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Fuel maintenance and its importance

16 April 2019

A study shows that 83% of fuel tanks exhibit moderate to severe corrosion, while fuel maintenance is often poorly executed. Overlooking this important component is putting your power application at risk.
We all understand that downtime in any business isn’t an option, especially if it can be avoided. There is no doubt that some businesses rely on a continuous stream of power more so than others, such as mission critical facilities or hospitals. However the same rule applies to them all. Look after your generator and your generator will look after you.
When the power goes out, multiple systems must function in sequence for a smooth uninterrupted transition to backup power. If just one of these systems fails, the whole backup power system fails. Poor attention to fuel quality and maintenance can form part of this failure, resulting in unplanned downtime and significant financial loses.
A high proportion of fuel tanks will have some form of corrosion, the problem here is that without being inside the fuel tank, you cannot visibly tell if you have a corrosion problem or not. Corrosion is a problem in not just steel tanks but fibreglass too. Fuel that sits in a tank for a long period of time can start to see degradation in as little as six months.
If fuel supplying backup generators isn’t maintained properly the fuel can contain contaminants such as water, microbes, sludge and particulate matter. Dirt and water are the most common contaminating factors.
What happens if your fuel is contaminated?
Injector life is reduced significantly if there is more that the acceptable level of water in your fuel. Water content should stay well below 0.05% of volume. When fuel contains water the fuel develops a haze and becomes more opaque.  The lubricating properties of diesel are also effected by water along with reducing the combustibility of the fuel.
Bacterial growth can form within your fuel, this is commonly known as ‘diesel bug’. This acidic condition promotes corrosion in an engine and fuel system components. A solution can be diluted into your fuel to correct this condition however avoiding it in the first place is key. Another option here is to fuel polish, this is a process whereby the system pulls out the contaminated fuel from the tank for filtration and returns clean fuel to the tank.
Clogged filters is an extremely common fault. A generator has filters to prevent contaminants from reaching the injectors, but with poor fuel quality these filters can clog quickly. When a fuel filter is clogged, there are two options. The first and most common solution is to shut the generator down and replace the filters, a fairly quick and simple process. If the generator cannot be shut down because downtime is an absolute no no, then the second option is to bypass the filters. By doing this though, there is nothing to prevent contaminated fuel from reaching the injector tips. If contaminated fuel does reach the injector tips you may notice:
* Low power from the engine.
* Reduced RPM.
* Increased fuel consumption.
* Poor cycle times or low speed.
* Smoke.
* Noise.
* Poor starting.
Maintenance is vital, as vital as your generator is to your business or operation. When comparing the costs of regular maintenance against the cost associated with downtime it should be a no brainier to opt for maintenance. For example a large data centre without power can cost thousands of pounds every minute of downtime. A hospital without power can result in loss of life and again cost thousands of pounds. Regular maintenance in time will pay for itself.
Large data centres such as the ones used by Google, Facebook and Microsoft to name but a few, all use automatic fuel maintenance systems. This system eliminates the human element that can lead to failures. The fuel system in place contributes to the longevity and performance of their critical assets. Having an automated fuel system over a service contract is the more expensive option however for major operations such as Google, fuel maintenance is treated like a mission critical component of their backup power system.
If you think you may have contaminated fuel and don’t know how to resolve, please give FW Power a call we will be able to help you.
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