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Overcoming Fuel Storage Challenges

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Overcoming Fuel Storage Challenges

Idle equipment, reduced fuel use and low fuel prices are creating fuel storage challenges.

When stay-at-home orders were issued, you may not have been able to prepare fuel and equipment for an extended shutdown. Fuel is sitting in storage tanks longer than it normally would, and you may be using less fuel because equipment is sitting idle.  Fuel stability is a big concern.

“Gasoline and diesel fuel will oxidize if they’re not treated for long-term storage,” said Phil Hamilton, fuel additive manager for Schaeffer. “Oxidation causes the fuel to lose its performance. If that oxidized fuel gets pumped into equipment, it won’t burn as cleanly as it should. Gums and varnishes will form and plug up filters, which can starve injectors or plug up nozzles.”

Once that buildup is in the fuel system, it will lead to poor performance, rough idling and reduced filter life. Over time, engine performance will suffer, and more fuel will be consumed. In some cases, the buildup can cause injector systems to fail.

Low fuel prices are creating a different storage dilemma. Where to put all that excess? It’s hard to pass up a good deal, but the fuel shouldn’t be stored in any old empty container available. Otherwise, you could put your equipment at risk if the fuel isn’t handled correctly.  That cheap fuel could end up costing you more in the long run if you’re not careful.

“Make sure you’re using clean containers, and you know what was stored in them before. Cross-contamination can occur,” said Hamilton. “For example, if engine oil was stored in the tote, then the gasoline and engine oil are not a good combination in the combustion chamber. The gasoline doesn’t react well with the engine oil’s additive package. This can result in a buildup of calcium or magnesium, and that’s not good for the fuel system.”

When storing fuel, be sure to treat it and place it in proper tanks to preserve fuel quality.

Gasoline storage tanks—SoyUltra® is the answer
With the current situation forcing extended storage periods, you may need to double or even triple treat the gasoline with Schaeffer’s SoyUltra.

“What SoyUltra does, because of its advanced detergency, is to help fortify the hydrogen and the carbon bond for it not to oxidize,” said Hamilton. “SoyUltra offers strong oxidation performance, which is what you need when storing gasoline for longer periods.”

Neutra has been our go-to product over the years for gasoline; however, it’s better suited for older equipment. With the high-pressure injector systems on gasoline vehicles and those with turbos, SoyUltra is the better option. It uses the latest technology to meet the current designs of modern engines and fuels.

Today’s fuels may have at least 10 percent ethanol depending on each state’s requirements. Ethanol is a good octane improver, but it’s dryer than gasoline. SoyUltra increases the amount of lubricity in fuel to provide better wear protection to the fuel system.

Another downside to ethanol is that it doesn’t play nice with moisture. Water dissolves in ethanol. When moisture is present in gasoline, phase separation can occur—the water and ethanol mix, then sink to the bottom. The ethanol separates from the gasoline, which affects the octane level. Gasoline needs to be kept in a healthy storage environment that’s moisture-free.

“Schaeffer’s Tank Dry helps control moisture in gasoline, but you should only use it at the recommended treat rate,” said Hamilton. “More is not better with Tank Dry. The idea is to get a combustible gasoline/ethanol/water mixture to the cylinder. Double-treating gasoline with Tank Dry increases the chance of phase separation. You can actually break the surface tension and increase the amount of moisture to absorb into the ethanol itself, causing phase separation.”

Diesel storage tanks—CarbonTreat® is our top recommendation
Like SoyUltra, CarbonTreat was designed to meet the needs of modern equipment, particularly for oxidation stability. Today’s ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is subjected to higher pressures and temperatures than in older diesel equipment.

“If you have equipment that’s 2011 or newer, then we recommend using CarbonTreat,” said Hamilton. “CarbonTreat contains three times the detergency required by the industry to keep fuel systems clean, and it also adds lubricity back to the fuel.”

With the uncertainty of the economic downturn, it was hard to predict that fuel would be stored this long. School buses and equipment have been sitting for more than 40 days with diesel fuel in them, and it may not be until August before they’re started up.

Oxidation stability is a big worry because the ASTM D975 specification allows for up to five percent biodiesel to be called diesel fuel. Biodiesel can separate from the diesel itself—gravity always wins.

“The glycerin from the biodiesel, along with the oxidation of the diesel, can cause fuel filters to fill up prematurely. It’s called stiction, where the diesel and the glycerin oxidizes in the injector system, not allowing the plunger to actuate and put the fuel out,” said Hamilton. “You’ll notice a loss in power, hard starts, misfires and your engine control management system will send out alerts such as the check engine light.”

Your Schaeffer rep can help you preserve fuel quality and treat any issues that may be present. We recommend starting with the storage tanks used to supply fuel, as this will help gauge the fuel in the buses and equipment. A sample should be pulled from the bottom of the fuel tank and tested for moisture and bacteria. If any issues are detected, you’ll need to treat the fuel to eliminate the problem, then treat the fuel for long-term storage. Also, don’t forget about the fuel sitting in equipment. Chances are, if there are issues with the fuel in the storage tank, then the fuel in the equipment could have issues.

If your vehicles and equipment won’t be used until fall, you can either:

  • Treat the fuel in each vehicle or piece of equipment and let them run for a bit so the treatment mixes with the fuel.
  • Double treat the fuel in the storage tank, then fill each vehicle or piece of equipment full of fuel. Let them run for a bit, so the treated fuel mixes with the older fuel.

Even though we’re in the warmer months, you’ll want to treat fuel with CarbonTreat Premium Winter. The extended downtime may result in you running a summer blend of fuel in the fall and start of winter.

“Generally, the first freeze-up isn’t because of diesel fuel but rather any water in the tank causing icing,” said Hamilton.

When tanks are less than full, then moisture contamination is possible. Humidity and temperature spikes can cause condensation or tank sweat, creating moisture in the tank.

“Headspace is the empty airspace between the fuel and the top of the tank. Eliminate headspace by keeping tanks full, and you reduce the chance for moisture to get in,” said Hamilton. “Otherwise, any water present will sink to the bottom of the tank where you then have the potential for bacteria and fungus to grow. They live in the water, but they feed off the fuel.”

If left unchecked, bacteria can spread in storage tanks to areas above the fill line, where it can avoid exposure to biocide additives and create a persistent source of contamination. The bacteria produce a biomass sludge in vehicles’ fuel systems that can clog fuel filters, plug up fuel lines and cause serious damage to engine components.

Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants
Founded in 1839, Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants is a sixth generation, family-owned company that delivers the right solution to every lubrication challenge. Schaeffer’s products provide strong engine durability and fuel economy benefits, allowing you to maximize your equipment’s efficiency and increase margins.