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Boat diesel - what you need to know

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

boat dieselMost folks don’t have the time or inclination to keep on top of the numerous trends in the marketplace that may impact their wallets.  For example, did you know that the cost of eggs and poultry are going through the roof? Lots of people have noticed it, but they may not know that it’s because of an outbreak of bird flu that’s decimating chicken “flocks” across the nation. 40 million chickens killed just in the first half of 2015. Fewer eggs, more expensive chicken.  Wholesale egg prices haven risen by 80% and analysts don't expect them to decrease through the end of the year. Market forces impacting the budget.

This concept doesn’t just hold true for consumers. Business owners, fleet operators, CFOs, budgets managers….nobody has the time to stay on top of all the things that play out in the real world and that may end up costing their business time and money.

So today, we’re speaking to owners of diesel boats. We make a lot of resources for trucks and fleets and diesel fuel storage, so we didn’t want to leave the marine diesel folks out.  For boat diesel users, here are some upcoming  trends for the rest of summer and the start of fall that could be beneficial to you, your diesel boat(s) and your business.

Continued spread of ULSD boat diesel

It used to be that truck diesel fuels and marine diesel fuels were all the same. Then the ultra low sulfur regulations came about 10 years ago and we saw the rise of on-road vs. off-road diesel. On-road diesel fuel was limited to 15 parts per million of sulfur content while off-road diesel (for boats and generators and other non-road uses) was allowed to be higher sulfur.

This created some meaningful differences between the two kinds of fuels; differences that kept diesel boat owners smiling. More sulfur in marine diesel meant better resistance of microbes in storage and improved lubricity of marine diesel fuel.

Those days are coming to an end. They may already be gone in some areas of the country.

The EPA set a deadline of the end of 2014 for all diesel fuel, both on- and off-road, to be transitioned to ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). Of course they realize that it takes longer for significant market changes like that to become reality at ground level.  But the farther we get away from that deadline, the more entrenched ULSD fuel will become in the marine market.

For diesel boat owners and operators, this means you’re going to be even less likely this summer and fall to be able to avoid ultra-low sulfur marine diesel fuel than ever before.

More microbe problems in marine fuel

The most obvious consequence of the above is that more marine ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is going to mean more microbe problems in marine fuel.  Anyone who stores and uses marine diesel fuel has the potential to be exposed to this. Storing fuel in marine environments is a perfect situation for bacteria and fungi to grow in marine diesel storage tanks because of all the water in the environment.  Add in the continued ingress of ultra-low sulfur  fuel and the potential for problems is amplified.

For those diesel boat owners who do find themselves “in this boat” (no pun intended), they will have to source a biocide solution to kill the microbes. There are options out there – Bellicide, Kathon, Biobor, Pri-ocide – but some are better than others. 

Better price stability

For boat diesel users, you should look forward to better price stability for your diesel fuel as the year goes on.

In fact, you should always expect diesel fuel prices to be more stable and less subject to wild price swings than gasoline is. That doesn’t mean we should expect diesel to always be cheaper, but the cost for diesel fuel rises and falls more slowly and steadily than gas prices do.

We’ve seen this in practice just earlier this year. In May 2015, the national average gas price went up by 27 cents a gallon. The same average for diesel fuel went up only 4 cents a gallon. Gas prices and diesel fuel prices both went up 21-22 days in a row, but diesel fuel prices increased at a much slower rate.

There are good and sound reasons for this. Refineries have to produce fuel that meet defined specifications. The diesel fuel specification doesn’t really change throughout the year. But refineries have to make summer gasoline blends that vary even by region to region (there are more than a dozen different kinds of summer gas). So those refineries have to spend time and money stopping production, reconfiguring, doing everything that goes into making a different kind of gasoline. And that’s a big reason why gas prices shoot up in the summer.  Boat diesel users won’t have that problem.

If you are interested in Boat Diesel, check out these other posts:

Dee-Zol Marine


This post was published on July 30, 2015 and was updated on July 30, 2015.

Topics: Diesel, Boats and Marine, Marine and Large Ships