When should I start testing my fuels to prepare for winter?
I get this question often. No matter the time, my answer is always “right now.” Sure it may be too early to determine a range of where the cloud point for the fuel will be all winter, but other factors play into being successful with a cold winter.
One of the most significant negative contributors to winter issues is moisture. Water freezes at 32°F, so too much moisture in fuel can cause problems at temperatures well above the typical cloud point of the fuel.
By testing in fall before we get into the winter months, we can determine the moisture level in the tanks and respond early to potential issues. For example, elevated moisture levels can indicate a water bottom and lead to plugged filters, iced filters, corrosion, and microbial growth.
It is much easier to fix an issue before it causes significant problems than waiting to find out you have moisture issues and trying to fix them with freezing ambient temperatures. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to take a sample. More information never hurts.
What’s up with “Modern Fuel”?: Fuel Characterization
Fuels are constantly changing, and as a result, effective fuel treatment must adjust accordingly. However, the solutions are not so simple. To correctly identify the proper treatment program, more thorough testing methods are needed. For instance, testing for n- paraffin distribution can significantly help to classify different fuel sources.
Some fuels that we encounter today do not react to winterization the same as they did in the past; we classify these fuels as “hard to treat.” To deal with “hard to treat” fuels effectively, a better and more in-depth understanding of the specific fuel properties is needed.
Diesel is composed of about 75% saturated hydrocarbons. Historically, typical refined ultra-low sulfur diesel would have an even distribution of n-paraffin carbon chains gradually increasing and peaking around C-16 to C-20, then gradually decreasing. Therefore, gaining a better understanding of refining tendencies is instrumental in creating effective treatment programs.
This example of n-paraffin wax distribution diagrams shows the variability between different sources of fuel.
The “n-Paraffin Content” graphic shows variations that often occur between other fuels. For example, the blue fuel contains higher concentrations of smaller n-paraffins than the orange fuel. Conversely, the n-paraffins mainly contained in the orange fuel are larger (to the right). This higher concentration of longer n-paraffins causes this fuel to be more difficult to treat for cold weather operability effectively.
Summary: Wax content varies significantly from refinery to refinery throughout the USA. Determining the proper fuel treatment protocol varies from region to region and fuel to fuel. These characterization programs allow a better understanding of fuels in the different areas and how they react to treatment.
Winterization Treatment Options
Blend with Kerosene or #1 Diesel
Blending with #1 dilutes the overall wax content in fuel and therefore reduces the cloud point. #1 blending offers a certain amount of protection by thinning out n-paraffin wax content and lowering the cloud point of the base fuel. Blending with #1 is useful but costly. The use of #1 is most effective when combined with proper winter additive chemistry.
Blend with Anti-Gel
Anti-gel additive modifies the shapes of wax crystals as they cool to allow them to pass through fuel filters at temperatures below their cloud point. In some fuels, traditional anti-gel is very useful for winterization, however many other modern fuels require additional chemistry.
Blend with Anti-Gel and Wax Anti-Settling Agents (WASA)
If fuels sit static for long durations in cold temperatures at or below the cloud point, wax particles start to become denser and fall to the bottom of equipment/storage tanks. The combination of both Anti-Gel and WASA modifies the shapes, sizes, and densities of wax crystals to prevent gelling and Wax Fallout.
Blend with #1 Diesel, Anti-Gel, and WASA
The use of all three above methods together is most effective because it dilutes the amount of wax with #1 fuel while also using winter additive chemistry to prevent gelling and wax fallout. Keep in mind that blending #1 from the same hard-to-treat #2 blendstock can produce diminishing returns. Fuel testing is beneficial to observe fuel characteristics and determine the proper treatment methods.
Modern fuel refining processes and new crude sources have resulted in harder-to-treat fuels. Most fuels today contain irregular or unpredicted concentrations of n-paraffin waxes and require additional methods to test and treat for cold weather operability effectively. Higher levels of anti-gel and WASA are commonly needed, and often the use of #1 fuel is also necessary.
Fuel Additive Facts to Know
1) Determining a fuel’s cloud point is the most critical first piece of information that we must know to create a proper winter treatment program.
