WOW…. This sample was pulled from a fuel depot at a very large county school bus garage system. They called in a panic saying they had big increases in bus maintenance. The lead mechanic indicated that they could not keep injectors for their bus engines on the shelf. Buses that were almost new were breaking down. What was the cause – BAD FUEL! Fuel depots were surveyed and samples were taken of each tank. Not one passed. They were all just as bad as the next. One sample that contained bio-diesel had turned rancid.
Unfortunately, this is the story often witnessed. Unaware that fuel has a very short life span and is associated with an assortment of problems if left unmanaged, many tank owners and operators are experiencing the same problem. FACT – fuel must be managed! Water, contaminants and microbial growth are all a serious problem. If a fuel quality management program is not in place, then bad fuel will almost certainly cause catastrophic increases in equipment and engine maintenance resulting in failure and liablities.
First, take a good bottom sample of the fuel. If the visual sample is failing, then something must be done to clean the tank and fuel. Minimally contaminated fuel might be mediated with chemical additives. However, it is likely tank and fuel cleaning must be done which often includes a fuel additive or biocide. Check out Dixon Pumps website. We can provide you with the cleaning equipment and the training to take care of the problem. Don’t have a fuel sampler, go to our online store and purchase one. In need of biocides or quality fuel additives, we also sell Biobor products.
What is wrong with ethanol? Answer, nothing. However, there are complications or concerns when blended with fuel. Equipment compatibility is the first thing that comes to mind. Soft metals like zinc or brass may not be compatible in fuel levels containing more than 10% ethanol. Sealants, adhesives, polymers and fiberglass can all have compatibility problems with ethanol.
While ethanol blends well with fuel, it also mixes well with water. If water is available, it will attach itself to ethanol. If there is enough water present, then the water will drag the ethanol out of the fuel. Known as phase separation, the problem exists and creates regular problems with fuel system operators. Filtration and correction is possible but it can be costly and time consuming.
Ethanol also accelerates corrosion on steel fuel system components. One would think this is only a problem with gasoline, but diesel systems have the same issue. The 2016 EPA study on corrosion identified ethanol cross-contamination in over 90% of its diesel samples. The problem is so serious that there have been an unprecedented increase in low flash reports among those sites inspected by the state of Georgia.
What is the answer? The answer is diligence. The tank owner must have a fuel quality management program in place that includes regular fuel sampling, fuel testing and cleaning. If you do not have a program in place, contact Dixon Pumps and ask the experts what needs to be done.
In an emergency, no one wants to hear the sound of a generator system choking just as it begins to run. Unfortunately, this often happens. Maintaining generators require more than basic engine maintenance. Fuel quality management must be at the forefront of a generator maintenance program.
One of the burgeoning methodologies is a risk management approach. This is a holistic approach to managing fuel. What are the main risks with fuel? There are four:
- Operational Risk – not managing fuel quality carries the risk of operational downtime and losses. When the power goes off due to bad fuel, the most obvious risk is operational.
- Reputational Risk – sustained power loss can become a reputational problem with any organization and the individuals responsible for maintaining power. If fuel quality is not at the forefront of the maintenance management then the loss of reputation is likely.
- Health and Safety Risk – no doubt that the loss of power posses a health and safety risk to those effected. This is especially true in the emergency management and healthcare sectors.
- Value Risk – there is finally a financial risk due to ignoring fuel quality.
So what does a risk management approach to fuel quality management look like? There are several steps that must be taken starting with sampling and testing.
- Define the risk – the first step requires regular fuel sampling and testing. Only this will determine the risk. Sampling and testing identifies the level of contamination in the fuel. Identifying the initial risk and the ongoing trend of fuel quality is the first step in determining the program needed to holistically manage fuel.
- Develop a path to fuel quality – this involves using best practices including regular sampling, fuel testing, system inspections and water management.
- Determine how big your problems are – from visual samples and microbial testing, the breadth of the problem can be determined. Is the microbial infection minimal; is it moderated; or is it severe? Being able to measure the level of severity will determine to course of action to be taken.
- Identify who and what is at risk – if microbial contamination levels are severe then the chances of engine failure are very high. Maintenance costs rise dramatically and fuel efficiencies drop considerably. Rising costs are not the only risks. The more contaminated fuel becomes, the higher the liabilities.
Risk reduction management begins with sampling and testing first. Sample and test data helps build a model that enables accurate need assessment and proper maintenance responses. With this data you will know when, where and how to deal with fuel quality issues while reducing costs and liabilities.