The Problem with Ethanol

phase separationWhat 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.

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