chemical science


Through petroleum refining various petroleum distillates  can be obtained. These petrochemicals as they are known, are valuable chemical compounds that find widespread use in the modern world in plastics, detergents, cosmetics and other familiar products.

Some of these distillates are also possible to obtain from other fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, or from renewable sources such as corn, palm fruit or sugar cane (biofuels). AMA experts are skilled at interpreting all such sources.

Olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene, toluene and xylene isomers) are the two most common petrochemical classes which together serve as the building-blocks for a wide range of materials such as adhesives and sealants, agrochemicals, construction chemicals, corrosion control chemicals, cosmetics raw materials, electronic chemicals and materials, flavourings, fragrances, food additives, pharmaceutical drugs, speciality and industrial chemicals, speciality and industrial gases, inks, dyes and printing supplies, packaging, bottles, and containers, paint, coatings, and resins, polymer additives, speciality and life sciences chemicals, surfactants and cleaning agents.

AMA has considerable experience in petrochemical quality assurance and quantity measurement, together with all areas of their safe transportation and storage – in particular in the marine environment, where the vast amounts of petrochemical being handled at any one time create risks of an altogether higher level.

On a land site or on board a ship, our technicians can assess the management and handling of the petrochemicals, and our quantity and quality surveyors – available in many parts of Asia and Europe, can take representative samples to be sent to a laboratory of choice for testing.

Our scientists can help with standards and methodology, and can interpret the results of laboratory testing. Where specification issues are found, they can report on the possible causes of such damage and various options for restoration or  loss mitigation.

Just because there is something not fully within contractual or international specifications does not mean that a petrochemical is corrupted beyond its intended (or indeed any) use. Each case is judged on its scientific merits as seen, and we are able to guide on a range of recovery and re-purposing options such as clarifying to remove water or biological contaminants (bugs just love fuels!), to settle or remove in-suspension artefacts by chemical or mechanical means, blending of stocks or addition of chemicals to improve burn or other parameters and regrading of quality to permit other use.

Case Study: Rejection of 80,000 tonnes Jet A-1

A large double-hulled oil tanker was tasked to deliver 80,000 tonnes of aviation fuel  (Jet A-1) to the receiving terminal of a major international airport. At the prices then prevailing, this was about £45 million GBP worth of cargo on a ship of similar value.

Jet A-1 is a type of fuel designed for use in gas-turbine powered jet engines of aeroplanes, and as these engines are sensitive to the fuel’s specification (and any contaminants), the receivers of such fuel are incredibly strict on its quality.

It was discovered during routine pre-discharge sampling of the Jet A-1, that one of the cargo tanks (representing about 9,000 tonnes) had started to leak into a space below the cargo tank which was designated for ballast (sea) water only, meaning it was hypothetically possible for chloride poisoning of the fuel in that tank to have occurred by sea water from below (in addition to growing risk of an explosive fire from this space).

The airport (who owned and operated the port) ordered the vessel to immediately stop cargo operations and leave the berth. The owners were now facing a huge claim for damages, related costs and the issue of what to do with 80,000 tonnes of highly flammable, expensive and now potentially off-specification cargo still in their possession, on a damaged ship.

AMA were called to assist the vessel owners and their insurers with a range of issues. Our skilled fuel surveyors attended to quantify all cargo onboard and to draw samples for laboratory testing, which then occurred at the terminal’s own accredited laboratory. Our chemists attend all testing – something the terminal would not permit other science teams to do. We provided real-time guidance to the clients on interpreting and then taking appropriate actions from these findings.

Our materials science team and naval architects were instrumental in assessing the structural condition of the vessel and the likely cause of the leakage seen (later confirmed by visual inspection once tanks were safely accessible).

Our petrochemical scientists devised the optimal form of loss mitigation in conjunction with our marine officers (themselves experts in tanker vessel operations), so that it was demonstrated to the satisfaction of the terminal that all tanks other than the one with the crack were safe to immediately discharge, and for fresh water seen in some tanks to be settled out / clarified with appropriate additives, allowing for 70,000 tonnes of cargo to immediately be discharged. We enabled owners to negotiate a final settlement based on sound scientific principals and expert interpretation of the laboratory findings, whereby only the actual Jet A-1 oil that had leaked through the cargo tank crack was rejected – this brought the net loss then down to about 40 tonnes.

Our marine officers assisted with obtaining suitable barges to receive the rejected cargo and for the safe transshipment of the rejected cargo (which is highly flammable). We were also able to assist with locating reprocessing and salvage sale options for the rejected cargo, allowing the owners to dispose of it safely and by sale (so not a total loss). Our material science team and naval architects were able to determine the cause of structural failure (at high-stress weld seams) and propose remedial actions for the vessel and its sister ships.

The net loss of this incident could have been huge in time, client relationships and ultimately money. AMA were able to advise and guide the client to a point where they significantly mitigated the potential cargo loss from one of £45 million GBP down to £30,000 GBP.

AMA Provided: –

  • Petrochemical scientists (oil experts)
  • Material scientists (metallurgical experts)
  • Marine officers (operational experts)
  • Naval Architects (structural experts)

Why not give us a call now to see how we could help you

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