Avoid fuel custody transfer measurement errors and save costs along the way

Frank Frenzel_Round

January 6th, 2022

Frank Frenzel

Global Product Line Manager, Measurement & Analytics

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With bunker fuel costs starting to rise as global trade picks up, the ability to make every cent count is a growing priority for ship operators. When it comes to ship fuelling, problems can sometimes occur that can lead to discrepancies in both the quantity and quality of what’s being taken onboard. We look at why Coriolis flowmeters offer the best solution for fuel custody transfer measurement applications. 

With a typical voyage racking up hundreds or even thousands of nautical miles, whether it be collecting cargoes from ports or transporting cruise passengers between exotic locations, one of the key aspects of controlling fuel costs is ensuring you’re getting what you pay for – both in terms of quality and quantity.

When it comes to fuelling or ‘bunkering’ of a vessel, shipping owners must be able to ensure that the amount and type of fuel delivered is the same as that agreed with the parties supplying the fuel. With bunkering contracts often negotiated many miles from the point of actual fuelling, it can sometimes be difficult for shipowners to be certain that what is being delivered is exactly what they’ve paid for.

While measuring the fuel flow as it is pumping on board is a good start, problems can still arise if the right technology is not used. Mismeasurement of fuel quantities can arise from a phenomenon known as the ‘cappuccino effect’, where air blown through the fuel hose – either accidentally, or deliberately – can cause frothing, similar to that seen on the surface of a cup of cappuccino. When this occurs, it can lead to fuel level reading errors that make it seem that the tanks are full when they aren’t.

As well as resulting in companies paying for fuel they haven’t received, this phenomenon also increases the risk that the vessel will not have enough fuel for its journey, requiring it to make an unscheduled stop at another port. In such situations, the consequences can include both delays and extra costs, not only for extra fuel but also potentially in the form of lost profits through late delivery or a lost delivery or loading slot.

Using the wrong style of flowmeters can exacerbate this situation. A flowmeter measuring just volume, for example, would see the froth as part of the measurement, resulting in the actual level of fuel being miscalculated.

Go further with Coriolis flow measurement

The answer is to use a flowmeter that measures the mass of the fuel rather than just its volume. One solution is ABB’s CoriolisMaster mass flowmeter, which is ideal for custody transfer duties. Accurate, reliable and easy to install and use, the CoriolisMaster can be combined with ABB flow computers, pressure and temperature transmitters for a complete custody transfer solution.

The device produces several benefits. Certified for use in the marine industry, the CoriolisMaster uses digital signal processing technology, enabling high-precision mass flow and density measurements to be taken. This accuracy, combined with excellent long-term stability and reliability, help to minimize the risk of mismeasurement in custody transfer applications. With the ability to also measure density as well as mass, Coriolis flowmeters can also help to ensure that the quality of fuel being delivered is correct by enabling improved measurement of the composition of fuel flows.


The CoriolisMaster also offers one of the lowest pressure drops in the industry, helping to substantially reduce pumping costs by some 50 percent. Its excellent performance also guarantees a very wide flow range per meter size.

Other benefits include its compact size. With no up or downstream piping requirements, Coriolis flowmeters can be fitted in confined locations, making them ideal for installation in locations such as engine and plant rooms where space is at a premium.

Smooth sailing

Ensuring you get the fuel you have paid for is key to ensuring that getting your vessel to where it needs to be is smooth sailing. The CoriolisMaster is just one of several ways that we’re making measurement easy in marine applications. To find out more, visit our marine portal page at https://new.abb.com/products/measurement-products/marine-solutions or take a look at our other blogs:

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