The Many Uses of HFO

Fuel is crucial to powering the world around us. Various types of fuel are used every day, from heating and cooking to powering huge machinery. Some fuels are better for certain applications – like heavy fuel oil. Learn more about HFO applications…

SA Oil discusses the different industries and applications in which heavy fuel oil is used

What is Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)?

Heavy fuel oil, or HFO, is a fraction petroleum product and is obtained from petroleum distillation as a residue comprising carbon, hydrogen, sulphur, ash, metals, and water. It is blended with other components to bring down its sulphur content to adhere to international oil standards. HFO is a popular fuel choice in industry, powering mines, boilers, power and manufacturing plants, and more.

Properties of HFO

Heavy fuel oil contains a sulphur content of 3%, though low-sulphur options (low sulphur fuel oil, or LSFO) are available. HFO is a high-viscosity fuel and has a high flash point (lowest temperature at which a fuel will ignite) of 50°C, so it must be heated to as high as 260°C before it can be used. It is often the fuel of choice for industry applications given its beneficial properties:

  • High calorific value – the total energy released as heat during its combustion is high, compared to other fuels, which means you get more energy out of a given amount (an efficient fuel)
  • Less ash residue – ash accumulates in machinery as bottom ash, and needs cleaning out, or is released into the atmosphere as fly ash. The lower the ash residue, the lower the maintenance and environmental costs
  • Cost-effective – lowering overall operating costs
  • Meets International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards – this guarantees the fuel is on-spec.

SA Oil lists the properties of HFO heavy fuel oil

HFO for Mining

Energy is a major concern in less developed countries where electricity or the regular supply of power is limited. Zimbabwe has faced the severest of power cuts, and as of August 2019, goes without power for up to 17 hours a day. This has harsh ramifications for industry, especially mining which requires around-the-clock power. The lack of power has a crippling knock-on effect, resulting in increased downtimes, decreased production, missed quotas and deadlines, and profit losses. Many mines have turned to hydrocarbon fuels like diesel and HFO to power generators, and keep operations going. HFO generators are sturdy, heavy-duty machines that are built to operate in harsh conditions – ideal for intensive work like mining! Being readily available and cost-effective also makes HFO an attractive option for this industry.

HFO for Manufacturing

Like mining, manufacturing is an energy-intensive industry and requires huge amounts of power in order to function. Energy can account for a large portion of running costs – for example, energy costs in the paper and pulp industry in South Africa can comprise up to 20% of production costs. Manufacturing companies often rely on the grid for power, but in situations where power supply may be cut or is unreliable, such as in South Africa or Zimbabwe, they will often invest in a back-up generator that runs on diesel or HFO. These generators must work under intensive conditions due to the long-hours or high quotas to which many manufacturing businesses are accustomed. A lack of power can have expensive consequences in the manufacturing industry, making energy a high-priority resource.

HFO for Power Plants

When evaluating energy-density (calorific value) HFO is second only to coal. It is thus often a back-up fuel at power plants, and it is considerably cheaper than fuels like diesel. When a power plant is ‘powered down’, restarting the system is no simple task and requires powering up one section at a time. HFO is the ideal fuel for this task and serves to kick-start the system. This fuel is often found at hybrid power plants as well, providing energy when solar or wind is not available. Hydrocarbon fuels like HFO will continue to take precedence in the energy industry, especially in developing countries like many in Africa, until renewable energy becomes more cost-effective and more broadly implemented.

HFO for Industry

Other uses for HFO include:

  • Used in boilers to generate steam or hot water for process heating or electricity generation
  • Feedstocks (raw materials) used to create products like plastics, chemicals, and fertilisers
  • For heating large, commercial buildings (air conditioning and central heating has mostly replaced this use)
  • Used in furnaces for heating for various industrial processes, like metal smelters, forgers and mills.

SA Oil discusses the uses of heavy fuel oil HFO

Reliable HFO Suppliers

HFO is an economic, efficient fuel that powers industry. Without this important fuel, many operations could come to a standstill, which is why dependable HFO suppliers are so crucial. To power your operation with HFO, get in touch today.