8942 Quioccasin Road, Henrico, Virginia 23229
8942 Quioccasin Road, Henrico, Virginia 23229

Fuel Polishing

Fuel polishing is a crucial part to fuel management. Conditions in your area such as dust, moisture, salinity, altitude, and extreme temperatures will all play a part in determining when your generator should be serviced. These environmental factors can contribute to build up in your fuel tank, which can in turn cause your generator to fail. The best way to avoid this is by cleaning your fuel and disposing of any contaminants when your Account Manager recommends it.

What kind of debris are we talking about?

It may be accepted that diesel fuel-if kept clean, cool, and dry-can be stored for six months to one year without significant quality degradation. This is not always the case for fuel stored in a tank under regular use, which is one of the recirculating fuel, water, microbes, and deterioration.

With the functionality of diesel engines, specifically the fuel working its way through high-pressure fuel pumps and injectors, any fuel that’s not used returns to the tank. Because of this, a large portion of the tank’s fuel can be continuously re-circulated and repeatedly exposed to extreme temperatures and pressure.

This process results in the agglomeration of asphaltenes, dense, molecular substances composed largely of carbon but also containing hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur with trace amounts of materials such as vanadium and nickel. The asphaltenes (a term coined by Jean Baptiste Boussingault in 1837) are a sticky, black, highly viscous form of petroleum. This sludge, which is great for paving roads or roofs, is hazardous to engines and their abilities. Over time, these asphaltenes aggregate into clumps that can no longer pass through the fuel filter, inevitably leading to a clogged filter.

Compounding the problem, the hot fuel coming back to the tank raises the temperature of the remaining fuel, causing condensation that becomes water, and resulting in both liquids mixing together. The water and acid cause rusting and corrosion of your tank, resulting in a number of problems. From a build-up of sludge and acid that can erode your tank to microbial contamination and fuel deterioration, not caring for your generator’s health and maintenance can result in plenty of negative possibilities.

How bad are these contaminants?

Most engines cannot tolerate ongoing particulate contamination (prior to fuel filtration) greater than 50 milligrams per gallon (15 milligrams per liter). Injectors become clogged and damaged by particulate matter at a rate that corresponds to the size of the particles, but some damage is certain. Injectors damaged by impurities also cannot maintain correct fuel droplet size, which can prevent the fuel from firing properly when it enters the combustion chamber. Degraded fuel―especially if it is acidic, which is almost always the case―can also cause corrosion within fuel system components.

Regarding water, injector life and performance begin to be reduced when water content reaches the minuscule measurement of 0.05% (500 ppm). Water-tainted fuel (the water component of which becomes steam when it is heated in the engine’s combustion chamber) damages injector tips, reduces combustibility and negatively impacts the ability of diesel fuel to lubricate the engine. In cold climates, especially if block heaters are not providing adequate heating, moisture also encourages the formation of ice crystals in the engine.

Either way, contaminants (or debris) in your fuel puts your generator at risk for a failed start when you need it most.

How is fuel polishing performed?

Fuel polishing is the process of drawing the fuel from the tank through a specialized filter system and back into the tank. During this, it constantly circulates that fuel through the filter to capture and remove all the water and elements that have accumulated in the diesel fuel.

What are the benefits of fuel polishing?

  • Generator fuel injectors become far less likely to fail
  • Generator sludge buildup becomes less of a problem
  • Generator injection system will remain clean and lubricated
  • The diesel power generator will run with less exhaust
  • Generator maintenance expenses can be greatly reduced
  • Greatly lessens fail-to-start situations