Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)

A Review of Fate and Behaviour of HFO Spills in Cold Seawater, Including Biodegradation, Environmental Effects and Oil Spill Response

image of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)

Shipping activities across the Artic are expected to increase with decreasing sea ice cover, thus increasing the risk of oil spills. Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO, a mixture of residual fuel and distillate diluent) is often used as fuel in marine vessels as it is relatively cheaper than e.g. lighter marine fuels. Knowledge about fate and behaviour of HFOs is important to select the most efficient countermeasures in an oil spill situation as well as in the risk assessment of possible oil spills in cold waters. The aim of this review is to collate and strengthen the knowledge base on HFO in cold seawater, its fate and behaviour, including weathering, biodegradation, environmental implications of HFO spills and HFO spill response including environmental considerations regarding use the of chemical dispersants and in situ burning. Knowledge gaps and research needs are identified and described.



Environmental impacts from marine HFO spills

Environmental impacts of oil spill in the sea are closely related to the physical properties and chemical composition of the oil as well as the changes caused by the weathering of the oil (as described in Chapters 4–6). Overall, the available fate and weathering data on HFO indicate that the major environmental concerns regarding HFO spills are related to the potential effects of HFO on the water surface. This is a result of the relatively low content of water-soluble and volatile components generally found in HFOs compared with, for example, marine diesel and/or crude oil. In addition to this, the low natural dispersion of HFO into the water column adds to an expected relatively low exposure of the organisms to contamination in the water column in case of an HFO spill.


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