Dr Philip Nathan, one of the world’s leading experts in fuel quality, discusses the importance of fuel sampling, analysis and testing for extending the life of your fuel and the systems it runs.
All fuels are subject to ageing degradation and their appropriate management and handling is necessary to minimise wastage and ensure safe and satisfactory performance. This is particularly relevant to fuels that sit, unused, for a period of time – such as emergency power supply systems, which experience a high incidence of failure as a result of poor fuel quality.
Regular fuel testing
Periodic fuel surveillance is necessary for power systems that do not run continuously. This is true for all sectors; hospitals, police, banks, electricity generation, facilities management companies etc.
We recommend a regular fuel sampling and analysis programme to nip impending problems in the bud, rather than reacting when things go wrong, or anticipating fuel issues without facts. By implementing a preventive fuel handling program, customers can ensure:
- Reliable equipment operations
- Reduced filter change-outs
- Reduced engine deposits
- Increased safety
- Increased equipment reliability and longevity
By default, all of these effects will add to increased profitability.
Most poor fuel conditions can be corrected without major expense; if each condition is diagnosed promptly, in the right way. Fuel analysis gives the diagnostic information needed to prevent real trouble; be it with engines or fuel storage tanks.
Fuel oils degrade through oxidation, poor housekeeping practices and from condensation build-up in the tank. There are three primary factors which have a direct impact on fuel performance:
1. Physical characteristics:
A sample should be tested of every new fuel delivery to ensure it meets the minimum quality criteria and is free of unwanted contamination.
As fuels age, chemical oxidation creates particulate formation and associated deposits and sediments are generated.
The rate of fuel degradation in extended storage is not predictable for many different reasons; including storage design, location, environmental issues, the nature of the fuel etc. Sampling and testing will give information as to whether a fuel requires polishing, and/or tanks need cleaning.
Early detection of water contamination (entrained water) can help reduce storage tank corrosion, avoid degradation reducing the fuels performance, while correcting underlying problems with storage facilities or handling procedures. Separate chemical and/or physical tests can also be done to detect metallic corrosion products; inherent trace metals that act as a catalyst to oxidation, and solid contaminants; such as sediment and insoluble gums and varnish.
If solid contaminants and water accumulate in storage tanks, it is likely they will form a water-rich particulate sludge; an ideal growth medium for microorganisms (bacteria, yeast or fungi) – leading forms of fuel contamination.
In the early stages of fuel contamination detection, minor corrective action may be all that’s required: de-sludgeing, de-water and polishing. It’s important to get in quick before problems with corrosion cripple fuel storage and onward usage, minimising expense and prolonged down-time.
Periodic fuel sampling and analysis
Scheduled fuel sampling and analysis packages can be set-up to support an overall fuel management program. When delivered through Adler and Allan, these programmes are backed-up with scientific testing and findings, plus years of experience.
Fuel testing covers a broad range of activity, assessing fuel conditions when in use, on delivery and during long-term storage. Once an analysis is complete, the results are evaluated and recommendations made. Samples are taken from different points within a tank to make sure overall fuel characteristics are obtained, while and optimising the detection and control of contaminants.