How Do I Clean My Fuel?

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I’ve been handling my fuel the same way for years. Why should I change now?
You are not alone, with the exception of reducing sulfur content, fuel standards have not changed substantially in over a decade. Engines, however, have changed dramatically. In order for new equipment to run trouble-free, they require much cleaner fuel. This means an increased need for filtration. Manufacturers are insistent that damage caused by fuel contaminants is not a factory defect. Therefore, it is in your best interest to filter your fuel prior to use.

Shouldn’t it be my fuel supplier’s responsibility to deliver clean fuel?
More than likely, your supplier is delivering perfectly in-spec fuel. The problem is that fuel cleanliness specifications are woefully out of date when compared to the needs of the modern engine. Some distributors are starting to go the extra yard and filter fuel prior to delivery, but this is not an industry requirement. An additional note of caution: the term “clean diesel” can also be used when referring to ultra-low sulfur fuel. This is not the same as reduced contamination levels or fuel “cleanliness”.

How can I tell if my fuel is clean enough?
Testing is the only way to know how clean your fuel really is. Any reputable oil analysis lab should be able to help you with this, and here at The Fuel Professionals, we work directly with an independent laboratory who can provide you the results you need to make the best decision for your fuel system. Remember, engine manufacturers do not accept liability for damage caused by fuel contaminants, so the cleaner the better.

My fuel filters are plugging up really quickly; should I change brands?
It is important to use high quality fuel filters to protect your engine. In most cases changing filter brands will NOT solve your fuel problems. Remember, a plugged filter did its job. Rapid filter plugging is an indication that there is a problem with the fuel, not the filter. The key to resolving rapid plugging issues is to determine how filterable solids are getting into or forming inside your fuel tank, and then fixing the root cause. Switching to a lower efficiency filter, regardless of brand, will simply spread the problem throughout your fleet.

The injectors and fuel pumps on my new equipment keep failing; what can I do?
The first step is to speak with your Original Equipment supplier. If you suspect that dirty fuel is behind the problems, a simple test can verify your fuel cleanliness level. Make sure you put the cleanest fuel possible into your equipment and protect your engine with a high-efficiency fuel filter. This should eliminate injector and fuel pump problems due to dirty fuel.

Fuel is fuel, right? Why not buy from the cheapest source?
As with anything, you typically get what you pay for. Fuel is expensive, so it is tempting to minimize operating expenses by purchasing the cheapest fuel possible. While this fuel may meet minimum industry standards, that may not be adequate. Small differences in handling practices can have a huge impact on overall fuel quality and cleanliness. Saving a few pennies on your fuel bill may end up costing you far more in downtime, lost production and equipment repairs. Partnering with a good supplier is one of your best defenses against unforeseen fuel quality issues.

I already have a 10 micron filter on my pumps; shouldn’t that be good enough?
Having a filter on your pumps is always a good idea. However, as modern engines have evolved, they need fuel that is hundreds of times cleaner than just a decade ago. Technology, such as 10 micron filtration, that was effective a few years ago is simply not adequate for modern equipment. With high injection pressures and clearances of only 1 or 2 microns in HPCR fuel systems, much tighter filtration is needed. As a rule of thumb, the filter on your dispenser should be just as efficient as the secondary fuel filter specified for your equipment.

Biodiesel was just introduced to my area. I’ve heard horror stories. What can I do?
While biodiesel has many good qualities, it can be a challenge as it relates to filtration. Biodiesel acts as a solvent, so it tends to clean the infrastructure when first introduced, putting a stress on existing filtration. Biodiesel begins to gel or solidify at much higher temperatures than petro fuel, making it difficult to flow and filter in colder climates. And finally, biodiesel contains glycerin, which even in small quantities can contribute to rapid filter plugging. Your best strategy is to remove any solidified glycerin before it reaches your equipment.