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When To Treat For Cold Flow: Navigating Diesel's Seasonal Challenges
As winter beckons, a prudent eye turns towards the fuel tanks and the specter of cold flow problems that lurk in the...
Fuel professionals and businesses that rely on stored fuel know there are problems they have to deal with. Today’s fuel isn’t what it used to be and there’s nothing they can do about it. But that’s not to say there aren’t effective solutions (and ways to predict/detect problems) to address those fuel and tank problems at hand and eliminate the associated headaches.
Whether they store the fuel for their own business use (like fleets, utilities, or critical-use installations) or provide services for a customer base that stores fuel of their own (like fuel polishers or generator service companies), they need to know what their options are for fixing those problems and minimizing their impact on their business.
If you’re a “direct fuel storage” company, you store the fuel for your own use. Any problems that arise with your storage tank and stored fuel have a direct impact on how you do business. You need to make sure the fuel quality lasts as long as you need it to. You don’t need unexpected equipment shutdowns from microbial growth in your storage tank. You want to protect your storage tank from corrosion damage, especially the kind of vapor phase corrosion damage that’s increasingly being seen in the last ten years. These are just some of the issues you either have personal experience with or will have a high chance of seeing at some point in the near future.
Maybe your business involves servicing other people’s engines and equipment that use stored fuel. You might even be a fuel distributor who provides the fuel they use. Now you’ve got a whole new realm of concern – how these kinds of fuel problems (that your customers are battling) will indirectly impact your business and your relationship with those customers.
If you do provide fuel, making sure the fuel you supply is problem-free is Job #1. If your customers have fuel storage tank issues, there’s a chance those are going to adversely affect the fuel you put in their tanks. People never look at themselves first when they’re assigning blame for a problem. They look at people like you. It wasn’t their tank, it was your bad fuel. Same deal if you service engines and equipment. Your customers’ stored fuel problems are now your own, whether you like it or not.
Luckily, there are solutions and best practices that can minimize their impact. Do you know what they are? If not, you’re not alone. Why would you be expected to be intimately familiar with the intricacies of stored fuel optimization?
In the 100+ years, we’ve been solving fuel problems, these are some of the short and dirty answers we’ve found.
Water in your tank = bad news – When you check your tank and find the presence of a water phase in the bottom, it’s a sure sign those microbe problems may not be far behind, because microbes can easily establish themselves once they have any amount of water in the tank.
Changes in filter change frequency – Microbes in storage tanks form biomass and other contaminants that easily plug filters. Any sudden change in the frequency with which you have to change your fuel or tank filters is a sure sign that something in there isn’t as it should be.
Corresponding changes in engine performance – Monitoring of equipment performance is central to any business’ operating plan. You know what to expect from your trucks and generators. If the fuel usage suddenly increases or the equipment/engines aren’t operating the way they used to, something is causing that. it’s time to look at the fuel in your storage tank.
There are other signs you can point to in addition to these. When you recognize any of these, you know it’s time to take action to head off a developing fuel problem.
And that means you need to know not only what your options are, but what the best option is and why it’s the best one for you.
The best options will be highly effective at fulfilling their benefit claims while being cost-effective. Keep in mind that cost-effectiveness can also mean high ROI. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best solution in the world if you can’t make room for it in your budget.
The most commonly seen fuel and tank problems - poor fuel storage life, tank corrosion damage, microbial growth in fuel and fuel tanks – those situations need solutions. For businesses relying on stored fuel, ensuring equipment reliability is paramount. A breakdown due to inadequate fuel during a crisis outweighs minor maintenance inconveniences. The risk of emergency generators failing when needed keeps managers and owners concerned.
Service companies place credibility with customers above all else because it's the most important thing. Reducing re-treatment service calls is crucial, as revisiting fuel storage sites for unexpected microbe or sludge issues costs time and money. Avoiding unnecessary service calls stemming from having to fix or re-fixnfuel-related problems is essential.
The right solutions prevent these issues, based on established industry best practices that distinguish effective approaches from ineffective ones.
