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New carrier Prince of Wales takes on fuel for first time

17 July 2018
On the desk next to Petty Officer Adrian Handyside is a sample jar, that is the ‘amber gold’ which powers the nation’s flagships, undergoing sampling after HMS Prince of Wales took on board fuel for the first time.

Gradually through July, 500 tonnes of ‘dieso’ have been pumped aboard the aircraft carrier to test the tanks, pipes, and sampling system.

Five hundred tonnes would keep your average family car going for around three million miles… but it’s barely 15 per cent of HMS Prince of Wales’ capacity.

Looking after that amount of fuel is considerably harder than most people might think.

Clear and Bright – that’s a verbal ‘thumbs up’

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If left alone marine diesel can provide an attractive environment for micro-biological growth (or MBG).

Infected fuel can damage the 36MW Rolls-Royce Gas Turbines or Wartsila Diesel Generators, while removing the growth is no easy task, with tanks requiring emptying and chemically cleaning.

As experienced operators in fuel hygiene Prince of Wales’ ‘tankies’ were asked to investigate.

After writing a fuel management plan which highlighted the risks involved and the key equipment and procedures required to keep fuel clean, marine engineer Petty Officer Handyside helped influence the scheduling of commissioning the ship’s equipment, which will allow the ship’s company to maintain and monitor fuel from the word go.

The first batch of fuel passed the RN’s vigorous testing routine; a sample was shown to the services engineer officer Lt Stuart Geary who uttered the words all tankies want to hear: “Clear and Bright” – that’s a verbal ‘thumbs up’ that the fuel is good to use in the ship’s engines.

The other main test conducted is a filtration test where fuel is timed as it passes through a filter; the faster it passes through, the cleaner it is.

PO Handyside confirmed that the fuel passed this test as well.  As a belt-and-braces approach a sample is also sent away for final analysis by a laboratory, whose experts advise the RN on the chemical make-up of the fuel.

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