Frequent diesel fuel filter changes and the expensive and time consuming task of cleaning diesel fuel tanks have become acceptable periodic maintenance instead of a warning signal for diesel engine failure. Diesel fuel filter elements should last a thousand hours or more, and injectors some 15,000 hours. However, since diesel fuel is inherently unstable, solids begin to form and the accumulating tank sludge will eventually clog your diesel fuel filters, ruin your injectors and cause diesel engines to smoke.
Clogged and slimy filters
Dark, hazy fuel
Sludge build up in tanks
Loss of power and RPM
Corroded, pitted injectors
The solids that form as the result of the inherent instability of the diesel fuel and the debris formed in the natural process of fuel degradation will accumulate in the bottom of your fuel tank. The sludge will form a coating or bio-film on the walls and baffles of the fuel tank, plug your fuel filters, adversely impact combustion efficiency, produce dark smoke from the exhaust, and impact performance. Eventually fouled diesel fuel will clog fuel lines and ruin your equipment.......................>>
Filter plugging can have several causes and often critical
consequences. For example, low temperatures can cause wax
crystallization, which can lead to fuel filter plugging. An example
would be using untreated summer diesel fuel in cold weather. Wax or
paraffin is part of the diesel fuel.
Contaminant build up resulting from excessive microbial growth and
bio-degradation of diesel fuel can cause fuel filter plugging.
Micro-organisms, bacteria and enzyme activity, fungus, yeast and mold
cause diesel fuel degradation and the formation of waste products. The
process is similar to milk turning into cottage cheese, a different
form of milk. Of all the microbial debris and waste products in the
diesel fuel tank only about .01% is "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.
Frequently, the application of a biocide aggravates the situation and turns bio-film into solids,
creating a real fuel filter nightmare. Bio film develops throughout the
entire diesel fuel system. It grows in the water-fuel interface and on
the walls, baffles, and bottoms of fuel storage tanks. An unlucky end
user may be filling up his fuel tank and getting this debris delivered
as a part of his diesel fuel, for the same price as the diesel fuel.
Chemical incompatibility may cause dramatic filter plugging. This
may happen when fuels with incompatible additive packages are mixed.
A diesel engine uses only some of the fuel it pulls from the tank.
All of that fuel goes through the high-pressure fuel pump and to the
injectors operating under enormous pressure and high temperatures. The
surplus fuel the engine is not using goes back to the tank. This fuel
is continuously re-circulated and exposed to extreme pressure and heat,
which results in the agglomeration of asphaltenes, the high carbon
content, heavy end fuel molecules. It leads to the formation of larger and larger clusters and solids, which are very difficult to completely combust. These solids may grow so large that they will not pass through the filter element. They become part of the polymer and sludge build up plugging the filter.
More than 90% of the debris on filter elements and the sludge in our tanks is organic material: fuel and oil breakdown residue. Adding biocide does not help!
In most cases, this debris is acidic and not good for your engine. It
causes corrosion in injectors, pumps and storage tanks.
In addition, the hot fuel coming back to the tank will raise the
fuel temperature in the tank, cause condensation and contribute to microbial contamination, fuel break down, bio fouling and the build up of sludge and acid.
Large fuel droplets and high asphaltene concentrations require
more time, more energy and higher temperatures to combust than is
available in engines during the combustion cycle and before the exhaust
valve opens. Any device in the fuel system exposing the fuel to stress
(heat and pressure) such as pumps, heaters, or centrifuges will
increase the formation of asphaltenes. If you have seen fuel
that has turned dark, or almost black, in comparison to clear, bright
fuel, then you have witnessed the results of this process. This degraded, dark fuel negatively impacts combustion.
The diesel fuel of today is not the same as what was available
years ago. Up until about 15-20 years ago, refineries used only about
50% of a barrel of crude oil to make distillates such as gasoline, jet
fuel and diesel fuel. The remainder of the barrel of crude oil went to
"residual oil" such as lubricating oils and heavy oils. Today, as a
result of different refining techniques and additive packages, the
refinery uses 85% or more of the same barrel of crude, which clearly
has consequences for fuel stability. In addition, new requirements of
low sulfur fuels further impacts fuel performance.
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.
Truck engines are used continuously and, in most cases, the tanks
"appear to be clean". However, a 2-micron filter element does not last
very long, in general 15,000 miles or less. It should be 30,000 miles or more. In the marine industry filter changes of 400 hours is in many instances standard operating procedure, while filters should easily last 1,000 hours or more.
Short filter life is quite remarkable realizing how "thin" diesel
fuel actually is and knowing how clean the tanks on most trucks
"appear" to be.
