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A Primer on HFO Fuel Treatment

Posted by: Bell Performance

HFO - heavy fuel oil - is the fuel left over from crude oil after the lighter and more profitable fuels like gasoline, diesel, and natural gas have been refined and removed.

hfo fuel treatmentThere's not as much HFO in use today as there was twenty years ago because of market shifts that have made natural gas much cheaper to use. But there are still sizeable pockets of power generation and light or heavy industry that rely on heavy fuel oil for generation of power or to power their industrial process.

Treating Heavy Fuel Oil

Because of its nature, heavy fuel oil (also called Bunker C fuel oil) has some problems that may be readily improved either by tweaking the way the power plant is operated or by treating the fuel itself. The particular problems that are being addressed is often related to the properties of the fuel oil.

Make It "Burn Better"

Every fuel user wants to get the most out of their fuel. If they're generating power, they want the most heat and most steam generated from burning the fuel. To help achieve this, HFO fuel treatments like our ATX line use organo-metallic combustion catalysts to get a higher percent of the potential energy out of the fuel oil. If this sounds a little high-tech, think of this basically as the fuel oil having the ability to make 100 megawatts of power if its burned completely, but various "real world" obstacles may mean you only get 98 megawatts  in the real world. If you add a combustion catalyst, you can get 99 or 99.5 megawatts.

Keep Expensive Parts From Getting Damaged

Heavy fuel oil has a lot of nasty junk left in it when it's been refined. Some of these metals can be corrosive to machinery surfaces. So fuel oil users can use magnesium additives to neutralize corrosion both in the "hot" areas where the fuel is burned and the "cold" areas where the emissions gases can be corrosive in nature. These magnesium additives work by neutralizing the acids that are formed from the sulfur in the fuel oil, and by acting on slag deposits to change their composition and keep them from helping to create the acid that is carried out by the exhaust gas.

Other Things To Do

There's more to the market than just corrosion neutralizers or combustion catalysts. Heavy fuel oil also needs help with stabilizing and dispersing the heavy parts of the oil that can tend to settle out over time, especially in storage tanks. 

Treating HFO is Cost-Effective

For a fuel professional who is looking to solve a problem with fuel treatment, he has a number of cost-effective options. The general rule is the price goes down as fuel volumes go up. And HFO users tend to use millions of gallons of fuel. So the typical cost for fuel treatment is in the fractions of a penny per gallon of HFO.  That means it doesn't take much for fuel oil users to see significant savings when they treat their HFO.

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  Photo Credit / Creative Commons/ No Changes Made

This post was published on August 15, 2013 and was updated on April 15, 2021.