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Distillate oils lie at the heart of the oil industry. This large middle-cut from each barrel represents the most significant slice of the refiners’ value pie.

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SGS offers a full range of services in the middle distillate analysis sector, including sampling, trade inspection, analysis and cargo treatment.

Increasing environmental awareness and more stringent legislation, combined with the push towards the high efficiency use of fossil fuels and rocketing demand have all had a fundamental impact on what we trade as middle distillates. Ultra low sulfur, low temperature performance, high cetane and ultra clean fuels are now the norm, something that could simply not have been predicted as little at 15 years ago.

The combination of a product in high demand and increasingly stringent materials quality criteria means that traders active in this space are in need of effective risk management tools on each cargo. While rewards are potentially good, even the most minor of problems can easily prove costly.  

Issues within the middle distillate sector

The middle distillate market covers a range of traded goods, including both finished products and intermediates/blending components such as:

  • Light Cycle Oil (LCO)
  • Vacuum Gas Oil (VGO)
  • Diesel oil as defined by various bodies such as CEN (EN grades) ISO, Colonial and Buckeye pipeline companies, ASTM, DIN
  • Gas oils, for marine, static and agricultural use
  • Power generation fuels
  • Innovative distillate fuels from biomass, syncrude, Fischer-Trope processes 
  • Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME)

The most significant issues facing any actor in the supply chain in this sector are:

  • Effective sampling
  • Sample handling
  • The multiplicity of grades established. Many of these grades have sub-grades linked to climate/season/altitude and establishing full compliance may require some local knowledge 
  • Testing. Given the many grades, the establishment of conformance with known standards is important and one must stay up-to-date with the various changes in the market to be able to certify with confidence 
  • Market matching/blending. Key tests such as:
    • CFPP
    • Cloud point
    • Pour point
    • FBT
    • Sulfur content
    • Distillation
    • Carbon residue
    • Cetane number
    • Cetane Index (of which there are a number)
    • Density
    • Color
    • Oxidation stability
    • Appearance (linked often to microbiological activity)
    • Flash point
    • Viscosity
    • Ash
    • Copper corrosion
    • TAN / TBN
    • Acidity

    When performed on individual batches or components will allow the trader to calculate if value add can be engineered by the following in order to comply with local delivery requirements:

    • Blending
    • The judicious use of additives to improve:
      • Cetane number
      • Cold flow properties such as CFPP or FBT
      • Lubricity
      • Aggregation of different lots into larger parcels
      • Treatement with: 
        • Anti-static additive
        • Dyes
        • Dehazers

        Why SGS?

        SGS provides a genuine network solution. We offer:

        • A global presence
        • A global quality system
        • Network technical support
        • Validation of our laboratory system by routine monthly round robins
        • Unique industry engagement, built up over more than one hundred years of testing
        • Access to the industry bodies such as ASTM, EI/ IP, ISO, CEN, IFIA
        • High-level technical expertise
        • Cargo treatment advice

        Quality program

        SGS sits on several key industry bodies, standards organizations and technical working groups. These include those within ISO, CEN, ASTM, EI (The Energy Institute, previously known as the Institute of Petroleum) and IFIA.

        All SGS trade inspections on oil, gas and chemical cargoes are conducted in keeping with core petroleum and petrochemical standards such as UOP, ASTM, API, MPMS, GOST, EN or IP test methods and specifications set out by ISO, CEN or other national and local standards organizations. We can also use bespoke or client-specific methods if required.

        We are happy to advise our clients on selecting the most appropriate standards to cite and/or use as a means of supporting effective risk management. SGS also offers technical support to assist in all matters relating to working practices, technologies and standards.

        Find out more about distillate oil testing from SGS.