Emergency Power System Failures at
Drinking Water Treatment/Distribution
and
Waste Water Treatment/Collection
Systems due to
Degradation of Diesel Fuel in Storage

Backup Power is Critical During
3-sigma events

Symptoms...

  • Clogged and Slimy Filters

  • Dark, Hazy Fuel

  • Floating Debris in Tanks

  • Sludge Build-up in Tanks

  • Loss of Power and RPM

  • Excessive Exhaust Smoke

  • Corroded, Pitted Fuel Injectors

  • Foul Odor Emitting from Fuel Tank

Redundant pumps and other components, advanced monitoring capabilities, automated communication, and back up power systems are an important part of every municipal public works contingency plan and common at todays drinking water and sewer treatment facilities as well as far-afield water tower sites and sewage collection lift stations. But when the primary power source is interrupted by weather events, power company equipment failures or damage to electric distribution facilities by purposeful or accidental human (or other animal) intervention, the dependency on a backup power source will be the only means of keeping these critical systems operating. Hence there is little argument about whether a secondary, or backup, source of power is needed to maintain an acceptable level of uptime operation.

An important design factor in backup power systems is determining the finite period (i.e.: 12 hours) allowing for time to bring in repair crews to get installed equipment back up and running. However, some events can extend for a much longer period such as when replacement components are not readily available or a three-sigma event occurs. This duration of dependence on backup power may not be an issue if the secondary power source is powered from natural gas that is readily available (notwithstanding locations within earth quake zones), but diesel fuel dependent backup power would contemplate re-fueling, assuming access is maintained. Certain facilities such as sewer lift pump stations, typically are located at the lowest geographic point of a collection system, may be in or surrounded by flood water and inaccessible for re-fueling. Such facilities must incorporate sealed tanks, raised vents and elevated facilities to assure high flood waters do not compromise the operation of backup power generators.

Serious problems occur, however, where a component of the backup power system is taken for granted. Regular preventative maintenance of mechanical equipment is common, but what about the diesel fuel in the storage tank? The introduction of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) to on-the-road diesel powered equipment in 2006 saw many unexpected problems with fuel stability and fuel system component lubrication, but many off road applications did not see the issues with ULSD until the final transition of off-road fuel requirements that occurred in 2014.

Today’s ULSD lacks the extended shelf life diesel fuel enjoyed in the past. According to Caterpillar, under normal storage conditions when today’s diesel fuel is stored at temperatures no higher than 68 deg. F (20 deg. C), diesel fuel can be expected to stay in usable condition for 12 months from the time the fuel leaves the refinery. Biodiesel, or diesel fuel stored at higher temperatures can deteriorate to unusable condition in as little as 6 months.

Fuel Clarity Comparison

Generator fuel tanks, in most cases, may "appear to be clean". Standard generator preventative maintenance often includes periodic running of the generator monthly or quarterly, but other than a visual check, monitoring the quality of the fuel or cleanliness of the fuel tank is missing from the checklist. Generators not run under full load during these periodic checks will not display the symptoms of clogged fuel filters and degraded fuel (See Symptoms of Bad Diesel Fuel above). But when the primary power is lost, the backup power needs to come up to 100% quickly and operate at full load, and respond reliably.

Generator filter changes of once each year, whether-they-need-it-or-not, is in many instances standard procedure. Unfortunately, having minimal or no run time under full load on a filter results in the inspection of the filter not showing the most common symptom of fuel degradation and contamination, a black, slimy clogged fuel filter.

A unique problem with backup power applications is that when there is an anticipated event that may call for use of backup power, such as an impending hurricane or similar weather event, fuel tanks are topped off to assure that fuel is available for the planned duration that the design specifications require of the generator. But the act of topping off a tank will stir up the long settled contaminants, water, and particulates from the tank bottom and make it readily available when the generator is called upon. Twenty minutes after initial start-up, the filter becomes clogged. All the dry runs during maintenance cycles did not show the presence of these contaminants in the storage tank.

Inspection of a fuel sample is critical. Fuel that has changed in appearance from clear and bright to dark, possibly brown or even black, is symptomatic of fuel polymerization, an increase in the size of the fuel droplet, agglomeration of asphaltenes (the fuel appears dark, even black, and fuel filters are black) and acids and solids form in the fuel systems (compromising fuel injector operations and life). The consequences are carbon build up in engines and exhaust systems, higher fuel consumption, excessive exhaust smoke and damage to injectors from corrosion.

