By Jane C. Sirois
Bunker fuel is one of the most unique petroleum products in the world with only a limited number of uses, and anyone who may come in contact with it should know as much as they can about it. Since it is not a very broadly used substance, most people know very little about it, but if anyone who intends to be working with it should know everything about it.
Like any other petroleum product, this substance is distilled from refined crude oil, and it is later studied and categorized into one classification or another. Crude oil is extracted from the earth through the process of drilling and is later pumped to an oil refinery, where it is fractionally distilled through a process that involves boiling the crude to break it down into different substances. This is a very advanced process that calls for some very sophisticated machines and expensive chemicals that are used in refineries every day, because breaking down crude oil into fractions is no simple feat.
While crude oil is being refined, it is actively broken up into a series of layers, each layer being a substance that burns at a lower temperature than the ones below it. At the very top, you would find the most combustible of all the fuels, such as those used to power fast moving vehicles, such as jets and racecars. As you work your way down, you will come across substances that have higher boiling points, like what is used for engine oil and other industrial lubricants, and at the very bottom you will find a very dense and viscous substance known as bunker fuel.
As stated above, there are many classifications this substance can fall into, and there are many factors that go into figuring out how this substance should be classified, such as what chemicals are present, how hot it must be to boil, and what it is meant to be used for. Each different classification of this substance comes with its own set of ups and downs that makes it more ideal for some uses than others, but there is one factor that all of the various classifications share, which is that this substance creates more pollution than any other petroleum product in use around the world.
The fact that bunker fuel must be heated to an exact temperature prior to use and is so viscous limits its use to larger engine types. This is why you will mostly find this type of fuel being used in large ships and vessels that have the capacity necessary to house and prepare the substance before putting it to good use.
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