We’re living in unique times with oil at twenty year lows and fuel prices reminding us of pre-9/11 days. If you use gas or diesel, you may be thinking this is a great time to stock up while prices are low. And that’s not a bad idea at all. Analysts believe oil prices are going to be pretty low for the foreseeable future, so it’s a good idea to save money and take advantage of that.
There are some recommendations, however, on how to preserve fuel once you’ve got it. With fuels being more prone to faster degradation and microbial growth than fuels of the past, it would be short-sighted to spend present resources stocking up on cheap fuel without ensuring that its quality is going to be preserved for its future uses.
If you’ve already stocked up, or are considering doing so, here are some best practice recommendations for ensuring your new fuel financial outlay is preserved.
Use Fuel Stabilizer
The use of diesel fuel stabilizer is now standard practice for stored fuels. Fuel gets exposed to environmental bad actors like oxygen, water and microbial contaminants. Throw in the heat of the environment, and you’ll soon have reactions breaking your fuel down and forming gums and residues. It is almost inevitable for that to happen in today’s fuels. But treating that fuel with a good stabilizer package, provided you do that early enough in its life, can extend the stored life of your fuel by months or even years.
Monitor for Water and Consider Biocide Use (Better Yet, Check For Microbes)
Microbial growth is the single biggest diesel fuel storage issue, and given the changes in diesel fuel chemistry in recent decades, the fuel you’ve just purchased is a ticking time bomb when it comes to finding microbial growth. If you don’t take proactive steps, you have a problem you don’t want to deal with.
What to do? First, make sure you monitor for water regularly and get rid of it when you detect it. Microbes don’t need a lot of water to start growing.
Second, keep an eye out for signs of microbial growth. Predicting microbial growth can be a difficult thing - you’re relying on signs that, when you spot them, indicate that a problem is already there. Changes in the appearance and physical qualities of the fuel. Increases in filter plugging.
Ideally, you should do some kind of microbial monitoring, such as ATP-By-Filtration. Upstream oil and gas companies use ATP testing to keep track of their microbial levels and head off problems. An ATP testing will give you a microbial count in your fuel sample that allows you to see whether your microbial levels in your newly purchased fuel are approaching problem levels. This can be invaluable information to protect the investment you made in your stored fuel.
How often do you need to sample and check microbial levels? They recommend you check for water monthly, but you don’t have to check for microbes monthly. A quarterly check and test should be fine for most situations - unless the fuel is going to be especially mission critical, in which case you may consider doing it a little more often. The big value in microbial monitoring like this is really enabling you to make data-driven decisions on how to keep your stored fuel in good shape. Think about it - you made a data-driven decision to purchase the fuel ahead of time, taking advantage of the low in the market. Why shouldn’t you keep it healthy in the same way?
Microbial monitoring is probably the single most important thing you can do to ensure that the cheap fuel you bought for that rainy day continues to be problem-free.
This post was published on May 7, 2020 and was updated on November 1, 2021.