Yet companies and stored fuel users considering all of this face yet another big hurdle - Not having the time to worry about whether they’re really doing the best thing for their fuel. Not having the staff and personnel resources to implement best practices properly. They’re too busy getting business done to worry about what’s not a crisis in the here and now. And they may not have the intellectual capital to know what the best options are and are not – a fancy way of saying they’re experts at what they do, they’re not experts at improving stored fuel and preventing fuel problems.
The microbe presence in storage tanks is such that they rarely get addressed before big problems become a reality. For many years, even if you knew with certainty you had a microbe problem, the only way to know for sure (and to know if whatever you tried to do for a solution had eliminated it) were either clunky and unreliable dip slide tests or expensive lab tests that would have you waiting weeks for results. Luckily, this undesirable situation looks like it's getting ready to change...
The best options – what we might also term Best Practice Options - usually have some kind of prevention element built into them. People are predisposed to preferring fixed costs over the uncertainty of greater, but undefined, savings. It’s part of the psychology of spending money (buying decisions). People are less likely to want to spend money now to prevent or keep something from happening – to keep it unseen. Success there is when nothing happens.
It’s also a fact proven out time after time – prevention costs less and causes fewer headaches than a cure. It can cost $14,000 or more to polish and fix a stored fuel problem in a medium-sized tank. Compare that to less than $1,000 for preventive maintenance, including ASTM testing and preventive chemical treatment, to prevent the problem in the first place. Plus, factor in the headaches and the secondary expenses that, now, won’t happen because the business was smart to spend a little on the preventive side. Preventive maintenance programs for fuel – Fuel PM – are the smart option that saves money in the long run.
Fuel PM also provides budgetary certainty that’s a tangible value for businesses. We expect to have to spend money to keep equipment running at its best. Nobody runs a fleet and never changes the oil or fluids. Nobody spends thousands on a backup generator without expecting to include an additional small cost for a service contract to ensure it works in top form when needed. Why wouldn’t you do the same for your stored fuel?
Prevention is always easier when you have access to the right tools and knowledge.
The value of these solutions varies by industry. If you store fuel, they ensure equipment runs smoothly. For critical-use fuel, the value is even higher due to higher failure costs. Servicing customers benefits from proper fuel performance. The right solutions encompass both Chemical and Mechanical approaches to taking care of the fuel. Both are vital, and a comprehensive fuel solution may require a combination of both.
Effective preventive maintenance programs for fuel storage must include the strategic utilization of chemical fuel treatments. These treatments offer benefits that mechanical fuel processing techniques cannot replicate, forming an essential part of a comprehensive fuel management strategy. The combination of chemical and mechanical approaches creates a powerful synergy, addressing the multifaceted challenges of fuel storage and utilization.
Chemical fuel treatments leverage established petroleum chemistry principles to modify fuel properties and optimize engine performance. In the context of fuel storage, these treatments prove invaluable. Common issues such as poor fuel stability, microbial growth, corrosion, water contamination, and inadequate cetane ratings can all be effectively addressed through chemical interventions.
Fuel stabilizers play a vital role in preventing the formation of gums, varnishes, and sludge in diesel fuel. By halting the chemical reactions that lead to these deposits, stabilizers extend the fuel's shelf life, maintaining its quality over time. Biocides are indispensable in combating microbial contamination, a persistent problem in fuel storage. These chemical agents neutralize microbes that can lead to filter clogs and fuel degradation.
Sludge and biomass dispersants tackle the issue of sludge accumulation, which can compromise fuel quality and engine performance. These treatments fight sludge buildup in storage tanks, breaking down sludge and biomass formations, enhancing the efficacy of biocides and promoting fuel system cleanliness. Additionally, chemical water dispersants play a critical role in managing water presence in storage tanks, mitigating the potential for corrosion and fuel degradation.
Beyond storage-related challenges, chemical treatments can also enhance fuel performance within engines. Cetane improvers, for instance, bolster diesel fuel's cetane rating, ensuring optimal combustion and engine operation. Diesel engines running on fuel with subpar cetane ratings may experience reduced efficiency and even failure to start, particularly in critical applications.
Detergent packages are equally significant, as they maintain engine cleanliness and performance. These packages often contain injector detergents, which help prevent fuel system deposits and maintain injector performance. Some treatments encompass multiple functionalities, conveniently improving fuel quality and engine operation in one step.
