.
The mass flow meter collects critical data about the process beyond the quantity delivered. This data is used to diagnose problems that may occur during the delivery. For instance, a sudden change in fuel density could indicate the supplier needs to switch between operating tanks.
By having this diagnostic data onboard the vessel and visible to the crew, steps can be taken during the delivery to improve the supply process.
One of the areas for continued technology development is data visualization. Charles shared with me that software is being developed for a shipper’s onboard crew and main office staff that will have comprehensive bunker supply chain diagnostics to facilitate the best economic and operating decisions for their business.
We’ll save more about this development in a future post. In the meantime, feel free to contact the Micro Motion Marine team.