What’s in My Fuel (Part 1)

TYPES OF CONTAMINATION

This is the first of a three part series on fuel contamination dealing with the forms of contamination commonly found in fuel. There are three broad forms: gas, liquid and particulate. Each of these offer varying degrees of potential damage to fuel and fuel systems.

Most do not see air as a contaminant, but it is. As a fuel system breaths, air brings with it a host of contaminants including bacteria, moisture, dust and particulates. Liquid contamination consists primarily of three types: water, fuel cross-contamination and acidic byproducts from microbes. The third form of contamination, particulates, include foreign particles like rust, scale and sand. Contaminates can also include components of the fuel itself that separate and drop out due to the aging and decomposition process.

The most problematic liquid contaminant is water. Unfortunately, all fuel contains water. The allowable limit is 0.05%. This is equivalent to 2.5 gallons water in 5,000 gallons of fuel. Because most fuels contain biofuel additives or blends, water creates additional challenges. Cross contamination is also an issue. There are few dedicated delivery systems meaning different fuels are carried back-to-back. The practice of switch-loading is common. Switch-loading takes place when one product is carried in the same container preceding another without cleaning the prior product. A common cross-contamination problem is ethanol enriched fuel (E-10) in diesel fuel. Acidic byproducts from microbial contamination and fuel aging are also a major concern.

There are numerous types of particulate contamination. Everything from rust to microbes. The types are too many to list. A majority include rust, sand, microorganisms and hydrocarbon components that have separated during the aging process. As a hydrocarbon ages, it breaks down. There are several forms of contaminants that separate as a result a few of which are:

  • Asphaltines are asphalt like particles found in crude oil. When fuel ages it oxidizes creating these byproducts. They are generally thought to be harmless because of their tiny size – 0.5 to 2.0 microns in size. During the fuel aging process the substance can stick together and on equipment or filter surfaces causing damage to both the fuel system and engine. Water is known to accelerate the formation of Asphaltines.
  • Wax crystals form in diesel fuel as a result of low temperature. During the winter months, additives are often added to fuel to change its low temperature characteristic. Without the additive, waxes will often form and separate, clouding the fuel and clogging filters. Engine and fuel system damage can occur.
  • Acid formation in aging fuel.

Each type of contaminant has the capacity to damage a fuel system or engine. Depending on the type and amount, damage can range from minor to severe. As fuel ages and is left unchecked equipment damage is almost certain. The shelf life of fuel is 3-6 months without some level of maintenance. If water is present, fuel will degrade faster. Both water and heat speed the process allowing for accelerated biological growth.

Contact Dixon Pumps for help with contamination control at 1-800-874-8976 or check out our CleanFuel website.

Fuel and Tank Cleaning Training

Over the last several weeks, I have been in the field training technicians how to clean tanks and maintain clean, dry fuel.  Fuel quality does not just happen all by itself.  It takes a trained fuel quality technician operating a quality filtration and cleaning machine to get the job done.  One of the ways Dixon Pumps differentiates itself among other fuel and tank cleaning equipment manufacturers is by providing in-field technician training. Take a look at the results of the last few training sessions.

 

We train technicians on the proper use of field equipment, giving them an advantage over others with little to no training. From learning how the machines operate, to proper site set-up as well as managing expectations.  Some of the biggest challenges happen in the field when a technician comes across something they have never seen before.  We help them to understand how common “new problems” can be in the field.  Alleviating fears and instilling confidence in the process and equipment they operate helps the technician to overcome obstacles that many never do.

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Our Mobile Tank Cleaning Unit, pictured above, is just one of several quality products Dixon Pumps manufactures.  We believe in manufacturing quality products that are simple to operate.  Combine this with the in-field training and you have a recipe for success. Let Dixon help you!  Give us a call or email us for information and pricing.

Tank Cleaning Field Report

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Do you know what lurks in your tank?  I spent the last week in Quito, Ecuador cleaning diesel tanks and training field technicians to do the same. Amazing what we found – microbial contamination, dirt, sand, deteriorated fuel and even a plastic bag.

20190109_130136Working at high altitudes, lifting fuel 16 feet at 9,000 feet of elevation was no easy task. Much less effectively cleaning fuel and tanks that had never been cleaned before.  Amazingly, we were able to clean three tanks in two days and the big take-away for all of my trainees were – expect the unexpected.  In my lifetime of working with fuels, I am constantly finding new things and learning.  Just when you think you have seen it all, something new comes up.

Using our Dixon Mobile Tank Cleaning Unit with a Gamajet nozzle, we were able to clean the tank walls then filter the remaining diesel for an excellent result. Contact Dixon for help with your tanks!