Contaminated Fuel

The stuff that would clog your filters is actually fuel in some way, shape or form. In excess of 90% of this organic debris is fuel breakdown products. It is not sand, dust, stones, rust or in-organic matter that blocks your fuel filters and corrodes (and shortens) the life of fuel injectors. Filter plugging, often the first symptom of a problem, 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 and cold temperatures crystallize these fuel components. This can be quickly treated by changing to winter grade fuels or by using an additive made to lower the fuel pour-point and improve cold flow properties. Some backup power equipment uses heaters to maintain diesel fuel temperature at an acceptable minimum operating temperature at all times.

But contaminant build up resulting from excessive microbial growth and bio-degradation of diesel fuel can cause fuel filter plugging without regard to temperature or how long the fuel has been in storage. 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. (To understand The Real Story of Bad Diesel Fuel, check out the article at www.diesel-fuels.com web site). Of all the microbial debris and waste products in the diesel fuel tank only about .01% is "bugs". The slimy coating on fuel filters, sometimes visible in diesel fuel tanks, that is sometimes referred to as "algae" is not algae at all, but a byproduct of the growth of the microbial population in the fuel. 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. These waste products can float in the fuel, being visible when looking into a fuel tank, but also coat the sides, bottom, baffles, and even top of the tank - wherever the fuel touches. Most service personnel are quick to recommend the application of a biocide product to the fuel to address the problem.

Unfortunately, by the time you realize you have a problem, the effectiveness of biocides are limited. If a heavy bio-film has accumulated on the inside surface of the tank or other fuel system components, the biocide may not be able to penetrate to the organisms living deep within the film. You may see short term relief, but the problem quickly returns as the remaining organisms further reproduce.

Frequently, the application of a biocide aggravates the situation and turns bio-film into solids, creating a real fuel filter nightmare. The introduction of biocide into a fuel tank results in the organic materials turning into a grit that settles to the tank bottom. Then, each time you re-fuel, these materials are stirred up and find their way into your fuel line. As a further complication in the use of biocides, the removal of water from a tank bottom that was treated with biocides must be disposed of appropriately because biocides are toxic. For this reason, we do not recommend the use of biocides.

Although bio-film develops throughout the entire diesel fuel system, most microbial organisms need water to grow, and the bio-growth is usually concentrated at the fuel-water interface in the bottom of the tank. The organism colony feeds from nutrients in the diesel fuel additives. It takes time for the organisms to grow to produce enough acidic byproducts to accelerate tank corrosion or biomass sufficient to plug filters, so a problem may not show itself for months. If you have a problem now, its genesis was likely 6 or more months ago!

It should be no surprise when there is a failure in engine components on equipment that is under a manufacturer’s warranty that the dealer representative would take a sample of the fuel in the supply tank. Although much of what has happened to your fuel occurred before you took possession of it and is out of your control, your investment is at risk if the engine component failure is the result of bad diesel fuel.

MTC-X Cart Mount Tank Cleaning System

Cart Mounted MTC-X Mobile Tank Cleaning System

All major diesel engine manufacturers have set minimum fuel standards for the diesel fuel to be used in their engines, and failing to maintain the fuel that you use in a manner so that it meets those standards could lead to engine component failures and denied warranty claims. As an example, Caterpillar has published "Cat Commercial Diesel Engine Fluids Recommendations" (SEBU6251-17 September 2014 [a more recent version may be available]) that states "In order to meet expected fuel system component life, 4 micron absolute or less secondary fuel filtration is required for all Cat diesel engines that are equipped with common-rail fuel systems." (Page 34) You should not assume that fuel being delivered to you meets the manufacturers requirements, and certainly fuel that has been in your storage tank or fuel distribution equipment for an extended period of time may not meet requirements of diesel engine manufacturers. Additional cleanliness standards apply to diesel fuel. Caterpillar recommends that the fuel dispensed into the machine tank meets "ISO 18/16/13 cleanliness level." (Page 49). For more information on fuel cleanliness specifications and requirements, see the article entitled  Diesel Fuel and Injector Failures on this web site.

If you are depending solely on the engine manufacturer’s 4-micron filter to keep your diesel fuel in optimal condition and protect the warranty on the engines in your backup power generator fleet, you are looking to the manufacturer’s last line of defense as your only defense.

The fuel you depend on should always be in optimal condition as the ultimate costs paid for fuel degradation and contamination is paid for by the equipment owner. AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems assure your fuel is in optimal condition at all times, and maintains your diesel fuel in storage in top condition, theoretically forever.

