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Farm diesel storage - the red diesel is changing

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

A fuel inspector pops open your diesel tank and sees red diesel fuel inside. Are you in trouble?  Depends on what you’re using it for.  Dyed fuel signifies the presence of fuel that is subjected to a much-lower tax rate than un-dyed on-road fuel.   The use of red dyed diesel fuel in most applications other than for home heating use is illegal and could subject the offender to tax evasion penalties.

farm-fuel-storageSo, the fuel inspector opens up your storage tank and see red fuel. No problem, because it’s a heating oil tank and you’re well within the law.  In fact, red diesel’s primary use is for home heating fuel and for off-road farming purposes.

What other differences are there between red diesel and on-road diesel? Turns out, not much.   Up until recently, off-road farm diesel could be of high sulfur content than on-road diesel.  On-road diesel had to be ultra-low sulfur fuel (ULSD) with a max of 15 ppm sulfur.  Red diesel, the off-road stuff, was allowed to retain a higher sulfur content.

Recent Changes Could Spell Trouble For Farmers

But that, too, has changed. Most of the red diesel you’re going to get now is ULSD.  The EPA exceptions allowing for higher sulfur content expired at the end of 2014, and it’s only a matter time before all of the higher sulfur fuel on farms and in heating oil tanks gets used up and replaced with red dyed ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

If you’re a farmer who’s used to getting one kind of fuel for the last decade or so, you may not even know that the red diesel you’re buying now has fundamentally changed. You may not also know how that’s going to impact your enterprise.

What Else Might They Find?

When that storage tank is opened up, what else might they find besides fuel diesel? If it’s red ULSD, then you’re more likely now than ever before to find microbes and sludge in the tank.  ULSD is less resistant to fuel microbes because sulfur used to naturally prevent their growth.  It’s not really there any more, and all those tanks of red ULSD are more prone to microbial infection than ever before.  Sludge development also goes along with this.  “Sludge” is really just made up of the heavier components of the diesel fuel. Healthy red diesel has everything in healthy solution. Introduce microbes, along with longterm exposure to heat and water in the storage tank, and the red diesel fuel becomes unstable, with all those heavy sludge components dropping out of solution and into the tank.

Farm Fuel Additives and Treatment

That’s why farm fuel professionals definitely recommend a healthy PM program on your stored red diesel.  A simple regiment of fuel stabilizer and preventive biocide treatment stops the primary causes of sludge in red diesel and keeps it healthy useable for far longer than not.  Farmers don't need much, but their fuel definitely can benefit from these kind of fuel fuel additives.

Farmers have enough to worry about. They certainly have a lot of things pressing against their budget without worrying about the red fuel.

If you are interested in farm diesel storage, you may want to check out these posts:

Storing Diesel and Biodiesel Cheatsheet Bundle

Buy the Ultimate Diesel Tank Cleaning Bundle

This post was published on August 6, 2015 and was updated on November 1, 2021.

Topics: Fuel Storage, Agriculture and Farming