Bell Performance fleet specialist Joe Fazio joins us again with a discussion on diesel fuel contamination by microbes. As Joe explains, sometimes the devil is in the details.
Me: Are you using a diesel fuel additive to get rid of bacteria?
Prospect: Yes, but I’m still having problems.
Me: What did your supplier say that the additive would do?
Prospect: Fight algae in fuel
Me: Does the label say that it will “kill” bacteria, mold or fungus?
Prospect: No, just that it fights algae.
Me: That’s why you’re still having problems.
Algae growth in fuel is a misnomer for the problem. What looks like algae might not be algae at all, but could be a different kind of microbe altogether (bacteria or fungi). Or it may in fact not even be microbe-related – it could be asphaltene accumulation, better known as diesel sludge.
On the other hand, if water enters your fuel storage or distribution system, either through condensation or venting, there’s an excellent probability that it will cause bacteria or fungal growth. That’s different from algae. Many species of bacteria, mold and fungus can grow in diesel fuel, but algae cannot because algae are plant-based organisms that need light to survive (which they won’t get in virtually any fuel systems). The scientific names for the most common types of organisms that live in petroleum products are Cladosporium resinae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Neither of these are good news for the fuel users lucky enough to find them.
In real life, you’re always going to find a certain amount of water in any fuel storage or distribution system. Additional water can come from condensation in the storage tank and during tank filling. The water normally separates out due to density and remains at the bottom of the fuel tank, where it resides in direct contact with both the tank surface and the fuel layer above it. Under the right conditions, microorganisms can grow and multiply at the water/oil interface, where they give off acidic byproducts that lead to corrosion and contribute to an increase in the amount of sediment in the tank. It is these compounds as well as the microbial bodies themselves that cause the blockage of fuel filters in diesel engines and fuel systems.
For this type of situation, the use of a diesel biocide treatment is the key element. Without a biocide, the microbial colonies cannot be killed and the problem never really goes away but tends to get worse. Bell Performance tends to recommend BELLICIDE to our fuel storage customers battling these issues (of which there are many). Deploying a biocide like BELLICIDE eliminates and prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi in finished fuels, while preventing the fuel’s biodegradation. For those consumers and companies who rely on stored fuels to drive their businesses, proper deployment of biocides are essential for keeping stored fuels fresh and microbe-free!
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This post was published on December 31, 2012 and was updated on July 19, 2019.