Water in Diesel Problem Becoming More Severe
By Steve Schultz
WATER IN DIESEL HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FOR NEARLY 130 YEARS, BUT WITH THE ADVENT AND INCREASE IN BIODIESEL USAGE, THIS WATER HAS AND CONTINUES TO GET MORE SEVERE.
There are hundreds and probably thousands of different products, additives, methods, procedures, filters and all manner of interesting ways people use to get water out of their fuel and fuel tanks before it messes up the tank or harms their machines. But one thing was always true; it was either expensive, messy, poisonous, environmentally-damaging, or all of the above.
Water is the root cause of most of the problems associated with diesel (particularly biodiesel), fuel tanks, machine repairs, and breakdowns. Speaking of biodiesel, it has up to 25 times the ability to absorb bound water when compared to petroleum diesel. And just think of the challenge that petroleum diesel can present. Multiply that by 25, and diesel maintenance can become overwhelming very quickly.
There are two categories of water: bound water and free water. Bound water is water that is physically and/or chemically attached to the fuel molecules and mixes into the fuel, most often in a concentrated layer or layers at the bottom of the tank. Free water is the water that falls to the bottom of the tank and is physically separate from the fuel. This free water creates its own layer, essentially like a pond, at the bottom of the tank.
Free water is a relatively easy fix as it can be drained from the tank, sucked out of the tank, or absorbed by using chemical additives or absorbents. Bound water, on the other hand, is not so easy. This bound water contaminates the fuel supply and cannot be so easily removed. Often it is just discarded as waste fuel, polished with big expensive machines, or foolishly ignored and allowed to fester or worse; run through engines doing battle with the metal parts that are ultimately realized as costly repairs. It should be noted that it doesn’t take very much water to spoil fuel. It takes only a few ounces of bound water in a 10,000-gallon tank to cause a problem that ruins fuel, causes tank damage, grows bacteria, and clogs expensive filters.
I refer to the problem area in the tank as “the bottom 10.” This is because most of the water and nastiness that forms in the tank is in the bottom 10 per cent of the tank. In some cases, the bound water is found all the way to the top portion of the fuel tank, but this is not typical and usually reflects serious neglect. In this bottom 10 per cent of the tank the demons of water in the fuel tank come to life. This part of the tank is often neglected because there is still good fuel being dispensed as the devil grows its way to your suction/pressure line.
The problems that are created here are the following:
Water Itself – Water itself results in in-tank corrosion, and delivering it through the pump to customers is an invitation to an angry customer and a bill for repairs. Too much water in fuel forces expensive fuel polishing and leads to off-spec fuel, which cannot be used or sold in many places, and shouldn’t be sold anywhere. And anyone who cares about their diesel machine and expensive consequences should never put this water-logged fuel into their tank.
Bacteria/Microbes – Bacteria and microbes are found naturally in everything, and this is also true with diesel fuel. However, water is the food and life sustenance for the bacteria to grow and form nasty mud and diesel bug that degrades the tank uses up filters fast and gets into customers’ vehicles to earn you an angry legion of customers. The bacteria also forces a tank owner to have the tank cleaned far more often than necessary, and it destroys fuel and forces expensive fuel polishing or fuel waste.
In summary, water cannot be avoided since we all live on planet Earth. And water is just a fact of air getting into the tank, and condensation builds up as a matter of course. Water can also come from a fuel delivery as the fuel companies must also deal with the same elements in their depot tanks, holding tanks, and delivery trucks. But it is important to be vigilant in controlling this water and preventing the grief, the money, and the downtime it causes. Because Ben Franklin had it figured out quite right, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Steve Schultz is a professional in the fuel industry helping companies improve their fuel management and tank maintenance. He believes it is possible to develop solutions that are environmentally responsible, less expensive and more effective than the many cumbersome, expensive and less than green products currently on the market. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.aquafighter.com to learn more about the work of DieselCare AS.