5 Easy Steps to Avoid Fuel Contamination
Put simply, your fuel supply is far more susceptible to contamination in the winter.
The combination of colder temperatures and wet weather increases the chances of contamination with water, particulates and bacteria in your tank. Each of these can cause damage to the fuel system and machinery, exposing your business to the risk of costly business downtime.
But maintaining your fuel’s health isn’t just a case of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. There are measures you can take year-round to minimise the impact of winter weather on your fuel supply.
How to reduce the risk of fuel contamination
1. Regularly check your fuel
Early diagnosis of any potential issue is paramount – as the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. During the colder months, you should check your fuel for tell-tale signs at least once every four weeks.
The visible symptoms include:
- Cloudy fuel
- Blocked or slimy filters
- Unusual behaviour with your machinery, such as stuttering or difficulty starting
- Evidence of rusting on or inside the tank
If you notice any of the above symptoms, or simply want peace of mind, a professional fuel test will be able to identify the following:
- Tank erosion
- Excessive water content
- System issues
- Unwelcome bio-matter
Important: When ordering red diesel, ensure that your supplier has switched over to winter-grade red diesel from October onwards – it has additives that make it better suited to the colder winter months than summer-grade red diesel (typically supplied between March and September).
Here at Nationwide Fuels, we automatically make the switch ahead of winter, but it’s always useful to check if you’re using another supplier.
2. Have your tank professionally cleaned
After tests, your fuel may show no signs of contamination. However, we still highly recommend getting your tank cleaned at least once every 12 months by an OFTEC-accredited specialist.
Over time, contaminants such as particulates or bacterial matter can settle on the bottom of your tank beneath your fuel. This sludge is hard to see when the tank is full but is easily disturbed and distributed through your fuel system and machinery through everyday use.
If you ever run particularly low on fuel, sludge can easily be pumped further into your fuel system and the other machinery it powers, which is when the real risk of machinery breakdown begins.
Issues caused by sludge in your fuel system
The most immediate issue is a notable reduction in efficiency. The performance of your fuel system will be negatively impacted by a build-up of deposits, much in the same way that the build-up of lint can cause a tumble dryer to work much less efficiently.
The result is you use more fuel to achieve the same energy output, whilst emitting extra harmful waste as a result of burning non-combustible compounds.
In the longer term, sludge and particulate build-up will cause irreversible damage to your fuel system and a greatly shortened lifespan if no action is taken.
The good news is that sludge can be removed relatively easily – call us on 0330 678 0880 to find out how we can help today.
3. Check the condition of your tank
If you’ve checked your fuel and there aren’t any visible issues, you’ve already won half the battle. Your next step should be to check for visible problems with your tank.
Your tank is going to be particularly vulnerable during the winter months, especially if it’s an above-ground tank with little to no shelter. Issues like rust damage and plastic perishing can be exacerbated by cold, damp and snow, turning them from minor concerns to costly problems.
Spotting these issues early on means your tank can be repaired or replaced before the quality of your fuel is compromised and even worse, your equipment damaged.
Plus, it’s important to remember your legal obligation to prevent oil leaks or spillages and environmental hazards through the safe storage of your fuel.
Important: Be sure to clear any standing water or snow from your tank in the winter months – most tanks aren’t designed to be load-bearing and the weight could cause damage to the tank and pipework. Standing water can also freeze, causing further damage to cracks or splits in the tank’s skin and rubber seals.
4. If your fuel is contaminated, take action immediately
You have two clear courses of action to rectify the situation.
You can have your fuel “polished”. This is performed on-site with limited disruption to your operations; the fuel is passed through a machine which filters out any contaminants and returns the cleaned fuel to your tank.
Fuel polishing isn’t a cure-all however; not all fuel is salvageable, and fuel that’s too contaminated or has deteriorated too much may not be polishable onsite, or at all. This is one of the reasons that steps 1-3 in this list should be followed throughout the year.
It’s not all bad news though. If your fuel is too heavily contaminated to be polished, we are able to perform a fuel uplift. We can efficiently remove the fuel from your tank, professionally clean your tank and supply a fresh batch directly to your tank in no time at all. We can also look at buying the unwanted fuel from you if it’s able to be reused at a later date.
5. Switch your diesel for HVO fuel
HVO fuel is a renewable, paraffinic diesel alternative that is produced through a highly controlled hydrotreatment process.
Because the fuel is a stable product, it doesn’t react with water and is, therefore, less susceptible to bacterial attack. This enables HVO to have a shelf life of up to 10 years as opposed to around 1 year for mineral diesel as long as normal tank cleanliness procedures are used during storage.
If you would like to further discuss your fuel’s health, get in touch with one of our experts today and call us on 0330 678 0880.