Diesel Fuel: Keep Tanks Clean, Ensure Quality for Improved Power – DTN

    Diesel fillup on the farm. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Good fuel management begins in the fuel storage tank. Given tight tolerances for fuel in today’s diesel machinery, it’s important to consider the condition of fuel in your storage tanks. Keep the tanks clean and free of water. After the tank installation, it should be inspected twice, annually.

    Water contamination is a common problem. Condensation contaminates diesel fuel and allows microbial growth. Microbial growth feeds on the diesel fuel but lives in the water. High sulfur diesel fuel once killed this growth. Today’s low sulfur fuels don’t.

    Biocides will kill the microbes. But then, deceased microbes settle to the bottom of the tank, along with rust and dirt — each contaminate potentially the cause of plugged filters and injectors. Eliminate the water, and you eliminate fuel problems.

    Here are three ideas that will help keep your fuel clean:

    1. Check for water. As temperatures rise and fall, water droplets form both inside and outside of the tank. If you have damaged vents or hoods, water can also get into your tank during rainfall.
    2. Fuel tanks should be inspected seasonally, especially spring and fall. Monitoring equipment is available, including an automatic gauging system and a gauge stick covered with alcohol-compatible water paste that changes color when water is present.
    3. Develop a plan to manage water contamination. Above-ground tanks should be located away from areas where rainwater and contaminants could flow in. Inspect gaskets, hatches, vents and fill caps for damage. Check product spill containment buckets. If water is present, don’t drain it into the tank. Remove and properly dispose of it instead.

    Change filters. Filters should be replaced quarterly.

    Additional thoughts

    The machinery fuel system is a rough-and-tumble place. Diesel flows from the fuel pump into the common rail at 35,000 pounds per square inch. It moves down into the injectors, where the fuel is sprayed through the seven holes of each injector into the combustion chamber. Each of the seven holes is only twice the diameter of a human hair. Without a detergent in the fuel, the injectors can become plugged.

    So, good fuel management begins with the purchase of high-quality fuel with a high-end additive package. Does the quality of the fuel you buy meet the advanced needs of my equipment?

    Premium diesel delivers more power and better fuel economy than regular No. 2 diesel. Fuel tests have shown a 4.5% increase in power compared to a typical diesel fuel.

    Not all the fuel goes through the injector. If you find black fuel in your tank, that means an amount of recirculated diesel has been “coked,” or cooked. That’s not a desirable outcome. The heat has changed the fuel molecule. An injector stabilizer added to the diesel prevents coking.

    Qualities found in premium diesel fuel

    • High cetane number. Cetane measures a fuel’s ignition delay — how quickly the air and fuel mixture combusts. Higher cetane means a cleaner burn and faster start. That reduces battery wear, emissions and improves fuel economy. A cleaner burn means fewer regeneration (regen) events of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and the heat each regen creates. The DPF canister burns particulate matter, turning it into ash.
    • Lubricity. Diesel lubricants reduce the friction and wear of the fuel pump and injection components. These engine parts are under intense pressure. More lubrication reduces downtime.
    • Detergents. Detergents keep fuel and engine components clean. Detergents keep the fuel injectors clean.
    • Others. Additives packages also include demulsifiers to keep water out of the fuel; corrosion inhibitors that extend the life of injection pumps, and stabilizers that prevent the formation of gum or sludge during storage.

    Dan Miller can be reached at

    Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

    The Latest

    Send press releases to

    View All Events

    [ecs-list-events limit="5" key="start date" order="asc"]
    Send press releases to

    View All Events