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Cowes Harbour Fuels avoids potential biodiesel threat to marine engines

14 February 2011

EU Directive 2009/30/EC introduces a requirement that, from 1st January 2011, all gas oil (commonly known in the UK as ‘red diesel’) marketed for use in non-road mobile machinery and inland waterways vessels must contain no more than 10 milligrams of sulphur per kilogram of fuel (virtually ‘sulphur free’). Marine fuel suppliers had originally planned to meet the new requirements largely by supplying road diesel, which also contains biodiesel (up to 7%), with a red marker dye.

Whilst most engines are fully compatible with low sulphur fuel containing biodiesel, in the proportion found in road fuel, some fuel system components on older engines, in particular fuel seals and pipes, may not be compatible with biodiesel. This was recently reported in Yachting Monthly magazine.

Rod Hodgson, Deputy Harbour Master for Cowes commented; "Biodiesel has strong solvent and detergent properties in its pure form and can also cause problems during storage and on certain materials used in fuel system components it is also more prone to bacterial contamination potentially resulting in blockage of fuel filters and increased corrosion."

"As this new regulation does not apply to sea going vessels craft taking diesel at Cowes Harbour Fuels do not have to comply with the new regulations and as a result Cowes Harbour Fuels have secured a supply of Red Diesel with the original sulphur content and free from any biodiesel."

Supply is not going to be uniform around the coast so it is important that you ask at the pump what specification of fuel it is that you are buying and whether it contains biodiesel and if it has a low sulphur content.

The DtP ‘Fuel Quality Directive Gas Oil Requirements’ information sheet containing a Q&A section and Product Data Sheet for Gas Oil supplied at Cowes Harbour Fuels can be downloaded from the Cowes Harbour Commission website.

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