Coalescing and Water Separation

coalescing

The image above shows the progression of the product stream through a coalescer media. The emulsion is broken apart, filtering the solids, then forcing the minute water particles to coalesce (to consolidate or join up) into larger droplets. Gravity pulls the larger droplets to the bottom of the filter housing allowing it to be drained off during filtration. This is the first of two phases.

The second phase involves separation. A Teflon coated water separation filter is used to repel any fine droplets of water that happen to pass through the coalescer. This second stage acts as a secondary back-up forcing the water out of the product flow – not allowing it to pass through with the fuel. It works because Teflon is hydrophobic (literally, fear of water). The water repels off of the coated separator and falls down to the bottom of the filter housing.

Coalescence

Coalescer filters are designed to filter solids and separate two immiscible liquids (liquids that do not form a homogenous mixture – do not mix well). In this case, separating water from fuel. Dixon coalescing filters are made of several filtration layers designed to remove dirt particles prior to coalescence, thereby increasing filter life. Inner and outer layers are made of fiberglass impregnated with phenolic resin for added strength and bonding. Situated between these layers is a coalescing layer made of borosilicate microglass. Coalescer filters are commonly used in two stages along with a water separator to remove free and emulsified water from fuel and various types of oil.

Separation

In order to prevent carryover of small water particles pushed through during coalescence, a second filtration stage is used to ensure water removal. The separator is a cartridge placed between the coalescer and the outlet. The screen on the separator is a hydrophobic Teflon coated woven synthetic material which can be cleaned periodically.

Dixon’s new filtration products include coalescing and water separation.  Give us a all at 1-800-874-8976 or email at dixon@dixonpumps.com.  You can also check out our online store to order filtration suppliers or find out more.

Fuel Testing Basics

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Fuel testing is the only way to accurately verify fuel quality. There are many types of field tests and equipment available to identify problems. Field testing with instant or near instant results can provide a quick and responsive method for monitoring fuel quality. There are value tests available to measure water in ppm, acid number, microbial contamination and ethanol presence. There is also portable equipment designed to measure particulate contamination, water content, octane and cetane. The downside to the equipment is the cost.

  • Acid Number, Ethanol Presence and Water detections test kits are available that provide results within ten minutes for under $20.
  • Microbial Test kits take 48-72 hours to culture but cost less than $20. There are instant result test kits but they are much more expensive, priced over $175.
  • Particulate Counters are available to test fuel inline while filtering or portably from sample bottles. Results are instant and ISO certifiable for those critical applications.
  • Relative Humidity Sensors are also an option on the particle counters. They measure water in fuel.
  • Octane and Cetane Test Equipment are available but expensive to own.
  • Visual sampling is very important. Taking good bottom samples on a weekly basis can provide valuable information on what is taking place inside the tank.

Check out Dixon’s Online Store to order your supply of field fuel testing kits. They are simple to use and inexpensive. Consider the problem with bad fuel.  By simply testing your fuel you can avoid major expenses.

Testing Fuel for Acidity

acid number test

Acidity is one of the major indicators of diesel fuel quality. Diesel fuel that has degraded will have a higher acidity level and be out of spec. Understandably, high acidity damages both dispensing equipement and engines. Common damage includes pitted fuel injectors and premature failure of fuel system components.

An easy and inexpensive way to determine the acidity of your fuel is to field test it with one of Dixon’s field test kits. Order a simple Acid Field Test Kit today from Dixon Pumps Cleaning and Filtration online store. The test is easy to use and results are instant.

It Starts with a Sample

65-00100-1Fuel quality management does not just happen. It starts with a sample. Unless you know what is in your tank, it is impossible to manage its quality. The first defense against fuel quality issues is regular sampling. Ideally, take a good bottom sample from the lowest access point in the tank at least once a week – more often if deliveries are made.  If the sample is visually clear and free of water or large contaminants you can breath a little easier.  However, clear fuel does not necessarily mean clean fuel.  Because contaminates can be microscopic and still cause damage, they may not be easily seen with the eye.

field testsTesting can also be periodically done to rule out any additional issues that might not be visible to the eye during sampling. There are economical field tests available that can detect water, acid level, ethanol and bacteria. Lab testing is also an option. While more expensive, it will provide a more detailed analysis of the fuel.  For critical applications, this if very important.

Check out Dixon Pumps Online Store for easy ordering of fuel samplers, fuel test kits and other fuel quality management accessories. If you have a question, email us at dixon@dixonpumps.com or give us a call at 1-800-874-8976.