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The Low-Down on Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel Boat Fuel

Tammy Anstett - Friday, November 18, 2011
The Low-Down on Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel Boat Fuel - Anything to Worry About?

http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/SeaOct11_UltraLowSulfurDiesel.pdf

ALEXANDRIA, Va., November 17, 2011 - As a way to reduce particulate matter, ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), with only 15 ppm or less of sulfur, was mandated for use in most vehicles, boats and machinery as of December 2010. As a practical matter, however, ULSD has been around since late 2006 when 2007 model year vehicles with more advanced emissions control devices began requiring its use in cars. And since most fuel refiners don't have the capacity to offer more than one type of diesel, it's also been sold at marinas ever since.


During that time, the BoatUS Damage Avoidance Program has kept a close look out for any potential problems with the newer, environmentally-friendly fuel. Recently, the boat owner association's Damage Avoidance Program publication, Seaworthy, The BoatUS Marine Insurance and Damage Avoidance Report, investigated the issue and has these findings to share:

Lubricity: In diesel engines, having enough "lubricity" in the fuel is critical - without it, the engine would grind itself to a premature death. A lot of publicity has been given to ULSD because the process of removing sulfur from diesel fuel also removes much of the fuel's lubricity. Contrary to what some have said, however, lubricity is not a problem with ULSD. Minimum lubricity is a requirement of the ASTM-D975 diesel fuel standard and oil companies typically use a synthetic additive to return fuel to its pre-ULSD lubricity levels.  

Cetane: All diesel fuel must have a cetane rating of at least 40. Most regular diesel fuel has a cetane rating of 43 to 45, which should be fine for most boat engines.  The good news is that the cetane numbers remained the same with ULSD.

Gaskets: When the transition was made to low-sulfur diesel (LSD) in 1993, there were problems with leaking gaskets. Newer gaskets that resist leaking were developed, but there were some fears that the gaskets might not stand up to ULSD. After talking to numerous marina owners and engine manufacturers, leaking gaskets don't appear to be a problem.

Water and "Bugs": Microbial growth - bugs - need water to grow and have always been a concern with diesel fuel. ULSD holds less water than older, higher-sulfur fuels, which means that any water entering the tank is less likely to be absorbed and instead more likely to become a breeding ground for bugs. Biocides (and cold weather) kill the bugs but their tiny little carcasses pile up in funereal goo at the bottom of the tank. Tanks may need to be cleaned more often to prevent clogged filters and corrosion. The best defense is to keep tanks as full as possible (especially over winter storage) and keep a routine eye on the water separator.

Courtesy of NEWS From BoatUS
Boat Owners Association of The United States
880 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, VA 22304
BoatUS Press Room at http://www.BoatUS.com/pressroom 

 

Fuel Polishing question - Fuel Replacement

Tammy Anstett - Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Q: We have a number of diesel fuel tanks for backup generators.  We normally replace our fuel once per year and use very little during the course of a normal year. Our tanks are inside and never exposed to very high or very low temperatures. Does fuel polishing improve this replacement time? By how much? 

A: Yes, fuel polishing systems when installed correctly will prevent the accumulation of water in the bottom of the tank and extend the life of your fuel thereby reducing your replacement time.

Water at the bottom of the tank allows bacteria, mold and other biological organisms to live in the tank, feed on the fuel and create sludge. In addition, fuel oxidizes over time which creates the dark brown color that you see. This too can all be filtered out with a polisher.

(The use of additives such as ILFC Ten-35 should be added to the tank every time you fuel or every six (6) months. This will cause all water in the tank to coalesce and drop to the bottom as Free Water where the polishing system can remove it before bacteria starts to grow. ILFC is also a stabilizer and Cetane enhancer.)

You can easily extend the life of the fuel beyond two (2) years and in some cases three (3) years with fuel polishing. The ROI on a large fuel polisher would be one (1) year or less. 


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