Quality Fuel Maintenance

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
(Progressive Farmer photo provided by the manufacturer)

Good fuel management begins in the fuel storage tank, says Ron Jessen, director of product management and business development for Cenex, Eagan, Minnesota. Given tight tolerances for fuel in today’s diesel machinery, it’s important, he says, to consider the condition of your fuel in the storage tanks. Keep them clean and keep them free of water, he says. Inspect them two times, annually.

Water contamination is the most 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 deceased microbes settle to the bottom of the tank, along with rust and dirt—each potentially the cause of plugged filters and injectors. “Eliminate the water, and you eliminate the problem,” Jessen says. He offers three ideas for keeping fuel clean.

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. 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.

Prevent Water Contamination. 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.

Then, there is the fuel itself. Good fuel management begins with the purchase of high-quality fuel with a high-end additive package. Producers should consider this: “Does the quality of my fuel meet the advanced needs of my equipment?” Jessen asks.

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

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.

Not all the fuel goes through the injector. With a temperature of approximately 500°F, that fuel is recirculated into the fuel tank. If you find black fuel in your tank, that means the diesel has been “coked,” or cooked. That’s not a desirable outcome. The heat has literally changed the fuel molecule. An injector stabilizer added to the diesel prevents coking.

Jessen describes qualities found in a 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 dan.miller@dtn.com

Dan Miller