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Industry groups recommend farmers drain fuel storage tanks regularly

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

Just as fuels have changed in the last 3-4 years, the standards for fuel storage tank maintenance are changing. More and more authorities are recommending that stored fuel users like farmers and agriculture clean their tanks on at least a yearly basis.  Groups like Cenex, a major fuel distributor in South Dakota and other Midwest states, definitely recommend it.  It’s groups like these that seem to have a better pulse of what’s going on in the real world than government does, and we would be wise to heed their advice.

So what do these recommendations look like?

farm-fuel-storageThe first recommendation for farmers is to take care of water buildup by draining fuel tanks in the spring and fall. Not only will you drain the water out, but you’ll find surprising amounts of rust, particulates, sludge and bacteria (algae).  Regular draining of the tanks carries these harmful contaminants out of the system and keeps them from getting into valuable farm equipment.  

If you haven’t done it before, you’ll be in for a surprise at how much water and other “stuff’ you get out of your storage tanks on a regular basis. If you didn’t drain them, all that stuff would be building up in the tank for years. That’s a serious problem waiting to blow up on you.

If you talk to these industry groups, they’ll stress how important it is to regularly clean these tanks and install fresh filters.  Sure, that costs some money, but with the excessive cost of equipment these days, it’s even more important to safeguard equipment from fuel problems.  All this new equipment is more sensitive to the effects of water and microbes than ever before. They have to be, because they have to comply with strict federal emissions standards of recent years. 

Newer diesel engines pose threats to fuel health

When you have common rail diesel engines, those are extremely sensitive to even the smallest amounts of water.  Common rail engines have become pretty much the standard over the last fifteen years as the industry seeks to meet the emissions standards.  Not only are these extremely sensitive to anything coming into the engine, but they also place greater stress on the fuel in the fuel tank.  In older engines, fuel would run through the engines at maybe 180 degrees. Common rail engines see internal engine fuel temperatures approaching 500 degrees. This places huge stress on the thermal stability of the diesel fuel.  In practice, the results are greater instances of deposits and varnishes forming on injectors and filling up fuel filters.  From a practical standpoint, it can be seen by observing that filter change intervals have dropped from the old 30,000 miles to as low as 12,000 miles.

Premium fuel treatment packages even more important than ever

These private fuel distributors, in light of these problems, will readily advise their farming clients that addition of an additive package is more than advisable, it’s almost essential.  Unadditized diesel fuel contains nothing to head off these problems. Nothing to fight the accelerated oxidative breakdown observed above. Nothing to fight the water that is a fact of life in these situations. 

In light of this, it’s advisable for farmers and stored fuel users to incorporate such a package in their PM fuel budgets.  What to look for? A good package should contain as much of the following as possible.

WATER CONTROLLERS – Demulsifiers are best for common rail engines. But water absorbers are also advisable.

STABILIZERS – To improve thermal stability and help the fuel resist deposit formation in those 500 degree environments.

CORROSION FIGHTERS – To keep engine parts from corroding and fuel lines from being damaged over time.

DETERGENTS – Essential to keep injectors clean. Keeping injectors clean is the single best thing to do to preserve equipment performance over time.

Farmers are also strongly advised to add a biocide to their stored fuel tanks at least twice a year, especially if they don’t drain the tanks of water regularly.  Microbes (“algae”) will thrive in fuel tanks anytime there’s water present. Which is most of the time.  Biocides are the only thing that will kill off these microbe problems.

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Buy the Ultimate Diesel Tank Cleaning Bundle


This post was published on June 16, 2015 and was updated on October 21, 2020.

Topics: Fuel Storage, Agriculture and Farming