The Four Fuel Fundamentals

As engine tolerances and clearances get tighter to comply with today’s stringent environmental and combustion standards, fuel management must become top priority in order to keep diesel engines running. Here are some tips to make your fuel last as long as possible.

Fuel Management

Follow these on-vehicle maintenance tips to keep your equipment running as long as possible:

  • Replace fuel filters at proper intervals with filters meeting exact manufacturer specifications.
  • Drain the primary filter as often as required. This separates free water from fuel.
  • Periodically drain water from the fuel tank
  • Keep tank debris screen in place
  • Periodically replace the fuel-tank breather
  • Use the proper grade of fuel for the ambient temperature

In addition to these basics, steps must be taken to ensure fuel cleanliness when fueling vehicles in the field. For example, when fueling, ensure that dirt and debris are brushed away from the fuel cap before loosening to avoid foreign matter from dropping into the tank. If portable tanks are used, mount them at an angle, with a drain at the low end to eliminate water. The pump pickup should also be kept out of the bottom quarter of the tank to avoid potentially drawing up water and debris that has settled at the bottom of the tank.

A further note on portable fuel tanks: They tend to be neglected. This poses a threat to fuel cleanliness in the field. Inspect for broken caps, make sure there is a filter between tank and nozzle, check out the to make sure the inside is rust free.

Fuel Storage

With respect to storage, fuel should be turned over as quickly as possible. This minimizes the chance of water mixing with the fuel, and inhibits the growth of microbes and bacteria. Use the smallest tank that is practical to encourage frequent turnover. The fresher the fuel is, the lower the risk of contamination issues.

If possible, bulk fuel should be stored inside, out of direct sunlight, and in non-galvanized tanks. This helps avoid temperature extremes that can cause condensation and microbial growth. Evidence has shown that diesel fuel reacts with zinc and zinc alloys to form unstable compounds. These compounds can then be deposited on an engine’s working surfaces, causing it to run rough and lose power.

Before fuel ever makes it to the gas tank of a piece of equipment, it should be filtered when it is received into a storage tank.  Filtering the fuel as it comes off of the truck ensures that the new product will not contaminate what’s already in your storage tank.

Fuel Filtration

In order to keep fuel clean when entering and leaving the storage tank, it should adhere to ISO 4406 contamination codes; specifically 14/13/11. This is a rating that is required by fuel-injection systems, and the numbers are codes classifying the number of particles that are 4, 6, and 14 microns and larger, respectively. When arriving, diesel fuel generally comes at 22/21/18. When dropping from code 22 to code 14, 4-micron and larger particles can be reduced from 4 million to 16,000. When you go from code 21 to code 13, particles are reduced from 2 million to 8,000. When fuel comes in at code 18 and is filtered to a code 11, the same 4-micron particles go from 250,000 to 2,000. 14/13/11 is the highest cleanliness level that can be measured in the field with instrumentation.

In order to achieve the 14/13/11 level of cleanliness, the type of filter selected matters. Filters can now be rated at 4 microns for bulk applications, and the flow rate becomes a function of the number of parallel filters used. This level of filtration was developed as the industry recognized the need for ultra-clean fuel.

Once the fuel is filtered and in storage, focus must shift to keeping water out of the storage tank. This can be achieved by using a desiccant breather, which removes moisture and airborne debris from air drawn into the tank.

Fuel Tank Cleaning

Diesel fuel tank cleaning is generally required when fuel contamination levels reach a critical level. This can manifest itself as filters plugging up at a higher rate than normal, or if governmental regulation requires it. Clean Fuels offers tank cleaning services to help you maintain your tank’s integrity. In order to clean your tank, Clean Fuels circulates the tank’s contents through a series of filters, after first removing water and sludge at the bottom.

When treating bulk fuel with additives, a biocide is generally recommended as good practice. This controls microbial growth, and should be used in addition to practices which keep water out of the fuel storage tank, as microbes will use the chemicals produced by the reaction of fuel and water as food.

If you have questions about fuel management, fuel storage, fuel filtration, or fuel tank cleaning, contact Clean Fuels Associates. We’d be happy to help!