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Care needed when handling fuel

To prevent contamination and potential damage to engines, care is always needed amongst transport operators, a conference was told

By”>Gary Worrall | October 17, 2011


Transport operators should always take care when handling fuel to prevent contamination and potential damage to engines, the 2011 ATA Technical and Maintenance Conference has been told.

Andrew Last, a commercial and depot engineer for BP in New South Wales, says operators with on-site storage should undertake daily reconciliations of underground tanks, including water contamination.

Last says there are numerous potential causes for contamination, including rainfall and rising water tables, and operators should always ensure fuel is not contaminated.

In his role of ensuring compliance of customer on-site fuel storage, Last says maintenance of pumping equipment can also be a problem, with damaged pipes allowing contaminants into the fuel.

Hayden Schulz, aftermarket sales manager with Donaldson Australasia, says while modern filters work better than their predecessors, modern engines have finer tolerances and care is needed to prevent problems.

Current generation high pressure injection systems, such as common rail systems used by virtually all manufacturers in recent years, can be damaged by a particle as small as 1 micron, or 1/1000th of a millimetre.

Schulz says the common practice of restarting a pump after it has stopped can often release trapped contaminants from the filter.

He says diffusion filters rely on high flow rates to create charged particles, which then capture the contaminants, however if the flow is interrupted then the trapped particles are released back into the flow.

Schulz says there is a common myth that filters trap all contamination, in reality due to the need for flow rates of fuel to the engine approximately 1 percent of contaminants will make it through the filter.

He says operators need to eliminate all poor practices from their fuel handling, including ensuring that fuel is only poured into clean containers if it is being decanted.

Garry Whitfield, also of BP Australia, says that while previously water contamination of fuel would promote fungal growth, new strains of bacteria were now introducing water into fuel.

The good news for operators, Whitfield says, is the availability of biocides to treat fuel storage tanks, which eliminate the fungal growths allowing the fuel to continue to be used without problems.

He says another side effect of high pressure fuel systems is high operating temperatures, which can ‘caramelise’ any fungal growths in the injectors, causing to premature pitting and wear.

Whitfield says one solution to preventing fungal growths in fuel is to keep tanks full, which also helps to prevent rust formation in the tanks.


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