For years we have asked, and answered, the question “What happens in a tank?”, and for just as long we have been asked “What plugs up my fuel filters?”, and for years we acted as if they were essentially the same question, and they are with a few subtleties as you will see below when we answer them:
What happens in a tank?
How clean is your fuel tank? You need to know the answer because water, sludge and microorganisms can cause severe damage to the equipment that uses your fuel.
Tanks can become contaminated due to condensation, tank breathing and the fuel itself. Condensation is created inside the tank through temperature changes around the tank. Water from condensation produces the life support system for microbes inside the tank. These microbes cause the fuel to breakdown forming a layer of sludge at the bottom of the tank.
What is the "stuff" that clogs my filters?
Your inline filters are the last defense your fuel system has to protect your engine from fuel quality related failures, and is vitally important to pay attention to, to keep it from plugging and being the cause of your engine failure. So what causes filter plugging? The short answer is many things can, the long answer is included in the following list:
- Low temperatures can cause wax crystallization, which can lead to filter plugging. An example would be using summer diesel in cold weather. Wax or paraffin is part of the diesel fuel. An additive such as a Winter Fuel Catalyst with Anti Gel is the answer to that problem.
- Chemical incompatibility may cause dramatic filter plugging. This may happen when fuels with incompatible additive packages are mixed.
- Contaminant build up resulting from excessive microbial growth and bio-degradation of fuel can cause filter plugging. Microorganisms, bacteria and enzyme activity, fungus, yeast and mold cause fuel degradation and the formation of waste products. The process is like milk turning into cottage cheese, a different form of milk. Of all the microbial debris and waste products in the tank only about .01% are bugs. Even though microbes may cause and accelerate the process of fuel degradation, it should be clear that the waste products clogging your filter are not the microbes, but fuel components which have formed solids.
- The application of a biocide that turns biofilm into solids, creating a real fuel filter nightmare. Biofilm develops throughout the entire fuel system. It grows in the water fuel interface and on the walls, baffles, and bottoms of storage tanks.
- Poor thermal fuel stability can plug filters. Fuel will form particulates (solids) when exposed to pumps and the hot surfaces and pressure of the fuel injection system. This will result in an increase in asphaltene agglomerations, polymerization and a dramatic loss of combustion efficiency.
- Fuel systems, in general, are designed to return a significant proportion of the fuel, not used for combustion, back to the tank. This return fuel is very hot and will promote polymerization and fuel breakdown. Eventually, more and more solids from the tank will reach the filter and over time, plug the filter. These problems continuously occur in commercially operated engines, such as trucks, heavy equipment, shipping, and power generation, but will also appear in recreational boats, RV's and all types of fuel storage tanks.
So how can we help?
Eco Fuel Services offers:
- Fuel maintenance services that achieve filtration to one micron, and water removal to less than 200 parts per million and is intrinsically safe for use with all fuels. Our process returns all the fuel removed from the tank during the filtration process back to the tank, with all water and debris and sediment removed from the tank placed in DOT approved drums for your waste management to properly dispose of or we can remove it off-site as a Recoverable Petroleum Product (RPP).
- Can provide you with a dedicated fuel maintenance system that will maintain the cleanliness of stored fuel in your tank.