While chemical treatments offer substantial benefits, it's important to maintain realistic expectations. Not all additives can deliver miraculous results, and some manufacturers may overpromise their capabilities. In cases where additive solutions fall short, mechanical treatments step in to bridge the gap.
A comprehensive fuel management strategy leverages both chemical and mechanical treatments to ensure optimal fuel quality, storage, and utilization. Each piece of the puzzle contributes to a holistic approach that safeguards equipment reliability, minimizes operational disruptions, and maximizes the value of stored fuel.
Mechanical treatment of fuel and tanks simply means using specialized equipment to remove water and contaminants from the fuel and storage tank. Fuel storage professionals may recognize this as similar to the services provided by fuel polishers. Here, a technician will use equipment to remove water and sludge layers from the bottom of the tank, sequestering these into drums for later disposal. Then the fuel itself will be circulated through a series of high performance filters that are highly effective at removing water and asphaltene content from the fuel itself.
Many times, it is more efficient to use mechanical equipment to remove contaminants from the fuel than to rely solely on chemical treatments to do that. A good mechanical fuel processing that is properly executed by a well-trained professional can take fuel with excessive levels of water and sediment and easily bring it back within the legal specifications. This alone makes mechanical fuel processing an essential piece of the best practice puzzle.
Stored fuel often falls into the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" category, leading to declining quality due to microbial growth, water infiltration, sludge formation, and varnish build-up. Monitoring fuel quality is essential, but many neglect even simple visual checks. Such basic assessments can offer crucial insights into tank conditions.
However, relying solely on periodic sensory checks has limitations when it comes to monitoring the quality of your stored fuel. It doesn't provide precise data on fuel conditions or if it meets specifications. What if the fuel is already out of spec? Suspecting microbial contamination is insufficient; hunches won't suffice. There must be a dependable method for accurate assessments.
This issue becomes critical if stored fuel powers essential equipment during emergencies. Without clarity on its condition, can you trust it to perform when needed?
Recognizing this need, Bell Fuel & Tank Services introduced its Fuel Pulse fuel testing division in 2019. This fuel testing service eliminates guesswork from stored fuel management, offering reliable insights and empowering users to make informed decisions.
The third crucial aspect of effective fuel management involves stored fuel testing. This diagnostic component is an indispensable support for all other fuel management practices. Bell Fuel & Tank Services recognized its significance and introduced Fuel Pulse, a dedicated division aimed at addressing the needs of stored fuel users comprehensively.
Many businesses, if conducting any testing at all, often limit it to basic practices like checking for water. This lack of expertise in fuel testing contributes to the widespread presence of microbial fuel issues in stored fuel. Fuel Pulse steps in as an expert guide, offering insights across various testing areas, not just procedures but also their implications.
Fuel Pulse completes the stored fuel management puzzle by empowering customers with both knowledge and comprehension. Periodic microbial monitoring holds as much value as routine water checks, predicting potential microbial problems.
Commencing services with comprehensive fuel tests, encompassing physical and microbial assessments, provides an accurate understanding of fuel condition. Conclusive tests post-service affirm fuel has reached its desired state. This cycle of testing grants the confidence that stored fuel will perform as required, especially during emergencies.
Fuel testing assures precise awareness of fuel condition, guiding the essential chemical and mechanical treatments, eliminating guesswork. This certainty cannot be achieved without fuel testing, making it the pivotal piece in the puzzle of proper stored fuel management.
Chemical additives and mechanical fuel processing both hold value, yet their limitations must be acknowledged. The ideal solution is rarely solely chemical treatment or mechanical filtration.
While chemical additives have their strengths, they can't fix every issue. For instance, water dispersants can absorb water in fuel tanks, but they might not handle larger amounts effectively. Mechanical filtering is adept at certain tasks, but it won't prevent recurring problems.
Chemical treatment addresses specific needs, and mechanical processing handles its own areas. Fuel testing, including Fuel Pulse's microbial monitoring, can't be neglected. These components aren't standalone solutions, but when combined, now you do have a complete solution - a Hybrid Solution that ensures you’re getting all the important benefits each method offers while insulating you and your business from the pitfalls of relying solely on one method that isn’t able to give you everything you need.
