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Problems With Biodiesel Fuel Storage Tanks

Talking about biodiesel storage, you might think you don’t have to worry about it. ‘I don’t use biodiesel’, you might say. But for many people, they’re mistaken.  Even if you don’t buy B100 and mix your own blends on sight, you’re probably using biodiesel already without realizing it. Your diesel fuel can contain up to 5% biodiesel without being labelled as such.

When storing biodiesel, many of the factors taken into consideration with diesel fuel storage also apply, except even more so. What things affect conventional diesel fuel in storage?

  • Exposure to air and light causing sludge formation over time
  • Water absorption leading to microbial growth

Biodiesel blends, even blends that are only a small proportion biodiesel, are just as prone to problems from these causes.  In some cases, they are even more so, because of its nature.

Water loves biodiesel

Water causes problems in regular diesel just through natural condensation, building up in storage tanks and forming water layers under the fuel.

Biodiesel, on the other hand, likes to emulsify and hold on to water because of the presence of mono- and di-glyceride molecules that might be left over from storage.  When this happens, the emulsified water can affect how the bio-blend burns, and it can contribute to corrosion of storage tanks. It can even freeze when it exists in biodiesel stored in cold winter climates.

Not to mention how microbes love it when water in fuel hangs around.

Microbes love stored biodiesel even more

Being a converted fat (converted from any number of fats and oils like soybean, canola, chicken fat, etc.) makes it extra prone to both the effects of water and to microbial growth.  Microbes love biodiesel as a food source and it doesn’t take much for stored biodiesel blends, even blends with only 2-34% bio (that are labelled as regular diesel) to become a microbe breeding ground.  And if you’re a fleet or other professional who deals with fuels for a living, you know that microbes in fuel are bad, bad news.

Suspecting problems with stored biodiesel

You can suspect your stored biodiesel has one or more of these problems if you can detect water in the storage tank, if your rate of filter use spikes (as filters becomes plugged more easily with sludge or microbial biomass) or if the performance metrics of your equipment suddenly changes.

But when this does, this only means you have to fix the aftermath of the problem. And just like with your health, it’s more problematic and expensive to correct stored biodiesel problems than it is to use a little preventive maintenance and keep them from happening.

 

 

 

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