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Microbial Growth: A Surprising Source of Diesel Fuel Contamination

Fuel Station
Diesel fuel is the lifeblood of much of today's heavy machinery, from long-haul trucks to farm equipment to compactors and other paving machines. In order to increase efficiency and lower operating costs, many businesses choose to store diesel fuel onsite in special fuel tanks. This allows you to easily access diesel when you need it.
Unfortunately, however, storing diesel fuel always brings with it the risk of contamination. Believe it or not, one of the most common forms of contamination involves microbial growth - in other words, bacteria, mold, and/or fungi that take up residence inside of your fuel tanks. If not dealt with quickly enough, microbial growth can cause serious problems for your fuel supply.
If you would like to improve your understanding of this strange and interesting form of contamination, keep reading. This article will provide a useful overview of microbial contamination as it discusses the symptoms and consequences of and solutions to this potentially serious problem.
Microbial Contamination
Many people find it hard to believe that microbial life forms can survive in a diesel fuel tank. Yet the chemical composition of diesel makes it a surprisingly nourishing food source for these ravenous microorganisms. Gasoline, by comparison, cannot be used as a food source, as it contains poisonous lead molecules that prevent microbial growth.
Microbial growth requires more than just diesel fuel, however. Water must also be present in the fuel tank. Such water often makes its way into the tank through the process of condensation. Finally, the temperature inside the fuel tank must be between 50 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Under such conditions, microbial spores that naturally make their way into the diesel fuel will come to life. As they break down the diesel for energy, they create a variety of byproducts that accumulate as contaminants inside of the tank.
Signs of Microbial Contamination
As the contaminants produced by microbial life find their way into your equipment, they cause fuel filters to become clogged much more rapidly, necessitating more frequent replacement. You may also find that your engines' fuel injectors seem to become clogged much more frequently.
Among the many byproducts of microbial growth are dangerous organic acids. These often lead to increased corrosion and wear in delicate parts of an engine. Cylinder liners and piston rings often suffer from accelerated wear when exposed to these acids. As piston rings wear down, oil begins sneaking into the cylinders and combusting, causing your oil consumption to rise drastically.
Contaminants that manage to get into the cylinders along with the fuel decrease the efficiency of your engine. They do so by reducing the heat of combustion. As a result, you may find that vehicles require more frequent refueling than before. Finally, discolored and/or smelly fuel often accompanies microbial contamination.
Preventing Microbial Growth
Unfortunately, microbial growth can be hard to eliminate completely. Because virtually all fuel containers have air vents, some amount of condensation will make its way into the tank over time. The first step in keeping microbes at bay must, therefore, be regular testing. This allows you to catch problems before they reach critical levels.
When the early stages of microbial contamination are detected, special fuel biocides can be added to the tank. These substances will kill off much of the microbial growth - without having any adverse effects on the fuel in the tank. Periodically draining water out of the tank bottom will help to keep the issue from recurring.
Microbial growth can present serious difficulties for a fuel supply, as well as for the vehicles that depend on it. For more information on keeping your fuel as fresh and clean as possible, contact Corpus Christi's fuel experts at R &R Petro Services, Inc.