Failure anywhere surrounding your fuel system is likely due to bad fuel and a sign that you thought about fuel quality way too late. It may take the form of motor failure in your truck, failure of your generator to start when you need it most, or even losing an entire storage tank to bad fuel. Most people do not know that from the second the fuel leaves the refinery it begins breaking down and changing – and not in a good way. Having personally seen great fuel as it leaves the refinery and also removing 10 year old “fuel” from a generator tank, I can personally testify that there are MANY levels of fuel quality and numerous other accompanying problems that can compromise fuel quality.
Most users think of the shape of their fuel filter as being a good indicator of the quality of their fuel. In fact, fuel filters are actually the last line of defense before mechanical failure and they protect our engines from fuel that may have been compromised. From trucking to marine applications, fuel filters should be changed at a normal maintenance interval. Even when changing filters more frequently than suggested, the user tends to avoid looking at the big picture- the quality of the fuel itself. After all, it is the bad fuel in the tank that is causing those blockages in your filter. Why take the chance on your filter stopping what could be a very expensive repair, maybe even catastrophic failure? The answer is really about improving the quality of that fuel in your tank.
The diesel industry has been mandated to use ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel) which decreases the sulfur content of fuel by over 95%. While ULSD is a cleaner burning fuel, it is especially prone to degradation better known as repolymerization (the attraction and combining of molecules to each other). This repolymerization is occurring from the time it’s refined to the moment the fuel is burned. By essentially creating molecular clumps in the fuel it negatively affects the combustion quality of the fuel. Sulfur content in diesel fuel also helped battle microbial/fungus growth, as well as being a general lubrication agent. With this removal of sulfur the incidences of bacterial growth (algae) and a need for added lubricity in the fuel has followed.
When refineries began production of ULSD they also began using a higher percentage of a drum of crude oil (going from 65% to 83% of capacity). This gave them a higher profit per drum. However this also formed the environment that gave birth to asphaltenes. Asphaltenes are essentially 2 micron sized pieces of tar that are made when the temperature of diesel fuel is increased under high pressures that are commonly found in today’s High Pressure Fuel Injection system (30,000 psi +). These are small black specs found floating in tanks. Commonly mistaken for algae or bacteria, they frequently clog filters which reduces fuel flow and subsequently decreases a motor’s power.
The biggest single problem encountered in stored fuel is water and is always the first topic of discussion. However, it’s not just found in leaking or old tanks. When a common truck fuel tank pumps fuel to be burned in the engine, the space in the tank is replaced through a vent bringing in outside air. This allows moisture to be introduced into the tank. Temperature changes that take place from night to day or over weeks or months can cause condensation to form inside the tank. This water introduction gives organisms (bacteria) a perfect place to reproduce in your tank. This bacteria along with degradation forms solids in your tank which can clog filters.
Treating for these solids normally is recommended in the form of a “biocide” shock treatment. These shock treatments help resolve the problems you are having by killing most of the bacteria. They will likely NOT resolve the underlying issue though. A shock treatment rarely cuts to the actual organism producing the waste, nor does it remove the water in which they are living. The treatment tends to break the solids down to a “grit or sandy” byproduct which can be purged through your lines and get caught by your filter. Some of the remaining organisms oftentimes live under the film between the fuel and water sitting in the tank. Most of these shock treatments don’t have the ability to get to the true organism, cutting through and eliminating the film.
ULSD has a recommended shelf life of one year. A common B20 bio fuel (20% bio, 80% diesel) shelf life is 4-6 months. During the usual engine operation, trucks return unused fuel directly from the common rail fueling system back to their tanks, with already-changed qualities due to the high pressures previously mentioned and an increase of temperature to as much as 200 degrees. Your generator tank has sat without agitation for years. The tank in your yard gets filled monthly, but sits directly in the sun and has had microbial growth living in it for years. These issues are unavoidable, even when you buy a premium fuel from your local provider. That fuel was transported, offloaded through hoses, stored and reloaded before it hit your tank. Every step of the way its quality has changed, usually not for the better.
Fuel Additives CAN and WILL help with all of the above problems, and more. For example, the Fuel Ox™ additive with combustion catalyst is a diesel/gas additive that addresses every issue. Addressing issues such as water, stabilization, and lubricity with a concentrated ratio, it takes the guesswork out of fuel quality.
Fuel Ox™ when used regularly will eliminate the risk associated with having dirty or contaminated tanks, allowing your fleet to operate at its maximum efficiency.