Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

'New' diesel stirs storage concerns

Martin Ryan

On-farm storage of Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) may have to be abandoned by low volume users to avoid serious engine problems in modern tractors, according to an international fuel filter expert.

Niko Verhaegen, product development manager with Donaldson's, has claimed that the standard demanded by many diesel engines in agricultural machinery is higher than the quality available from fuel depots.

Tests carried out by Mr Verhaegen on five samples of farm diesel, randomly taken across five regions of the country, found an unacceptable level of contamination.

Clogged fuel lines and filters that have starved tractor engines of fuel have been blamed on the changed EU fuel content regulations which demanded a 99pc reduction in the sulphur content of green diesel. The changes were implemented in April. Modern diesel engine injector problems can cost several thousand euro to fix, as the modern common rail injector systems are more sensitive to diesel quality.

"All of the samples, when magnified, showed a large amount of contamination, greater than five microns," said Mr Verhaegen. "The nature of the contamination consisted of particles of dust, rust, minute pieces of metal, fabric, bacteria and water.

"Sources of this contamination can only be guessed at. Some may have come with the fuel delivery and some may have originated in the farmer's yard."

He said that, apart from particle contamination, diesel fuel has always attracted a certain amount of water.

New ULSD, with or without bio-diesel added, is capable of attracting a lot more water contamination. The presence of water in the diesel can cause the growth of bacteria at the interface of the fuel and the water.

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Bio-diesel added to ULSD should not in itself cause a problem. However, the combination of bad housekeeping practices and the cleanliness tolerances demanded for newer engines mean that a casual approach to storage and handling will inevitably lead to problems.

"The ultimate solution is to filter fuel when it is being delivered and again filter it when it is being dispensed into a vehicle," said Mr Verhaegen. "However, this is quite expensive and probably not economically practical for the low volume user."

Dermot Mulcahy, of McHugh Components, who supply diesel filtration systems, said that a filtration system at the farm storage tank can cost up to €500. He also recommended fitting a tank dryer to absorb water at the bottom of the tank.

"It may be more practical for low volume users of ULSD to purchase the fuel at a local filling station as required for use," said Mr Mulcahy.

A lower cost gravity flow system would cost around €100, but he said: "While there are filters with 10 micron filtration and water absorb capacity that will work on gravity feed, it has to be said that the filter will work much more efficiently if the fuel is pumped through the filter."

Indo Farming