A Hybrid Solution is optimal for stored fuel service. Yet, managing the right chemicals, effective mechanical processes, and crucial fuel tests can overwhelm businesses focused on other tasks. You have plenty of other things to worry.
Partnering with experts who deliver The Hybrid Approach can ease the burden. With their knowledge, your stored fuel is properly taken care of, to take that worry off your plate. You're partnering with someone who can deliver The Hybrid Approach to protect your stored fuel.
Between fuel additive manufacturers, fuel polishers and other groups, there are plenty of people willing to “be your partner”. But chemical fuel treatments vs. mechanical treatments (neither one of which does everything you need by itself) rarely have the ability alone to give you and your stored fuel everything that’s needed on the service side.
Fuel additive manufacturers can make the chemical treatments but they don’t address the need for mechanical fuel processing. Mechanical fuel treatment companies (like fuel polishers) obviously know about fuel filtration and clean-up, but rarely know everything needed with respect to the best chemical treatments for the fuel itself.
Then consider that neither one of these groups is really big into the ASTM fuel testing that’s so often legally required of stored fuel users. Not to mention the microbe monitoring protocols that can give their customers a real advantage. They only offer partial solutions. You need a complete solution.
Bell Fuel & Tank Services, also known as the Bell FTS Program, was created in 2015 to provide professionals with stored fuel with a knowledgeable partner who’s willing and able to give them exactly what their stored fuel really needs.
That’s why the Bell FTS Program offers The Hybrid Approach To Fuel Management - everything you (and your stored fuel) need for a complete solution. It’s what sets Bell Fuel & Tank Services apart from all of these other potential partners.
The Bell FTS Program’s Hybrid Approach gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. It provides the best high-quality, proven chemical solutions in combination with the most effective fuel and tank cleaning processes around. Both are supported by ASTM and other testing methods to define your fuel’s exact problem and show you when it’s solved.
A typical stored fuel service by Bell Fuel & Tank Services will start with a Fuel Pulse diagnostic test analysis (including microbial detection) of the condition of the stored fuel. Depending on what’s needed, high quality mechanical fuel and tank cleaning to remove water, sludge and biomass may be next. And all during and after this process, the most effective chemical treatments are incorporated to fix identified fuel problems and keep them from coming back. ASTM fuel testing to document the fuel’s newly-optimal condition finishes out the service. All of this is backed by the Bell FTS fuel condition guarantee.
Bell FTS customers rest easier knowing their stored fuel problems are solved with the best solution for their situation. So they can spend their time getting back to business.
How do the elements of the Bell FTS program compare to the other options available in the marketplace? Apart from the fact that nobody else offers the complete security of the Bell FTS program’s Hybrid Approach, it also comes down to the quality of the chemical treatments, the security of the mechanical approach, and the reassurance of the program’s ASTM-backed testing protocols.
Bell Fuel & Tank Services customers trust their fuel is safeguarded by top-tier industry chemicals. Backed by over 106 years of Bell Performance expertise, these chemical treatments ensure customers get what they need.
This quality is paramount. Combining premier chemical fuel treatments with the Bell Fuel & Tank Services program offers customers unparalleled peace of mind.
To fulfill this promise, only the best chemical fuel treatments are utilized. Amid a plethora of "fuel additives," most claims fall short. Comparatively, Bell FTS's program employs superior fuel treatments, setting it apart from well-known competitors.
Given how common and how problematic microbes are in storage tanks, a biocide is an essential part of effective chemical fuel treatment. The best biocides will combine the ability to kill a broad spectrum of problematic microbes in storage tanks, with a quick kill ability that lasts as long as possible. The ideal biocide also works equally well in both the water and fuel phases and is not adversely impacted by acidic fuel conditions (which can arise from severe microbial infestations).
The Bell FTS program incorporates a highly effective biocide that provides the best combination of essential traits (kills quickly, lasts long, works well in all environments) for the customer.
