Developing Measurement Standards for a Top Bunker Trading Port

Article contributed by Mr. Ng Tong Jin, Senior Manager, National Metrology Centre, A*STAR

World Metrology Day on 20 May 2020 commemorates the signing of the Metre Convention in 1875. 

This treaty would set the foundation for a global measurement system that is used in science and industry, for innovation, manufacturing and trade, as well as for improving quality of life and protecting the environment.

This year, the theme for World Metrology Day is “Measurements for Global Trade”. Metrology – the science of measurements, play an essential role in facilitating global trade, ensuring that products meet quality, standards and regulatory requirements.

Trade is a major part of Singapore’s economy. According to the Department of Statistics1, Singapore crossed S$1 trillion of merchandise trade exported and imported in 2019. The trade includes the import of raw goods and refining for re-export, such as in semiconductor and oil refining. Producers and consumers, in the area of quality and safety specifications, are protected by the Government for compliance of standards and regulations.

A good and effective measurement system provides the basis to assess products’ conformance to specifications, reduces costs in repeated testing, and encourages trust between businesses and consumers in trading of goods and services. 

At A*STAR’s National Metrology Centre (NMC) – the national measurement institute of Singapore – our scientists and engineers advance science and technology to develop internationally-recognised measurement methods and standards. 

NMC collaborates with companies from a broad range of industry sectors, from aerospace, electronics, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, to develop products, improve performance and safety, and ensure a safe environment.

NMC_World Metrology Day_Differential spectral responsivity measurement facilityDifferential spectral responsivity measurement facility for reference solar cell calibration (Photo: NMC)

NMC_World Metrology Day_1 Meter Integrating Sphere SpectroradiometerA 1-meter integrating sphere spectroradiometer for accurate measurement of LED lights. (Photo: NMC)

NMC_World Metrology Day_Calibration of an industial radiation thermometer against Standard radiation thermometer02A calibration of industry radiation thermometers using blackbody source. (Photo: NMC)

NMC’s work helps our industries to develop high quality products, meet trade requirements and access global markets. One such example is the development of flow measurement standards for bunker trading.

NMC World Metrology Day_1200x628Bunker tanker supplies fuel to a container ship.

NMC worked with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and bunkering stakeholders to develop standards to support their regulations on bunker mass flow meter requirements and develop the bunkering industry. Subsequently, this standard enables MPA to mandate the use of mass flow metering (MFM) system for all bunkering, to replace the less accurate and inefficient method of tank gauging, making Singapore the first bunkering port in the world to officially adopt mass flow meter for custody transfers.

This work enables the marine port to be more efficient for bunkering trading and improve trading accuracy and transparency.

This is an excellent example of how metrology can be applied directly to the industry. Unlike conventional laboratory work, scientists are needed to be more innovative to solve problems from industry.

Mr Wu Jian, NMC’s Principal Metrologist.

NMC_World Metrology Day_Mass flow metering system of Bunkering Tanker for Marine oil Supply

Mass flow metering system of Bunkering Tanker for Marine oil Supply. (Photo: NMC)

To enable the adoption of MFM, NMC used its mass and flow measurements expertise to develop new methods to solve the bunkering disturbance to flow measurement. These methods involve minimising the measurement errors influenced by bunkering flow conditions, as well as the testing and validating the accuracy for the mass flow meter system on board before they are approved for custody transfers.

As Singapore is a global bunkering hub for natural gas and crude oil, it is crucial to maintain a high measurement standard in the bunkering process. A small measurement error in bunkering may cause a loss of tens of millions of dollars to either trading partners.

Dr He Zhimin, NMC’s Scientist.

Without the metrological analysis, the measurement error for a typical mass flow meter could be as large as 5 metric ton (Mt) for a 1000 Mt of oil. This translates to an extra S$1,250 for each meter of bunkering oil price at $250/Mt.

Dr Zeng Yan, NMC’s Scientist.

With the development of NMC’s measurement method and collaborative efforts of Enterprise Singapore and SICC, maritime stakeholders and the bunkering industry, Singapore launched the world’s first Technical Reference on “Mass Flow Metering for Bunkering” which was developed as the Singapore Standard on “Code of Practice for Bunker Mass Flow Metering”.

NMC_World Metrology Day_Primary Liquid Flow LabNMC’s primary Liquid Flow Lab (Photo: MNC)

Since MPA mandated the use of the MFM in 2017, NMC has validated the measurement data from acceptance tests done on more than 500 metering systems at bunker tankers, which helped the bunker operators obtain approval for use of the metering systems.

It has been a smooth-sailing partnership with MPA. It is important to have a committed and responsive public sector partner as the project here requires speed and accuracy. Any disruptions will have direct implications on the industry itself.

Mr Teo Beng Keat, NMC’s Senior Technical Executive.

NMC’s contributions help improve on bunkering measurement quality and reliability, raise the productivity in bunker fuel delivery, and enhance Singapore’s competitive edge as a top bunker trading port.

NMC is also in the development of the standard on MFM bunkering for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to support Singapore’s green efforts towards a sustainable Green Port of using LNG and low-sulphur fuels.

In addition to bunkering, NMC supports trade by helping companies validate their products and access global markets. Industries like aerospace, pharmaceutical will benefit from our internationally recognised measurement standards and calibration reports. NMC also conducts R&D in advanced measurements to support the growth of industries such as advanced manufacturing (digitalisation, IoT and sensors, and additive manufacturing), urban and green technology, agri-technology and medical technology for Singapore and globally.

We welcome you to contact us about future collaborations and wish you a happy World Metrology Day.

1 Source: Department of Statistics, Singapore