2.) CFPP does not predict the temperature to which a fuel “is good.” You may better understand CFPP as an indication of whether additives are effectively attacking the waxes and whether a fuel source is harder to treat than usual. We can use a combination of CFPP and cloud point to help figure out where the exact operability temperature will be, but there are still other factors that come into place (filter size, filter cleanliness, tank exposure, engine, and fuel system design and requirements, etc…)
3.) When undisturbed treated fuel is subjected to a prolonged duration of frigid temperatures (i.e., cold weekend) at or below the fuel cloud point, the heavier waxes fall out and gather at the tank bottom near the fuel inlet. On the first morning back, restart becomes a battle as the settled wax gets pulled through the fuel system. ET Products counteracts this issue with a proprietary Wax Anti-Settling Agent that works by normalizing the size and density of these wax crystals, so they don’t fall out to the bottom of the tank. We are proud to purport a scientific approach, followed by lab testing and field successes that prove our chemistry.
Cetane is a massive buzzword in the fuel industry. Ask almost anybody what they are looking for in a premium diesel, and cetane is sure to be one of the first words brought up. However, many times, the benefits they are looking for are derived from a premium detergent if you dig deeper.
While cetane is still essential to aid in combustion efficiency and cold starts, it doesn’t typically provide the benefits that the end-user has in mind. Historically, horsepower and fuel economy are associated with cetane. However, equipment changed from mechanically driven, large engine parts to smaller, electronically driven components. Cetane isn’t the most critical factor in restoring horsepower or improving fuel economy. Read more about cetane and cetane numbers here.
Today’s engines and injectors are designed to work on a precise amount of fuel injected in a series of sprays through tiny openings. Premium detergents keep the injectors clean (or clean up if a premium detergent has never been used) from deposits to allow optimal fuel injection sprays. This extends the life of the injectors, but it also restores horsepower and improves fuel economy to new engine performance levels.
In addition to engine components becoming smaller and electronically driven, the way diesel fuel is being refined has also increased the need for a premium detergent. As sodium and calcium come into contact with corrosion inhibitors used in the pipelines, carboxylate soaps/salts are formed. Premium detergent is required to keep these deposits from causing issues in equipment and fuel performance.
All fuel can hold a certain amount of moisture in suspension. But, when moisture exceeds the saturation point, it drops out of the fuel. This is how tank bottoms and other free water separates in storage tanks. Why is this concerning?
Moisture can be the cause of several issues such as microbial growth (commonly referred to as “bugs” or “algae”), icing, dilution of fuel, poor engine performance or damage, corrosion, rust, and more.
Unfortunately, water separators and tank drainage are not realistic or effective solutions to prevent moisture issues independently. Because of this, ET Products recommends the implementation of a moisture control plan. This plan can both identify and prevent large amounts of moisture from building up in fuel tanks.
Using a moisture control agent throughout the year can prevent moisture build-up before it becomes a problem. In addition to this, we have also developed moisture monitoring programs through our laboratory that can identify problematic conditions before they become an issue.
Fuel refiners are constantly working to improve methods to optimize output and improve profitability. Even though changes in refining methods and new sources of crude stock can be economically advantageous, they routinely require further characterization for cold weather operations, i.e., more extensive lab testing and treatment response.
Weather-related failures could often occur at higher than expected temperatures in addition to those that come with the extreme cold. Sometimes these issues arise even when users presumably treat fuel properly for the winter. If you use #2 diesel and live in regions north of the yellow areas in the map below, then you’ve probably experienced issues with diesel fuel-operability(wax separation, icing, gelling).
We now know that traditional winter treatment methods are not always effective in modern fuels but answering why is not always simple. To correctly identify the proper treatment program, the user should utilize more thorough and comprehensive testing methods. For instance, testing for n-paraffin distribution can greatly help to classify different fuel sources. Diesel is composed of about 75% saturated hydrocarbons.
Traditionally, typical refined ultra-low sulfur diesel would have an even distribution of n-paraffin carbon chains gradually increasing and peaking around C-16 to C-20, then gradually decreasing. The n-paraffin wax distribution diagrams to the right show the variability between different sources of fuel. Understanding your fuel is essential to determine the best cold weather fuel additive treatment options.
