Different Types of Diesel Fuel Contamination

Particle Contamination

Dirt, mud and other particle pollutants typically enter into the tank via the breathing tubes or from poor quality fuel. In dirty regions, the problem of fuel pollution into the tank could be worse.

Contamination usually settles down onto the bottom of the tank as particles are heavier than fuel molecules, but when the tank is moved about these particles dislodge and will enter the fuel flow stream and get trapped in filters.

Rust Contamination

Metallic pollutants, particularly rust, are typically found in storage tank corrosion debris and distribution system components. They can plug filters and reduce fuel flow. If left unchecked, engines may lose power or even stop.

Water Contamination

Water also can easily reach the fuel in your tank, either as water forming on the inside walls of tanks form condensation or as part of the fuel delivery process. Water mostly enters in fuel tanks from the air and condensates when the atmospheric temperature drops.

Water mixed in the fuel may change its color, making it look dull or milky. Water is very harmful to fuel systems as it induces corrosion and encourages fungal and bug growth.

To tackle this issue, all fuel tanks should have a drain valve at the lowest part of the tank that allows water to be drained on a regular basis.

Bacterial Contamination

Different type of fungus, bacteria and yeasts may increase in fuel as long as the water is present. Water is the key ingredient needed to allow algae and microbes to grow in fuel systems.

Any of these species can generate filter plugging on a grand scale that can stop an engine real quick.

In some areas of the fuel system, especially where fuel may remain still and where water (e.g. spots of condensation) may be present, bacteria will be provided with the perfect climate to grow in.

These organisms usually look like slimes from the bottom of a stagnate pond when viewed visually. To identify these types of bugs easily you can use our test kit here.

Wax Contamination

Wax is a typical component of fuel but can separate itself on very low temperature from the filter. The cloud point is the test for calculating this fuel property and changed monthly. Keep in mind that fuel purchased in summer, if used in winter, may develop excessive wax in its composition.

Gum Contamination

Gums can be produced as a result of chemical changes in the fuel, especially by oxygen exposure, acids, high temperature, and other contaminations during storage. Gum can also emit from fuel as sediment that can impede fuel filters and injector operation.

Monitoring and Cleaning of Diesel Fuel

Typically, a routine fuel inspection and testing can show the users the excessive impurity in fuel. It would be best if you keep the following points in mind while checking fuel:

  • The fuel you use for filling or refilling the supply tank should follow the required standard.
  • The fuel from tanks should be inspected on a regular basis for signs of problems.
  • Regular testing of your fuel for water and bugs should be carried out.
  • Accumulated water should be removed, drain from the lowest point of the tanks. If it is necessary, then check the vents and fill points so that rain cannot enter your tanks.
  • The fuel in the supply tanks should be tested and/or polished after every five years if you are not using it. This is especially important for critical applications like back-up power generators.
  • You should check for sediments and remove water ASAP; the tanks should be also cleaned as required. This cleaning can be performed by using a fuel polishing machine.

Diesel Fuel Filter Plugging

Fuel filters are the central part of diesel fuel systems and they are the single most important component to keep your fuel clean. They remove contamination in fuel before they could harm the engines fuel pump or injectors. However, they may have a short life if you fuel tank is full of contamination.

Depending on the volume of a contaminant that they must extract frequent plugging (blockages) may occur. When fuel filters block before the usual service change; it means that fuel is more polluted than average. A fuel inspection will tackle this problem if you are facing this situation of frequent (not normal) filter replacements.

You must understand that the fuel in your system is in a constant loop of flow, the fuel just does sit in the lines waiting to enter the pump and injectors. Diesel flow from the tank through the fuel pump is constant as the fuel is a lubricant for the pump so constant flow is needed through the pump.

This is why the filters never really get a break, when the engine is running fuel is flowing through them. No matter even if the engine is at idle, they are working hard to protect your pump and injector from damage.

Testing Your Diesel Fuel with No Test Kits

If you have no test kits on hand you can just do a visual inspection. While doing sampling from the storage tank, make sure that enough fuel is still running off to clear the any drain lines before taking any sample.

Always take a sample into a clean glass bottle and visually test it first as it will save a lot of time since a visual examination will quickly show the source of the problems.

The fuel should be transparent and bright without suspended water or material. It should not be cloudy, hazy or milky on inspection.

Testing Your Diesel Fuel with Test Kits

We have available simple and low cost diesel fuel test kits for checking of water and bacterial problems – view our products here.