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Diesel Fuel Storage & Sulfur: The Rules Have Changed. Are You Ready?

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

Up until recently, if you had diesel fuel for your boat or generator or any kind of “off-road” engine, you didn’t have to worry about sulfur.

bad_diesel_fuelThe EPA recently gave us another thing to worry about. According to the EPA’s web site, even off-road diesel fuel (except for certain kinds of Category 3 Marine Fuel) now has to be ultra-low sulfur diesel. And while this is great for the environment, it creates concerns for a lot of people.

Specifically, what are they going to have to do with diesel fuel they already have that’s higher in sulfur?

For the fuel in on-road trucks and vehicles, the rules have been pretty clear-cut. All fuel used on-road had to be 15 ppm or less of sulfur. If an inspector tested the fuel and it was found out of compliance, thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties could arise.  Since we’re 5 years out from the final phase-in period involving on-road fuel, everyone’s pretty much used to those rules for trucks now.

But there are untold gallons of higher sulfur diesel fuel sitting in storage tanks across the nation. As of 2014, all off-road diesel produced had to cap out at 15 ppm sulfur content. But it’s not entirely clear what the legal requirements are for existing fuel. Will it be grandfathered in? Is there a deadline date where it has to be disposed of? Nobody really knows the answer to  that. Even checking on the EPA’s web site, it’s not really clear what could potentially happen to the farmer or the utility that has a tank of emergency backup fuel that’s 10 years old and is of the “low sulfur” variety instead of ULSD.

Maybe the bright side here is that the rules may force a lot more businesses to examine their stored fuel. They might find other problems (sludge, microbes) that could spur them to take action on getting that fuel back up to satisfactory condition.  Without these off-road sulfur rules, some of them probably would remain in the “out of sight, out of mind” camp.

What to know more? You’re in luck.

We put together a short video on diesel fuel storage issues. Check it out:



You may be interested in these other posts on Diesel Fuel Storage:

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This post was published on October 9, 2020 and was updated on November 1, 2021.

Topics: Diesel, Fuel Storage