The n-Paraffin Distribution Plot 1 shows contrast in a traditional fuel (blue) vs. a recently obtained fuel (red). The recently obtained fuel shows a significant increase in wax content starting at n-C15 level and after. In this case, the higher concentration (red bars) of n-paraffin waxes and the longer carbon chains (to the right) cause this to be more difficult to deal with in cold weather.
After running several n-paraffin distribution content curves (as seen above), it was found that fuel wax content varied greatly from sample to sample across the US.
Therefore, determining the proper fuel treatment protocol varies from region to region and fuel to fuel. Understanding how the fuel you handle reacts to treatment will help determine the proper winterization method(s).
Additive Treatment Options
1. Blend with Kerosene or #1 Diesel
Diluting the overall wax content. Blending with kerosene or #1 diesel will offer you a certain amount of protection by thinning out n-paraffin wax content and lowering the base fuel’s cloud point. Though blending with #1 can be effective, it is also a costly option. The use of #1 is most effective when combined with proper winter additive chemistry.
2. Blend with Anti-gel Additive
As diesel fuel cools, wax particles (n-paraffins) start to bond together and grow larger. As they grow, they can eventually become so large that they will not fit through fuel filters resulting in filter plugging. When fuel blends with anti‐gel, the anti‐gel will modify the wax particles’ shape and size to prevent growth. This modification will help your fuel flow through filters at lower temperatures than untreated fuel. See Image 1 for Wax Modification with Cold Flow Improver (CFI Treated Fuel).
3. Blend with Anti-gel and Wax anti-settling Additives (WASA)
As fuels sit static for long durations in cold temperatures at or below the cloudpoint, wax particles can start to become denser and fall to the bottom of equipment/storage tanks. The combination of both Anti-Gel and WASA modifies the shapes, sizes, and densities of wax crystals to prevent gelling and Wax Fallout. See Image 2 for Wax Modification with WASA and Cold Flow Improver (CFI Treated Fuel).
4. Blend with Anti-gel, WASA, and #1
The use of all three above methods together is most effective because it dilutes the amount of wax with #1 fuel while also using winter additive chemistry to prevent gelling and wax fallout. Keep in mind that blending #1 from the same hard-to-treat #2 blendstock can produce diminishing returns. In this situation, competent fuel testing can help to determine proper responses and ratios.
Many factors, including modern fuel refining processes and new crude sources, result in harder-to-treat fuels nationwide. These fuels contain varying or unpredicted concentrations of n-paraffin waxes and require additional methods to test and treat cold weather operability effectively. Higher concentrations of anti-gel and WASA are commonly needed, and often the use of #1 fuel is also necessary.
Fuel Additive Facts to Know
1. The CFPP temperature is not the only measure of a fuel’s cold flow performance.
Do not focus 100% on the CFPP. As many now have seen, operability failures almost always occur before reaching a CFPP test number. You may better understand CFPP as an indication of whether additives effectively attacking the waxes and whether a fuel source is harder to treat than normal.
3. When the difference between Cloud Point and CFPP is not as expected in a treated fuel, it indicates further testing or analysis be completed for best recommendations of cold flow additives and or blending.
NOTE: WASA does not typically affect the CFPP testing performance but can greatly improve operability.
The petroleum industry has been through multiple changes throughout its history, and the future (including renewable fuel sources) looks to be every bit as dynamic as the past. As an industry, we have endured product shortages and disruptions, government agency mandates removing components from fuels, ever-changing and varying crude sources, and countless other events.
Regardless of whatever historical changes our industry has faced in the past, the petroleum industry has always come out on top. To respond properly to future changes, it is very important that we understand the pressures that are driving change to identify ways to respond effectively.
Environmental policy changes driven by public demand are going to shape the future of the petroleum industry. According to a study of 2,627 adults taken in October 2019 by the Pew Research Center, more than 2/3 of the adults say that the US government is doing too little to reduce the effects of global climate change, and 63% of those polled felt that stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost.
We have all seen examples of how the overall consumer sentiment has shaped policy change, now let us look at how these policy changes might change the way that we operate in the future.