Short filter life is symptomatic of polymerization, increase in
the size of the fuel droplet, agglomeration of asphaltenes and the
formation of solids in fuel systems. The consequences are carbon build
up in engines and exhaust systems, higher fuel consumption and
The stuff that clogs your filters is actually fuel in some way,
shape or form. In excess of 90% of this organic debris are fuel
breakdown products. It is not sand, dust, stones, rust or in-organic
matter that blocks your filter.
The inorganic material like sand, dust and other particles will
not cause your filters to clog. In fact, a lot of sand in a fuel filter
would act as extra filtration. The pores between the sand particles are
much larger than the pores in a standard fuel filter element. Sand
filters are commonly used to filter water. A hair is approximately 40
micron and fuel filter elements range all the way from 30 micron for a
pre-filter to 2 micron in a fine filter.
Fuel stability is a serious concern for the diesel fuel user.
The chemistry of diesel fuel instability involves the chemical
conversion of precursors to species of higher molecular weight with
limited solubility. The conversion process often involves oxidation of
the precursors. Fuel solvency plays a role since the development of
insolubles is always a function of both the presence of higher
molecular weight species and the fuel capacity to dissolve them.
Fuel is an unstable, organic liquid that goes "bad". Your vendor
will always sell you the highest fuel quality possible. However, due to
a variety of circumstances fuel may have "aged", oxidized and/or may
contain water. It may have been contaminated before it was delivered to
you or to your vendor.
Fuel has to travel from the refinery to the end user destination.
It is pumped through pipelines, barged, trucked and stored in tank
farms. Changes in temperature throughout any given day and exposure to
the atmosphere will cause condensation and water in storage systems. As
a result, your fuel quality diminishes.
When your fuel is finally used, it is exposed to the heat and
pressure of engine injection systems, centrifuges, pumps, and heaters
causing an increase in asphaltene agglomerations, which negatively
impacts combustion efficiency and emissions.
Fuel is made to certain ASTM specifications and diesel engines are
designed and built to operate on fuels that consistently meet these
specifications. When it does not meet these specifications, we could
refer to it as "bad fuel". However, we tend to refer to fuel as "bad
fuel" when we see symptoms such as: •dark hazy fuel, •filter plugging,
•sludge build up in tanks, •poor engine performance, •excessive smoke
& •emissions, •etc. We refer to fuel as "good fuel", when it is
clear and bright. Or rather in that case, no reference is made at all
to our fuel. We simply use it and take fuel quality and peak engine
performance for granted.
Dark fuel is symptomatic of poor quality and even though, in most
cases, it can be used, fuel in this condition will provide poor
combustion and filtration problems.
"Dark fuel" is in general indicative of oxidation and that the
process of fuel degradation is in a far advanced stage. Hazy fuel is
indicative of water emulsified in the fuel. In general, dark hazy fuel
will not damage your engine. Howver, it does indicates poor fuel
quality which will definitely not provide you with peak engine
As long as fuel meets the (ASTM) specifications, it will perform
in your engine. Using fuel that is less than optimal quality negatively
impacts engine efficiency and accelerates the process that makes new
Diesel fuel can range from colorless to amber or light brown in
color depending on the crude oil and the refinery process used to
produce it. In addition, dyes may be added to change the fuel color for
tax identification purposes.
In time, stored fuel will darken due to oxidation,
repolymerization and agglomeration of certain components. The darkening
is accompanied by the formation of sediment that plugs filters and
causes poor combustion. Fuel & Oil vendors know what time can do to
fuel quality and suggest that if diesel fuel is stored for emergency
use, it should be replaced with fresh fuel within a year, unless
special precautions or remedial actions are taken.
The University of Idaho conducted tests on the life expectancy of
fuels to determine the timeline on degradation of stored #2 diesel
fuel. The results indicated 26% degradation after 28 days of storage.
Disposing of fuel and purchasing new fuel is a very expensive
proposition. Many larger companies, government institutions, hospitals,
etc. have the dumping of fuel and the purchasing of new fuel as
standard and accepted practice. Some systems are designed to dispose of
the degraded fuel into facility boilers periodically. But this, too, if
adequately analyzed, will show that this means of dealing with
the problem is deemed acceptable only because it is designed into the
system instead of addressing the root-cause of the problem.
The implementation of ALGAE-X Technology
eliminates these costly, wasteful, and environmentally unfriendly
dumping practices. ALGAE-X will preserve fuel integrity almost
indefinitely and can help you put in place good housekeeping measures
along with a quality fuel-monitoring program.