Thursday, 23 December 2010

Bio Diesel, the real worries – in plain terms.

In the past few years as the new directive regarding the use of red diesel has been in place, the forums and discussion have brought to light many new worries about the fuel we consume and the way we store and use it. One of the biggest issue appears to be the higher potential for water contamination and therefore the development of diesel bug.
Many of you will have suffered from water contamination or diesel bug in its mild or sever form, or at least know of someone that has, it may be that the general perception is that these cases have increased in the past few years, and it is easy to jump to conclusions and conclude that our fuel is becoming more susceptible to these problems.
RCR has been aware and treated water contamination and diesel bug for many years, and worked with Marine 16 to develop a product which would eradicate these problems at source.  We are a great advocate of the products as we know they work providing quick and effective treatment of water contamination and diesel bug blockages.
Marine 16 Diesel Bug Treatment is for sever cases of Diesel Bug, and will clear systems where fuel has turned to jellified slime, clogging the arteries of the engine, all ‘bugs’ are eradicated and dissolved. This product was independently tested by PBO a few years ago and was proven to be one of the best on the market. 
Marine 16 Fuel Maintenance Treatment  is the product that RCR uses and recommends for repeated dosing to ensure trouble free fuel issues. It treats  Diesel bug, water contamination and also cleans and improves engine efficiency and operation.
Although a mute fact now, the original discussions regarding the use of white/ red diesel raised a number of issues, the main being that white diesel is more refined and therefore less likely to suffer from the effects of water in fuel, diesel bug, and also runs cleaner therefore reducing coke build up and fouling of heater plugs etc.  Therefore there was an argument that even though paying more for the fuel the quality would be better and therefore the benefits could out way the costs.
However the final decision was taken and boater have been paying a higher premium to receive lower grade fuel to date. However this is all set to change with the new fuel directive, which due to the over riding requirement to have less than 10mg of sulphur per kilogram we will now see the introduction of road diesel to the inland waterways, which should have been a welcome transition.
 Unfortunately as Bio diesel is now being introduced in to road fuel the introduction on the inland waterways because of the storage and use has lead to a number of concerns.  These concerns have been addressed in the new Fuel directive, whish states that, following a survey only 25% of all suppliers will be using bio Diesel mixes, and therefore the perceived risk is minimal. 
The issue regarding how easily it will be to ensure that the diesel supplied is from a non Bio mix will remain and coupled with the 2p to 4p litre price premium could easily be over ridden by price conscious business and individuals. 
N&G Insurers have recommended that cover for failures caused by Bio diesel deteriorating rubber components may be difficult to prove and uphold as not due to wear and tear and therefore ultimately the following advice issued by the directive should be followed to ensure minimal damage.
If a FAME(bio diesel)-free supply cannot be secured then the following precautions are advised: 
Storage on land and onboard
Because of the changes in fuel quality, you will need to exercise increased care in the storage of sulphur free gas oil where this contains biodiesel. The following has been recommended by the UK petroleum industry: 
  • Remove all water from tanks and conduct monthly checks to ensure, as far as practical, that they remain free of water. 
  • Tanks that don’t already have drain points for removing water are likely to need modification. 
  • Examine sight gauges on older fuel storage tanks for signs of leakage and replace any leaking seals. 
  • If you are having tanks serviced before you receive the new fuel it would be advisable to replace fuel seals as a one-off precautionary exercise. 
  • Replace fuel filters after 2 to 3 deliveries/turnover of the new fuel. 
  • Ensure the content of tanks is turned over every 6 months or in any event no less often than every 12 months. 
The majority of equipment and engines supplied in the last 10 years should not have any problems with the fuel but a few precautions are recommended particularly for installations of older engines and equipment. 
  • Examine fuel systems following the switch to the new fuel and ensure that any seals or pipes found to be leaking are replaced. 
  • If you are having older engines and equipment serviced, replace fuel seals and fuel hoses as a precaution. 
  • Replace fuel filters after the first 2 to 3 tank fulls of the new fuel. 
  • The current specification for fuel hose to meet the requirements of the Recreational Craft Directive and certified against standard EN ISO 7840 for fire resistant hoses and EN ISO 8469 for non-fire resistant hoses. There is currently concern that these hose specifications have not been approved for use with bio-fuel and this should be checked with the hose supplier. 
  • Bio fuel is a very good solvent and may release accumulated sediments in fuel tanks. Although it may not be necessary to clean fuel tanks and fuel lines before using bio-fuel in the lower levels of 7% it would be good practice to monitor filter plugging and keep extra filters to hand. 
  • Some metals as well as rubbers and plastics are not recommended for use with bio-fuel particularly at high concentrations. Although not normally a problem at low level concentrations it is know that bio-fuel will ‘pick up’ metal such as copper. 
It is clear that some of this advice is impractical and will be costly and time consuming to the average boater and therefore is unlikely to be implemented by most, so it is likely that at some point we will all experience some of the issues highlighted. 
However Marine 16 have now launched there new improved version of their Fuel Treatment  product; Diesel Fuel Complete Treatment. This new product has been tested extensively and conclusively shows:- 
  • Improved cold starting.
  • Reduced white smoke on start-up.
  • Reduced engine noise.
  • Lowered regulated emissions, such as particulates, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.
  • improves engine lubrications, 
  • cleans and, removes carbon deposits, 
  • treats and prevents water contamination and diesel bug
Diesel Fuel Complete Treatment  not only treat more fuel 500ml per 500ltrs of fuel , providing you with the same benefits as its predecessor but will also includes additives to deal with some of the issues Bio diesel introduces.  Using the treatment on a regular basis will ensure that water contamination, build up of Diesel bug and deterioration of rubber seals is minimised and therefore offers boaters a practical solution to the new threat of Bio Diesel.