Increased Use of Renewable Fuel Sources
One way that the fuel industry will respond to the increasing demand to become “green” is through increased use of renewable fuel sources. Biodiesel is a commonly used renewable fuel source that is produced by using vegetable oils or animal fats using a process called “transesterification”. Biodiesel is commonly blended with standard #2 diesel throughout the US to create a more sustainable fuel source.
Another renewable fuel solution is called renewable diesel fuel. Like biodiesel, renewable diesel is also produced with vegetable oils and animal fats, but it is refined similar to the way that standard fossil fuel-based #2 fuel is. The result is a fuel that is chemically similar to petroleum diesel but is not made from fossil fuels.
Over the next 30 years, small engine gasoline consumption is expected to decline largely due to the consumer shift to electric-powered vehicles. What does this mean for heavy-duty diesel equipment? Heavy-duty diesel equipment is not predicted to be replaced.
Along with this, renewable diesel and biodiesel consumption is expected to expand. For fuel suppliers, this means that more and more competitors are going to be focused on diesel gallon sales to respond to the shift in demand. To remain competitive and profitable it will be increasingly important to understand how to optimize the delivery of renewable energy sources and to develop strategies to separate more unique offerings in the market.
Diesel Additives for Market Separation
Premium fuel partnerships increase profit margins and separate fuel suppliers from competitors by providing additional tangible benefits that set them apart from their competitors such as detergent to clean fuel injection systems, stability against oxidation and heat, winterization, and more. As the energy supply market shifts, partnerships to create loyalty and brand recognition will be increasingly important to achieve those goals.
There are a few widespread concerns that we think about as cold weather settles in. As additive manufacturers, we field questions like: How cold can it get before my fuel stops working?” or “What can I do to lower my overall operability?”.
These are the right questions with answers dependent on several factors. While cold weather often makes us focus on things like cold flow, de-icer, wax anti-settling agent, and handleability, lubricity is still just as important as ever.
Critical Applications of Lubricity
With the change to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesels and High-Pressure Common Rail (HPCR) injectors, lubricity is more critical than ever. Diesel engines use fuel to lubricate important fuel injection components. High-pressure common-rail injection systems rely on these parts to move thousands of times a minute under intense pressure and heat. Because of this, organizations like EMA’s and the NCWM recognize the need for a higher level of lubricity to prevent mechanical wear and premature part replacement.
When fuel does not have the proper amount of lubricity, it leads to improper lubrication between moving parts, resulting in premature wear. Eventually, parts can completely wear out, needing early replacement—these replacements are an unnecessary and avoidable expense in most cases.
Even though lubricity takes a back seat to the winterization properties of fuel when it gets cold, it is still crucial. As winter approaches, refiners change how they refine fuel that could lead to a lower lubricity content. #1 blending is also very common to lower the cloud point that leads to lower lubricity content. Several states reduce their bio blending requirements in the wintertime. Since biodiesel is naturally more lubricative, it can also affect the lubricity levels. Often these changes occur without consumer knowledge or awareness of their effects.
Testing and Measuring Measuring
How do you measure lubricity? You can measure the lubricity of fuel using the High-Frequency Reciprocating Rig test, most commonly referred to as the HFRR. The HFRR test runs by submerging a metal plate in fuel and rubbing a ball bearing on it at a controlled pressure and rate. At the end of the trial, they examine the ball bearing and measure the wear scar’s size from the friction. A lower number means a smaller wear scar and, therefore, better fuel lubricity.
OK, so what is the proper lubricity level that I will need to ensure my engine is protected? ASTM’s specification for diesel fuel to be sold in the USA states that it must have no higher than a 520 um wear scar on the HFRR test. Major engine manufacturers, and the National Council of Weights, among other organizations, have recognized that no more than a 460 um wear scar is preferred. As a result of their recommendation, 460 um is widely considered the preferred lubricity level for fuels to ensure proper wear protection.
What can ET Products do?
ET Products designs additive components to work effectively in all engine designs (both modern and older styles) and reach the desired 460 um HFRR rating on nearly all fuel types and sources found in North America.
