The summer months are a great time of year for many reasons. Sunshine, watercraft, dining outside, and conversations around the fire pit with friends and family. It’s also the perfect time of year to perform maintenance checks on your fuel–quality program.
Of course, any fuel-quality program of value begins and ends with the condition of the tank which stores the fuel. These vessels can vary from a 2,000 gallon skid tank, to a 10,000 gallon above ground, or underground tanks the sun never sees. Whatever the size and scope of your operation, summer is an opportune time to check what’s going on inside.
Businesses that rely on buying and selling diesel, commonly referred to as “jobbers”, typically have implemented the necessary protocols to make sure their money is being utilized the best way possible, maximizing the dollars invested in diesel fuel and maximizing the lifespan of the equipment it powers. Unfortunately, these businesses are in the minority of the proactive dealers already enjoying the benefits of a housekeeping program.
I wish that I could report that a portion of our tax dollars were being appropriated, in some way, to take care of the fuel our cities and towns purchased, however, more often than not, that doesn’t seem to be the case. States, counties and towns too often overlook fuel quality specifications of their fuel falling back on an RFP seeking the lowest price but not making certain they are buying fuels that exceed ASTM specifications. I don’t just mean fuel treatment. I’m talking about contamination from moisture and bacterial strains that create acidic environments which will accelerate corrosion and filter plugging.
Maintenance divisions, like public works departments do a lot of heavy lifting for the communities they serve. They repair roads, plow streets in the winter, clean parks and public spaces, and work tirelessly to make sure you and I can enjoy the spaces we occupy on a day to day basis.
Each of the hundreds of jobs any given DPW undertakes is driven by diesel. Yes, there are municipal vehicles that run on gasoline (pickup trucks, etc.) but the machines that bear the load of safety and crucial work are hefty diesel engines inside school buses, plow and trash trucks, and fire engines—that last one being of particular importance.
But the DPW Supervisor isn’t spending money on fuel, repairs, or the important steps of any fuel-quality program. It’s the town or city’s money, taxes, and the budget that dictates what any department will do. As a result, perhaps due to lack of understanding and education in fuel-quality, so many of the tanks that house diesel for the machinery used in cities and towns are quality compromised.. If an someone isn’t sticking the tank on a consistent basis to check for water, that’s a perfect example of a gap in what should be done. Most departments keep an eye on the electronic monitoring systems, Veeder-Root becoming the industry go–to analyzer which generates a valuable report that reveals “how much water is in the tank.”
To that I’ll say, “kind of.”
Veeder-Root systems and those like them will let you know when water is in the tanks storing your fuels, and no matter the level, water is a detriment to fuel quality. However, what is almost always the case is is the presence of “minimal” moisture in the bottom of a tank—enough to escape the Veeder-Root, and enough to house a considerable bacterial colonies that will take fantastic pleasure in procreating and excreting acetic acid through the wet and vapor space of the tank. And, if you didn’t already know, acetic acid is highly corrosive to steel. Not the best combination.
Understanding what is inside these tanks is the first step in helping your city or town get the most out of every gallon of fuel it purchases. The second step is recognizing that diesel fuel, gasoline and heating oil necessitates vigilant observation to be certain your equipment and storage assets are protected year round.
Many municipalities have become familiar with, and comfortable in, treating their fuels in the winter simply because they are seeking optimum cold weather performance when needed. Recalling my time in the field and conversations I’ve had typically center on winter fuel from a terminal that has been refined down to remove heavy waxes. This refinement to create “winter fuel” is important—they’re not wrong—but there is no protection from a chemical standpoint. There is no corrosion inhibitor, no stabilizers, no detergency to help injectors do what they’re supposed to do inside modern diesel engines.
I’ve heard some folks in charge of operations dismiss the idea of treatment, steadfast in their claim that it doesn’t work. I won’t get into a chemistry lesson but consider a swimming pool for a second. We’ll use the common summertime hallmark as an example.
Let’s suppose you put a new pool into your backyard. Once construction is finished, a large tanker truck shows up with clean pool water and fills you up. Before you know it, your extended family has come over and the hot dogs and burgers are on the grill. It’s a really wonderful day. Over the course of the next several months, you decide to do absolutely nothing to your new pool. After all, the water that the truck brought in was “good water.”
What does that pool look like in thirty days? Sixty days? Right. It’s green, contaminated, full of organic life, and you wouldn’t put anything you valued even close to it. And just like that pool, your diesel tank and fuel need treatment. The treatment won’t be chlorine, alkaline powder, calcium, or stabilizer like a pool would need—no, it comes in specifically formulated packages that are designed to protect the fuel, storage vessels, and the vehicles and machines the fuel touches.
This is important information. In your budget, you allocate funds for tires, filters, oil, rags, tools, and gritty hand soap. You’ve got “a supplier” for everything—someone you can call to lean on and provide you what you need. Recognizing that fuel is the single largest operating expense next to the vehicle itself, let me suggest that you consider forging a relationship with a field proven fuel-quality advisor. Call them a salesman if you’d like, but you will be a benefactor to be able to rely on someone with knowledge of chemicals and housekeeping strategies that will save you time and money while decreasing maintenance costs and increasing vehicle up-time. The best time to begin fuel-quality and treatment is yesterday. The second best time is NOW.
Barry Aruda is the Northeast Regional Territory Manager for Advanced Fuel Solutions. He spends his time testing fuel for analysis, recommending preventative defensive strategies, and working with dealers to overcome the challenges of housekeeping and changing technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 978-258-8360, ext. 310