Stabilizers are also an essential element of the Bell FTS program. The best fuel stabilizers, like the one used in the Bell FTS program, will be a combination of active ingredients specifically designed to address the multiple elements that comprise what we think of when we consider “fuel instability”. Dispersants, acid neutralizers, anti-oxidants, metal deactivators, anti-peroxidals. Bell FTS customers benefit from having the most effective fuel stabilizers protecting their stored fuel.
These are just two important examples of the superior chemical fuel treatments that set the Bell FTS program and its Hybrid Approach apart from the other options out there for servicing stored fuel.
The mechanical fuel and tank servicing element of the Bell FTS program goes above and beyond the normal service options offered by typical fuel polishers. Bell FTS technicians remove water, sludge, and biomass from tank bottoms. Multiple filtration options down to 1 micron, including water separating Raycor-type filters, are used to ensure the fuel is clean, bright, and meets all required ASTM specifications.
Bell Fuel & Tank Services' mechanical servicing stands apart from specialized fuel polishing by what FTS customers avoid. They don't pay for unnecessary services, as fuel is tested to pinpoint issues. Worries of exploitation also vanish.
Similar to disreputable additive firms, certain fuel polishers resort to deceptive tactics. They deceive customers into believing 1) they've got a problem they don't have, or 2) the service they paid for was more effective than reality. Tricks include faulty sampling and premature service declarations, tarnishing the industry's reputation.
Speaking of getting what you don’t need, Bell Fuel & Tank Services stands apart from other options because of its integrated fuel testing element. Many fuel polishers and tank cleaners don’t even offer this, much less acknowledge its important role in complete fuel PM service.
Bell FTS customers don’t worry about whether the technician has really done what they promised because their fuel has been tested and its condition verified. The Bell Fuel & Tank Services program uses reliable ASTM testing to give customers answers and peace of mind when it comes to their fuel. And if a fuel problem does arise, this testing through the Bell Fuel & Tank Services program points to the right solutions to fix fuel problems right the first time.
Put all of these elements together – the most effective chemical treatments, high-quality mechanical fuel and tank servicing, and the best diagnostic testing to pinpoint problems and verify they’ve been fixed – and you can see why Bell Fuel & Tank Services, with its Hybrid Approach, is the best option available.
You can have different service providers who assure you they can treat your stored fuel with a biocide. But without the proper state-of-the-art microbe testing and detection, they’re basically just shooting in the dark and hoping you’ll be satisfied with guesswork. Customers of Bell Fuel & Tank Services don’t need to rely on guesswork; instead, they can rely on Fuel-Pulse microbial ATP testing technology that's generations ahead of what they used to be limited to.
Bell FTS customers don’t worry about the same things customers of other companies or services do because their fuel’s servicing is backed by Bell Performance’s century-long history and track record of customer satisfaction. Whether it’s formulating quality chemical fuel treatments that do what they say they’ll do or making sure the mechanical processing actually does what the customer thinks it’s doing, Bell Performance knows you can’t stay in business for over 100 years without meeting or exceeding customer expectations. Bell FTS customers benefit from the kind of customer satisfaction history that cannot be bought or manufactured; it can only be earned.
Customers enrolled in the Bell Fuel & Tank Services program can rest assured with the guarantee that their relied-upon fuel remains clean, stable, and functional.
With over a century of satisfied customers, we understand that a guarantee is only as strong as the company backing it. Many have experienced "money-back" or "satisfaction guaranteed" offers that ultimately fell short, leaving them disappointed or unable to redeem the guarantee.
At Bell Performance, we recognize that a guarantee is a commitment, and we stand firmly by it. Through the Bell FTS Guarantee, our customers find peace of mind: we pledge that the fuel treated using our procedures and protocols will consistently meet ASTM specifications for usable fuel throughout the service agreement period. If these standards are not met, we'll provide additional chemical and mechanical treatment at no extra cost until compliance with ASTM specifications is achieved. This assurance lets Bell FTS customers focus on their core business, confident in our dedication to quality and their satisfaction.
Bell Fuel & Tank Services is the cost-effective, fully-managed solution for year-round fuel storage maintenance to ensure 100% equipment operation and 0% fuel problems. If any of this sounds familiar to you, we welcome the chance to show you why the Bell FTS program may be exactly what you and your stored fuels need.
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