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Low Sulphur Fuel - What it means for your filters

The switch to low sulphur fuel next year could mean your fuel tank filters block up more easily, especially during the transitional period. We take a look at the government advice

Vapormatic Fuel Filter

Fuel for thought

From 1st January 2011 fuel companies will have to supply 'sulphur-free gas oil' in place of the current red diesel. Whilst the exact specification of the new fuel may vary, it is likely that 'road diesel', dyed red, will be the replacement. Road diesel can contain up to 7% biodiesel.

Unless handled correctly and used frequently, this new fuel may result in increased turnover, or even blocking of fuel filters, especially in bulk tanks.

The Department for Transport "Fuel Quality Directive Gas Oil Requirements" paper includes guidance on fuel storage and advises the following good housekeeping practice...

•         Increased care will be needed in the storage of sulphur free gas oil where this contains biodiesel. The oxidation stability of this fuel will be poorer than that of current gas oil. Over time oxidation can precipitate solids with potential to block filters in fuel distribution systems or in off-road equipment fuel systems. To minimise the likelihood of this occurring, it is recommended that users take particular care to ensure a fuel turnover period of once every 6 months and, in any event, no longer than once every 12 months.

•         Sulphur free gas oil containing biodiesel will also be more prone to bacterial contamination than current gas oil. Bacterial growth can also potentially result in blockage of fuel filters and increased corrosion. Prolonged use of contaminated fuel could result in damage to engines. Bacterial growth can be prevented by eliminating water from fuel storage tanks and conducting monthly checks that tanks remain free of water. Where a bacterial growth outbreak has occurred, this can be addressed either by emptying and cleaning the tanks, or by seeking specialist help to tackle the outbreak with biocide additives and filtering.

•         Sulphur free gas oil containing biodiesel is a better solvent than current gas oil. As a result it may pick up deposits already in fuel storage and dispensing systems and in fuel tanks on off-road equipment. To prevent those deposits from blocking filters, a one-time replacement of storage tank and off-road equipment fuel filters, outside the regular service interval, after 2 to 3 tank throughputs of sulphur free gas oil, is recommended.

•         Fuel seals in sight gauges on older fuel storage tanks may be incompatible with sulphur free gas oil, irrespective of whether it contains biodiesel, and may require replacing. Users should examine sight gauges following the switchover to sulphur free gas oil. If there are signs of leakage they will need a one-off replacement of these seals. If they are having fuel storage tanks serviced in advance of the introduction of sulphur free gas oil, it would be worth their while getting fuel seals replaced as a precaution.

•         Modern off-road equipment should have no problems running on sulphur free gas oil. Indeed the road diesel that fuel suppliers are mainly likely to supply to meet the sulphur free gas oil requirement is produced to more demanding quality specifications than gas oil. Fuel seals and pipes in some older equipment may be incompatible with sulphur free gas oil and require replacing. Users should examine joints, seals and pipes in the fuel systems of their machinery following the switchover to sulphur free gas oil. If there are signs of leakage, seals and/or fuel pipes may need a one-off replacement. If they are having equipment serviced in advance of the introduction of sulphur free gas oil, it would be worth their while getting fuel seals and pipes replaced as a precaution.

Don't take unnecessary risks with your equipment by having inadequate filtration on your bulk storage tanks. Vapormatic fuel filters and water eliminators are affordable, reliable and easy to install! Keeps spares handy and monitor their condition with regular visual inspections.

Related areas:

Vapormatic Fuel Handling range; including pumps, filters and water eliminators

Vapormatic filters for your tractor - use our tractor search

Improve the performance of your fuel with the Vapormatic diesel fuel additive

Full version of the DfT paper 

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