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Old 04-03-2016, 01:40 PM   #1
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Fuel questions....

I hopefully will be in the situation where I need to buy some diesel fuel. I have been buying diesel fuel for many years, but only buy about 30 gals at at time on average. With a 40 gal tank, I don't go through much fuel and it sits around a long time. I have always used a fuel stabilizer/biocide.

Now I am looking at buying fuel (and burning fuel) in much larger quantities and could use some advice. I have read through all the threads that I can find here and boatdiesel.com but am still a bit confused.

Questions:
1. Is it "better" to fill up the tanks and keep them topped off, or is it better to only take on the fuel that would be used in a reasonable amount of time?
2. What is "reasonable" in #1?
3. Is using a fuel stabilizer/biocide reasonalbe?

Opinions welcome.
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:12 PM   #2
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OK. I lost what I had written, so now you get the short version.

All of the above. Pretty much whatever you do or don't do, will make very little difference.

Yes, i would always keep the tank topped up. But beyond that,,, I have read so much stuff, much of it contradictory, that the only reasonable conclusion is it really does not make much difference.
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:38 PM   #3
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Fill-up when convenient but full is better

We try to keep the tanks as full as possible but don't go out of the way to do so except at the end of the season. Always winter store 7/8+ full.

If we're on a long cruise we'll fill up when convenient and the price is right. While underway cruising we often run the tanks down to 1/3 or less before filling. When she's in the slip tanks are usually never less than 5/8 full for any period of time.
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Old 04-03-2016, 03:15 PM   #4
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Depending...condensation in boat tanks is more myth than truth.


See Compass marine demonstration and explanation if you don't believe just me.


Diesel lasts a long time...but some chemistry and some biology can happen. Biology much faster than chemistry...months versus years.


I recommend just buying and storing what you think you will burn over say 3-6 months and don't worry about it.


If longer and your portion of the country suggests biocide...use it.


Other than that...if you keep burning off the fuel...there is little to contaminate.
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Old 04-03-2016, 03:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by dhays View Post
I hopefully will be in the situation where I need to buy some diesel fuel. I have been buying diesel fuel for many years, but only buy about 30 gals at at time on average. With a 40 gal tank, I don't go through much fuel and it sits around a long time. I have always used a fuel stabilizer/biocide.

Now I am looking at buying fuel (and burning fuel) in much larger quantities and could use some advice. I have read through all the threads that I can find here and boatdiesel.com but am still a bit confused.

Questions:
1. Is it "better" to fill up the tanks and keep them topped off, or is it better to only take on the fuel that would be used in a reasonable amount of time?
2. What is "reasonable" in #1?
3. Is using a fuel stabilizer/biocide reasonalbe?

Opinions welcome.
No doubt there's a lot of snake oil on the market where fuel additives are concerned. I believe you could bottle diesel fuel or kero, add some dye and make claims about smoke, fuel economy and algae and it would sell. And for the record, algae is virtually never present in diesel fuel, as a plant, it needs sunlight to carry out photosynthesis, of which there is precious little in the average fuel tank.

Having said all that, there are additives whose claims are reasonable, and they do work as advertised in my experience. In all the years I ran a boat yard, in which hundreds of boats were winterized, I used StaBil for diesel and gasoline stabilization, I'm firmly convinced it works. Diesel fuel is pretty inherently stable, at least for 6 months to a year (although ULSD has reportedly reduced this somewhat). After that a stabilizer like StaBil makes sense, although you should not stabilize old fuel, i.e. don't add it after 6 mos.

If, however, water is present in the tank all bets are off, as it will support biological life (which is typically bacteria and mold based), which can wreak havoc on tanks and fuel systems. Biocides will kill these organisms, but it's a crap shoot as you can't be sure how much to use, and the organisms, being animal based, actually have skeletons, which accumulate at the bottom of the tank after they die, and those skeletons are abrasive. The byproduct produced by these organisms, hydrogen sulfide, is acidic and corrosive to metallic tanks and fuel systems. You get the point, water in fuel tanks is undesirable in so many ways. Removing the water, therefore, using a stripper tube or drain, is far more preferable than treating biological growth by which it is supported.

The other major issue that can affect diesel fuel is lubricity. Lubricity is an article unto itself, however, in short, even diesel fuel that meets ULSD S15 requirements (contrary to popular belief and many articles that have been written about it, the ASTM diesel fuel standard, D975, remarkably, does not include an adopted lubricity requirement, I've read the standard), doesn't meet the requirements of many diesel engine manufacturers. Therefore, using an additive such as Stanadyne Performance Formula All Season, which includes a lubricity additive Performance Formula « Stanadyne Additives(they do offer a stand alone lubricity improver, as well), while not mandatory, is very good insurance. No connection with the company, (or StaBil), I just use it, and recommend it, with every fill up and have for years. Stanadyne is made by a company that manufacturers fuel injection systems, which, in my estimation, makes them trusted enough to formulate and offer a product of this sort.

Stanadyne and StaBil include a demulsifier, which encourages water separation from fuel, enabling it to be drained off or sucked out of a tank, while many other additives include emulsifiers, just the opposite, which encourage water to mix with fuel. If you have a water seperating fuel filter (or fuel tank water drain). It strikes me as counterproductive to attempt to force water to mix with fuel, and have it pass through filters and into injection systems. And again, not knowing how much water is present makes using an emulsifier a gamble at best.

