Analyzing fuel-burn is a critically important function, no matter what the current costs. By determining the most cost-efficient engine speeds for any given situation, fuel expenses can be lowered dramatically.
Accurate and secure monitoring of fuel loads and consumption can also help prevent offshore theft. According to Brian Staton at Krill Systems, Bainbridge Island, Wash., many international offshore operators’ interest in fuel monitoring is “being driven by the reporting that’s needed for recordkeeping for the prevention of fuel theft.”
Staton said his customers are major oil and gas companies “that are struggling to get a baseline of their assets that they are paying OSVs to operate with.”
He said Krill’s clients in Latin America and South America have discovered that “it’s not uncommon that hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel is being taken from them as they go out to service the rigs.”
Is that also true for the Gulf of Mexico? Staton couldn’t say either way, “but companies coming to us define their assets around the world. That includes the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not their priority. Their priority is in faraway places.”
The Krill vessel fuel management systems that go on offshore service vessels help oil companies understand where the fuel is going. It starts dockside with the monitoring system recording how much fuel goes into the boat.
“It records it, prints it and has it stamped by an official port authority,” said Staton. “Once on its job, [the vessel] goes to offshore rig number one and drops off 100,000 gallons of diesel and immediately that ticket is run, stamped and signed. Then it goes to rig number two and so on. ”
When the OSV comes in to reload, bunker tickets and weekly fuel monitoring tickets show the fuel it received and how much was discharged at sea. “It’s a full accountability,” Staton said. “It shows if the assets are going to the right people and not being stripped from the vessel.” He added that manipulation of the information is very difficult to do.
Without this accountability, oil and gas companies have to rely on someone’s word, and the tickets weren’t necessarily showing what was being bunkered.
One company that Staton and Krill are working with has several hundred vessels throughout the world, managed by maybe half-a-dozen contractors. The company has talked with Krill about installing a fuel management system that would allow them to monitor all vessels at the corporate office. The contractors would have similar monitoring systems showing data only for their vessels. “That’s bunkering and fuel use, everything in real time,” said Staton.
Thus when the oil and gas company talks with a contractor, they are both looking at the same information and any discrepancies can be quickly resolved.
While that part of Krill’s business involves protecting fuel supplies, there’s also a market for reducing a vessel’s fuel usage to improve its efficiency.
A good example of that is Washington State Ferries’ 440' Jumbo-class ferries. WSF operators have had a routine of pushing against their cradles for 40 minutes each morning to warm up the machinery. Krill’s monitoring system showed they only needed to do it for 10 minutes, which could save thousands of fuel dollars a year.
Then there’s the “jack-rabbit” start where ferries would leave the dock from a stationary position and go immediately to full throttle. “We did a fuel calculation and found there’s no reason to go from stationary to full throttle,” Staton said. “You could do it over a gradual period and get speed that’s needed and save thousands of dollars of fuel over a year.”
He estimated that the total operational savings from using a fuel monitoring system could be as much as $300,000 annually per Jumbo-class ferry.
Whatever purpose the fuel management system is intended to be used for, Staton emphasized the importance of three steps: collecting the data, reporting the data and producing it in an analytical form that can be immediately used without having to “crunch a lot of numbers.”
MONITORING FUEL TAXES
Aside from looking at fuel consumption from individual and international perspectives, there are also regional benefits, as seen with FloScan Instrument’s latest fuel-monitoring software for riverboats.
It’s called geo-fencing, which is an addition to FloScan’s DataLog fuel monitoring software. DataLog, which has been available for the past couple of years, allows fuel-flow information from FloScan fuel computers to be displayed on a boat’s PC in real time. It shows fuel consumption for the main engines and generators that the operator can monitor in the wheelhouse, as well as engine rpm, GPS coordinates, course over ground and speed over ground.
Displaying fuel consumption in real time allows the captain to identify the engine speed that’s most efficient. “Fuel savings of up to 15 percent can be achieved with this feature,” said FloScan sales manager Joe Dydasco.
What’s new is geo-fencing, which was introduced at the InternationalWorkBoat Show in December. It is slated to be installed on a large towboat fleet that operates along the Mississippi River — about 55 towboats.
Towboats that operate on the Mississippi must pay a fuel usage tax on the fuel burned in the main engines. “Essentially it’s a pollution tax,” said Dydasco. “The states are saying, ‘you burn X amount of gallons in our state, we want to hold you responsible for keeping the environment clean.’ ”
Fuel consumption taxes are levied for the districts as boats pass through. DataLog already records fuel consumption minute-by-minute and identifies where a boat is, all of which can be made available on a spreadsheet, but towboat operators wanted more.
“Towboat outfits asked if we couldn’t develop a feature for DataLog to identify when a boat enters a particular zone, identify how much fuel is consumed within the zone and stop recording when you exit the zone,” said Dydasco.
That’s geo-fencing, which is defined as software that uses global positioning systems (GPS) or radio frequency identification to define geographical areas — in this case sections of the Mississippi River.
Basically what FloScan did was create a grid using GPS coordinates to break the river up into districts or zones.
“You can have multiple zones, or map out the entire Mississippi River. As far as I know, FloScan is the only one that’s got this,” said Dydasco.
DataLog and geo-fencing can generate a fuel-burn report as often as needed. The data is recorded and can easily be turned into a spreadsheet. Once the file is processed, it stays on the computer or can be uploaded to a company’s home office.
“This simplifies the record keeping process,” Dydasco said. When reports are issued on how much fuel is consumed, “the fleets can go back to the accounting department and identify how much fuel is consumed in each state or local district.”
Whether it’s fuel usage, taxes or theft prevention, the need for vessel fuel management systems is strong enough that many vessel operators are putting it into newbuild contracts “so it’s ready for that application,” said Staton. “Companies are starting to become more diligent in managing their resources. I see this as a trend.”