IFO (Intermediate Fuel Oil) is a marine fuel belonging to the group of residual fuels used by ships in the international market. The IFO 380 is a mixture of distillate and residual fuels, which generates an intermediate fuel, this mixture is made in order to have a fuel that is better adapted to the needs of handling, pumping and viscosity for proper operation of the various combustion equipment.
Since the middle of the 19th century, HFO has been used primarily by the shipping industry due to its low cost compared with all other fuel oils, being up to 30% less expensive, as wkell as the historically lax regulatory requirements for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) by the IMO. For these two reasons, HFO is the single most widely used engine fuel oil on-board ships. Data available until 2007 for global consumption of HFO at the international marine sector reports total fuel oil usages of 200 million tonnes, with HFO consumption accounting for 174 million tonnes. Data available until 2011 for fuel oil sales to the international marine shipping sector reports 207.5 million tonnes total fuel oil sales with HFO accounting for 177.9 million tonnes.
- Viscosity: IFO 380 is a heavy fuel and has a higher viscosity compared to diesel fuel or gasoline. Its viscosity typically falls in the range of 380 centistokes (cSt) at 50°C, hence its name.
- Density: It has a higher density than diesel fuels, making it heavier.
- Sulfur Content: IFO 380 often contains a high level of sulfur, although international environmental regulations have led to a reduction in sulfur content in recent years. This may vary by region and local regulations.
- Flash Point: It has a higher flash point compared to diesel fuel and gasoline, making it less flammable.
- Marine Use: IFO 380 is primarily used in the marine industry, powering cargo ships, bulk carriers, and other types of vessels.
- Combustion and Performance: Due to its heavy nature, IFO 380 is suitable for marine engines operating at low speeds and heavy loads. Its high viscosity and density may require appropriate heating and filtration systems in engines.
- Environmental Compliance: International environmental regulations, such as Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention, have set strict limits on sulfur content in IFO 380, leading to the development of low-sulfur variants to comply with these regulations.
- Cost: IFO 380 is typically more economical than higher-grade marine fuels, such as Marine Diesel Oil (MDO) or Marine Gas Oil (MGO).
- Storage and Handling: Due to its heavy nature, IFO 380 requires proper storage and handling, including heating systems to reduce its viscosity before injection into engines.
- Engine Compatibility: It is used in marine engines specifically designed to run on heavy fuels, such as two-stroke diesel engines.
It’s important to note that the specific characteristics of IFO 380 may vary by supplier and region, and environmental regulations have influenced its composition in recent years to reduce pollutant emissions.
Involves several steps in the refining of crude oil. Here’s a description of the general steps in the creation of IFO 380:
- Distillation: The process begins with the distillation of crude oil. In a refinery, crude oil is heated in a distillation tower and separated into fractions based on their boiling points. The heavier components with higher boiling points are used to produce IFO 380.
- Vacuum Distillation: To obtain even heavier components, a vacuum distillation process is employed. This allows for the separation of components with even higher boiling points.
- Blending and Treatment: The resulting heavy fractions from vacuum distillation are blended and may undergo various treatments to remove impurities and improve the fuel’s quality. This may include sulfur removal and other impurity removal processes.
- Viscosity Adjustment: IFO 380 is known for its high viscosity, which can be problematic for engine use. In some cases, viscosity may be adjusted by adding diluents or through heating and mixing processes.
- Storage: Once created, IFO 380 is stored in storage tanks within the refinery until it is ready for distribution.
- Regulatory Compliance: It’s important to note that environmental regulations can influence the creation of IFO 380. To comply with stricter emissions regulations, low-sulfur variants of IFO 380 may be produced.
- Distribution: IFO 380 is transported from the refinery to ports and locations where it is used in ships and marine vessels.
It’s important to highlight that the exact production and composition of IFO 380 can vary depending on the refinery and region.
Additionally, environmental regulations, such as those set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have led to changes in fuel composition to reduce pollutant emissions and meet stricter standards.