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Ready For Winter?

As we’ve discussed before, diesel fuels have changed dramatically in the past few years, as has diesel engine technology. Each year we learn more about these newer fuels, how they perform, and what to be aware of. As we get ready for winter, I’d like to review some diesel basics — and talk about what’s new.

First Things First

Let me start by saying now is the time to get ready for the cold. Start blending #1 into your tanks now and get the blend into your equipment so it can work through the fuel system. You don’t want summer fuel in the lines on that first really cold day. One thing to note is that #1 isn’t the #1 we grew up with. Because of changes in the refining process, the new #1 is not as effective at lowering both the cloud and gel points as the old fuel used to be. It used to be that every 10% of #1 you added would drop the gel point by five degrees. That’s not the case anymore. Now it’s two degrees. So, where a 50/50 blend would drop your gel point by 25 degrees, now it only lowers it by 10.
This situation is made even more challenging by the fact that many of the anti-gel additives that have been on the market for the past 5 to 30 years have little or no effect on ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD).

Cold Clumping

A second consequence of the new refining process is a cold weather problem called “wax dropout.” This condition can occur when diesel fuel is cold saturated — where the fuel stays at or below a given temperature for 48 to 72 hours or longer. The wax will clump together and drop to the bottom of the container, plugging fuel lines until it is removed or
the fuel warms to the point that it can reabsorb the wax. Unfortunately, with ULSD the wax does not begin to reabsorb until the fuel reaches fairly high temperatures, which can make dealing with a gelled engine more challenging than ever.

Filter Fixer

More restrictive fuel filters coupled with the wax dropout issue, makes it more important than ever to change filters on schedule. And, we recommend keeping your filters as “loose” as possible. One possible solution for winter is to use a 40-mesh fuel tank strainer in place of a regular element. This filter will catch the larger particles without restricting fuel flow from your tank. Give us a call and we can help find the proper filter for your tank.

Keep It Clean

And finally, keep your tank clean. Proper tank maintenance helps insure the fuel supply stays clean and free of harmful contaminants in your storage tank. Removing water and other impurities from the storage tank prevents them from entering your fuel system where they lead to corrosion,
filter plugging and ice formation. It takes very little water in common rail systems to interfere with engine performance. Many times, a fuel filter full of frozen water can be mistaken for a gelling problem. Quality fuels, like Ruby Fieldmaster® and Roadmaster® premium diesel fuels, have a demulsifier added that will pull any suspended water out of the fuel to the bottom of the tank. With aboveground tanks, it is important to drain that separated water regularly — particularly if you tend to have fuel sitting in storage for longer periods of time.
A new product from CHS, AquaFighter®, simplifies testing for water buildup and provides a means to resolve the problem. It uses a dipstick test to check for the presence of water, then one of four filters (dependant on tank size) to absorb the suspended water. This helps prevent bacteria from forming in the tank.
Many potential problems can be avoided by a combination of good tank maintenance, using proper fuel, and cold flow additives. If you have questions about winter fuel, give us a call. We’re happy to help. ◆