ET Products laboratory also owns an HFRR machine to continually monitor and test fuel sources to ensure that our chemistry works appropriately to give the desired outcomes our customers require. Many different factors can affect our customers’ lubricity level (biodiesel, #1, refined winter fuel, etc.). That’s why it’s essential to monitor and pay attention to lubricity levels regularly.
Whether commercial, construction, trucking, or agricultural, customers ask and expect more from their fuel suppliers than ever before.
As recently as five years ago, fuel jobbers and distributors sold fuel with a single thought in mind: price. However, today’s end-users are asking for more, and fuel suppliers are having to not only earn their customers’ business but must be able to provide value.
With the cost of equipment rising every year along with the costs of parts and maintenance, it is more important than ever to eliminate downtime. Most experienced end-users understand that quality product from their fuel suppliers is a key to lowering costs, and reducing downtime. Communicating the extra effort that you are taking to improve fuel quality and provide this valuable service is very important.
Many fuel suppliers report the need to come up with ways to prove value. ET Products has a lot of experience in helping out partners get the message out in an effective way. These value add-ons could be longer or better service hours, more convenient fueling options, or contract pricing. We also work hard to support our partners if and when issues arise to allow suppliers to stay ahead of their competition.
ET Products’ team is experienced in helping our partners present solutions to existing or future problems in order to build value and trust with their customer base. We believe that it is essential to not only produce great chemical solutions, but also back them up with laboratory testing to research effectiveness, and optimize our performance. Routine testing for cloud, CFPP, or bio content, can assist field personnel and customers on all fuel-related problems and concerns.
Taking care of customers has always been, and should be, a priority for businesses. Lower fuel pricing brings in new additional variables. Customers are purchasing more fuel and storing it for more extended periods. This change can create a perfect recipe for water accumulation, stability issues, and microbial growth.
As fuel sits in tanks for longer than standard times in the spring, summer, and fall, it will be susceptible to increased moisture condensation. As moisture levels continue to increase, the fuel will get closer to reaching its saturation point. Meaning the moisture could separate and settle to the bottom of tanks where microbial growth could occur. A critical piece is to address any moisture-related issues in the fall to prevent them from causing problems in the cold winter. If there is no preventative maintenance program in place throughout the year, getting any potential issues resolved in the fall is a must!
Additive companies can take care of customers by testing their tanks for moisture levels, free moisture, and microbial contamination. If there is excess or free moisture found, running a product with Anti/Icer Moisture Control can remove the moisture and prevent the breeding ground for microbial growth.
*Note: if a large amount of free water on the bottom, pumping/draining it out is the best course of action. If the fuel contains microbial growth, use one of our biocide products to kill the growth at the ‘Kill Rate.’ Consider testing and treating your bulk plant tanks with moisture control or biocide to ensure issues are not getting transferred to customers.
The most important part is to have a preventative maintenance program in place and to follow it. We can help build a plan to achieve the goals you need.
Summer 2020 will soon be coming to a close. Regardless of the current weather, though, 2020 has given us some new things that we should be thinking about as we enter Fall and Winter this year.
This year, the United States fuel demand has decreased. This diminished demand leads to longer storage lengths before selling refined fuels to consumers. When fuel sits in storage, oxidation begins to occur. This oxidation increases the number of particulates in fuel and eventually can lead to fuel quality issues.
Fuels that have begun to oxidize are also more susceptible to thermal instability due to larger particulates. In addition to oxidation, moisture also accumulates. At the same time, the fuel sits in storage, and most everyone is aware that higher amounts of moisture are not an excellent winter characteristic.
So what does this mean to fuel suppliers and consumers? It means that it is more important than ever to protect the fuel from further breakdown. Interventions with chemistry can stop oxidation from occurring and thermally stabilize fuel as it goes through the heat and pressure of modern fuel injection systems. Chemistry and additive programs can remove moisture. Moisture removal prevents the accumulation of ice when temperatures drop.
Please take advantage of laboratory testing so your fuel can be analyzed, and we can make plans before cold winter weather.
Contact us to hear about ET’s complimentary laboratory testing services and how we can work with you to address your needs!