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Filtering out the bad stuff in stored fuel

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

The best solution for fixing problematic stored fuel involves both chemical fuel treatment and “mechanical processes”.  Mechanical processing of fuel invariably involves some kind of filtration to remove insoluble contaminants like sludge, asphaltenes and biomass that may appear in the fuel when it has become unstable.

stored fuel mechanical filtrationWhen you partner with someone to solve stored fuel problems, you want to make sure their mechanical processes are high quality.  A good mechanical process will remove as many of these undesirables as possible, so they don’t go into the engine and cause problems.

If you’re considering a partner, ask them about their filtration processes.  What micron rating does their filtration remove? To what beta rating?  Both are important.  And your partner should be explain to explain to you why their filtration processes and filter sizes meet your needs and will give you the best results.

Absolute filter rating and beta rating

The first one (“micron rating”) is also known as the “absolute rating”. It’s the size of the largest opening in the filter they use, so theoretically it is the size of the largest particle that could pass through the filter.

Beta rating is just as important.  Calculated from the ISO 16889 standard, beta rating is defined in the context of a given particle size, and is the ratio of the particles (of that size) after the filter to the particles before. Basically, it shows how many particles of a given size the filter caught.

If you started with 1 million five-micron particles per ml of fuel before the filter, and ended with 1,000 particles of the same size after the liquid passed through the filter, the beta rating would be 1,000 at 5 microns.  You could also say the filter was 99.9% efficient at 5 microns because it allowed only 0.1% of particles at that size to pass through.  1,000 is 0.1% of one million.  Higher beta rating is better because it means a higher ratio of particles at a certain size are being caught by that filter.  You should expect a filter's beta rating to be higher with larger particles. This makes perfect sense, since a filter should be able to catch a higher proportion of larger particles than smaller ones.

If you know the filter’s beta rating, you can figure out the efficiency of the filter.  Beta rating is just as important to know as the absolute rating.

You want do business with a partner that uses mechanical filtration that filters out small particles from the fuel at a high efficiency.  This is essential even more so now that common rail diesel engines abound that specify filters with tighter tolerances.  Fuel filters in the old days were rated between 10 and 30 microns. Now a 5 micron filter is the norm.  They have to protect that engine which has components that have tolerances pushing just one or two microns. 

If you’re going to bring someone in to protect your fuel, make sure what they’re doing is a high enough standard to protect your newer expensive engines.

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This post was published on July 7, 2016 and was updated on December 8, 2017.

Topics: Fuel Storage, Fuel and Tank Services