Keeping stored fuels clean is more important than ever. Demands of newer vehicle engines, characteristics of changing fuels, government regulation, and industry practices all point to the need for good storage tank maintenance practices.
Newer vehicle engines
In order to improve fuel economy, newer vehicle engines have technically-advanced fuel injection systems. Fuel injectors create a fine mist, yielding more rapid combustion compared to the suction process of traditional carburetor systems. These new fuel injection systems are more precise, clog more easily and therefore require cleaner fuels. It is crucial to keep fuel injectors clean to prevent damage to the engine.
Government clean air regulations have driven the development of new, cleaner-burning fuels. Ethanol blended fuels, a rarity a few decades ago, are now used in every state in the US. Sulfur content has been drastically reduced in diesel fuels, down to 15 ppm. Biodiesel, a non-petroleum derived fuel, is commonly found in today’s marketplace.
All of these fuels are more susceptible to degradation resulting from water in the fuel. Water is more soluble in ethanol than it is in petrol, so ethanol blended fuels hold more water in suspension. Biofuels are also more susceptible to absorbing water from the air. The need to monitor and remove water in the storage system is more important than ever.
In an effort to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles, the US government now requires cleaner fuels and higher percentages of biofuels in vehicles. For example, reducing the amount of sulfur in diesel fuels has made them cleaner-burning. New government regulations have also mandated that automobile manufacturers improve the overall gas mileage of their fleets.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a proliferation of documents emphasising the importance of fuel storage system maintenance, and in particular, the need to keep water out of storage tank systems. The key factor is simple: fuel degrades in the presence of water, and today’s newer fuels are more likely to absorb water than fuels in the past. Water also increases the likelihood of corrosion of components, both those suspended in the fuel and those in the vapor space at the top of the tank, regardless of tank material.
To address industry, government, and consumer concerns about clean fuels, STI/SPFA offers R111: Recommended Practices for Storage Tank Maintenance for download free of charge.
Learn more February 24 at STI/SPFA’s Petroleum Storage Tank Maintenance Webinar.