AXI International provides a variety of Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems that will fit the needs of a Fuel Management Program that may be instituted in any enterprise. With widely distributed equipment on numerous plant sites, cart mounted systems that provide high volume tank cleaning and fuel polishing are usually the preferred tool. In permanent tank installations, automated systems may be better suited to a sizable fuel tank.

If your fuel already is showing the symptoms of degradation, all is not lost. Clogged filters, dark and hazy fuel, floating debris in tanks, sludge build up in tanks, equipment that shows signs of lost power and RPM, excessive exhaust smoke, or foul odors coming from your fuel tank can all be reversed without the need to incur the cost associated with disposal of the fuel (and the cost of replacing the fuel). In some instances, the cost of the Tank Cleaning and Fuel Polishing system is recovered by avoiding the cost of disposing of existing contaminated fuel.

MTC-X Cleaning Cylindrical Fuel Tank

Treat the core problem, don’t just treat the symptoms of bad fuel. AXI Systems will Polish your fuel and return it to that clear and bright condition it had when it left the refinery, and the fuel tank will become a clean and reliable fuel storage asset.

AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems are true Fuel Polishing systems. Don’t be mislead by claims that a system that merely circulates your diesel fuel through a set of filters, augmented by a heavy dose of a biocide fuel additive, will condition your fuel, clean your tank, and solve your problems. The Fuel Conditioner is the heart of our Fuel Polishing Systems and a critical component of the fuel polishing process. Operating on the principal of induction on the process of combining kinetic and magnetic energy to influence the behavior of electrons, the Fuel Conditioner provides a powerful magnetic field and the flow of fuel provides the kinetic energy. As fuel deteriorates, clusters of fuel components break down and residue begins to accumulate, resulting in dark, hazy fuel with poor combustibility. The increase in size and mass of the fuel breakdown products lead to clogged filters and the build up of tank sludge. The Fuel Conditioner dissolves the clusters, stabilizes the fuel, and eliminates tank sludge. The results are Clear & Bright Fuel, improved filterability, optimal combustion and clean fuel systems. The process of how the Fuel Conditioner makes clear, bright and more combustible fuel as well as restoring degraded fuel and eliminating the effects of microbial contamination is compelling.

STS 6010 10-GPM Tank Cleaning System

Automated Tank Cleaning System

Review the Real Story of Bad Diesel Fuel article on this web site to understand what is really happening in your fuel tank. AXI Fuel Conditioning and Tank Cleaning Systems, all of which incorporate the AXI patented Fuel Conditioner as the core component of each System, are designed and built in the USA to reverse these problems with degraded fuel and fuel contaminated by microbial or fungal growth. To understand the significance of this Fuel Conditioner in the process of restoring and maintaining diesel fuel and how it contributes to the most critical part of fuel polishing, review the Technology Explained article on this web site.

Pecuniary, Inc., is an authorized manufacturer’s representative for AXI International, Inc. The www.diesel-fuels.com web site provides users of diesel fuel with comprehensive information on the use and maintenance of diesel fuel and offers an extensive line of Tank Cleaning and Diesel Fuel Conditioning equipment.

Our own AFC Diesel Catalyst and Tank Cleaning Additives AFC-705 and AFC-710 (Tier 4 Compliant) work hand-in-glove with the Tank Cleaning and Fuel Conditioning Systems to clean the tank. Unlike so many other diesel fuel additives available at every truck stop, these additives are specifically formulated to begin the dissolving process of the organic debris that attaches itself to the inside of your fuel tank and fuel system. As the Tank Cleaning system circulates the fuel, the movement of the fuel alone is not enough to break this debris free from its moorings. AFC puts the sludge and this organic material into solution with the fuel so as it is circulated the Fuel Conditioning system can do its job.

Other products offered are critical to preventing water from accumulating in your fuel tank. We have Water Finding Paste to periodically determine the extent of water accumulation in your tank, Fluid Sampling Equipment for obtaining fuel samples from your fuel tank, Liqui-Cult Fuel Testing Kits for testing your diesel fuel for microbial contaminants, the Water Eliminator for removing water accumulation from fuel tanks bottoms, and Desiccant Breather Vents for preventing water from being drawn into tanks by way of vent piping, all critical to managing your stored fuel. All products are available on-line and can be purchased utilizing the secure online shopping cart.

Contact us to discuss your diesel fuel maintenance requirements. Since 1996 we have helped individuals and companies identify and solve existing and potential fuel problems, removing that last weak link from enjoying uninterrupted peace of mind.