VPS has undertaken detailed forensic analysis of the many samples it received from numerous vessels, in order to identify which components were common to all of the fuel samples and have the physical properties, which could cause these problems.
However, none of the samples gave any clue to the problem. After using additional test, phenolic compounds were present in every sample taken from vessels experiencing problem.
Later, FOBAS conducted testing, confirming that these compounds are present in the samples taken. These compounds are violating the Clause 5 of ISO 8217 which states that "The fuel should not include any added substance or chemical wastefuel which jeopardizes the safety or adversely affects the performance of the machinery; or is harmful to personnel; or contributes overall to additional air pollution."
In light of this, the UK Club produced a short FAQ along with Brookes Bell, saying that:
There have been a significant number of bunker quality related engine problems following the delivery of fuel supplied in the US Gulf region, particularly in the Houston area, but these also extend to fuels supplied at Panama.
The Club also added that there are at least two different forms of contamination involved, meaning that not all problem fuels share the same contaminants. Specifically, some contain chemical waste related to bisphenol manufacturing operations, while others contain bio-derived contaminants including Tall Oil, a bi-product from the timber industry.
In order for an operator to identify if the vessels has this problem, he/she will notice some blockages of the filters which could alert the engineers to stop using the fuel. However, this would be the lucky case, as in most instances sticking fuel pumps have been the only indication of a problem.
Once it is confirmed that a vessel is contaminated, operators must stop using the fuel and segregate if possible. They should also keep fuel samples for laboratory analysis and any damaged components should be kept for metallurgical analysis. However, laboratory results should not be expected soon at this time, as they are all congested.