Just my opinion. With the exception of anchors perhaps, few subjects are as contentious and strewn with opinions as fuel additives, and with good reason, so little is, or can truly be known about them without lab testing.
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Old 04-03-2016, 03:51 PM   #6
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Depends if you are running the boat or if the boat is sitting in place for many months at a time. If you are running the boat, do whatever you want and save your additive money to buy more diesel fuel. I remember when fuel prices were so volatile in 2007-2009. When prices were going up rapidly we topped off at virtually every dock stop. When they were plummeting we'd wait until we got to the next cheap commercial dock or place where we could call a truck, sometimes down to as little as 10% or less of capacity. In our experience additives are a waste of money unless you are putting the boat into exposed storage for a long time, and even then somewhat questionable.
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Old 04-03-2016, 04:12 PM   #7
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What psneeld said but first you need to know that most diesels pump a lot of fuel and return most of it to the tank unless at full load. This cools and lubes the injector system and also runs lots of fuel through the filters.


Personally I only filled the tanks when I planned a lot of use. Other times I tried to only have as much fuel on board as needed the theory being that the less fuel in the tank the more frequently it would be filtered, see above. The mixing problem if you have a math background. Also less fuel means more sloshing to stir up junk when it gets bumpy. Anyway that worked for me in hot steamy Florida for 17 years.


I also never used any additives. Just clean source fuel.
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Old 04-03-2016, 04:18 PM   #8
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What we do:
100 % filling end of season to avoid condensation over winter, since we don't move out of the slip for 3 month. Over the season we fill up if we need to and fuel at reasonable price available. We did never run the tanks down below 10%.
Honestly: no clue whether this is smart or not. But it worked so far ...


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Old 04-03-2016, 04:24 PM   #9
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Greetings,
Mr. b. "...that most diesels pump a lot of fuel and return most of it to the tank..." With Ford Lehman's being one exception.
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Old 04-03-2016, 04:35 PM   #10
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Greetings,
Mr. b. "...that most diesels pump a lot of fuel and return most of it to the tank..." With Ford Lehman's being one exception.
The Rodney Dangerfield of diesels...they get no respect....

May have to nickname mine Rodney....
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Old 04-03-2016, 05:42 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by dhays View Post

Questions:
1. Is it "better" to fill up the tanks and keep them topped off, or is it better to only take on the fuel that would be used in a reasonable amount of time?
2. What is "reasonable" in #1?
3. Is using a fuel stabilizer/biocide reasonalbe?

Opinions welcome.
I think the answer to all the above is "it depends." As to #1 and #2, much depends on how long you're talking about the fuel being stored and definitely of "reasonable." As others have pointed out there's the issue of fuel contamination and the one of degradation. We keep near full, but then we run through the fuel quickly. If it took us three years to use our fuel supply then we'd keep less.

As to #3, we determine based on the fuel we're getting. Valvtech has an additive in it. So do some other brands. However, elsewhere or when uncertain, we toss in an additive, especially when out of the country. When traveling in areas of uncertainty, we test the fuel before filling. However, you can only get immediate readings on water and visual clarity and on degradation. Any microbial test requires time to develop.

Is it worthwhile? Well, in three years and over 50,000 nm we've only found two problems of water or degradation. (One of them also turned out to have a microbial issue). However, those two times could have been real issues. One was water that could easily be seen. That's a simple thing to check and I'd recommend it especially in low volume marinas or those just resuming business at the start of the season. We actually found the one issue of degradation (through detecting high levels of acidity) in a situation that really surprised us as it was a fuel truck delivery (out of the country). The driver stated that they didn't sell much and hadn't had a delivery to them in quite a while, maybe two or three years.

I wish I'd known about testing when we lived on the lake. Every spring, dozens of boaters would have issues from water in their fuel. At least one marina on the lake would have issues.
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Old 04-03-2016, 06:44 PM   #12
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I would be wary of the Valvetech claims and any other additive added at the marina level.


A certain manager I know hadn't added the additive in years despite advertising it.


Like many diesel options, whether the red dye or advertised additive...it is added at the truck or tank fill and even ethanol is often shorted when analyzed in a lab.


All over? Every marina? heck, I can't answer that...but in my little world...there's a lot amiss compared to what people think is reality.
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Old 04-03-2016, 07:02 PM   #13
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All over? Every marina? heck, I can't answer that...but in my little world...there's a lot amiss compared to what people think is reality.
I don't know what people think is reality or how much is amiss. The only thing I do know is that it's quite possible to get poor quality diesel. I know on low sulfur vs. ultra low sulfur you could possibly not get what you're buying. Where I've got equal concern is on other lubricants. When you buy 5 gallon pails or 55 gallon drums of oil, is it always what you thought you were buying? The reality is you just buy from someone you believe to be trustworthy as much as possible and have your lubricants tested. It may not be an engine issue, but could be what was delivered.

Still, I see no reason for paranoia. Just awareness. We take extra precautions based on some of the places we go.
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Old 04-03-2016, 07:08 PM   #14
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I would trust a 5 gallon pail or 55 gallon drum of oil from a manufacturer, who knows well that their oil might be tested as opposed to a local marina that depends on a truck driver or marina worker to pour in an aftermarket additive.

Paranoid not at all... just have a hard time with something that I can't trust and have to decide whether to supplement or not.

It is just a shame as getting fuel tested seems crazy when so much of the time you are going to start using it immediately.

I might consider it for a big tank load and a long voyage. Just as I would let it settle and polish it in some fashion.

Wxx3 experienced it first hand on his voyage.
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:14 PM   #15
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Dave, asking about diesel additives on TF falls somewhere between "courageous" and "character forming", using the open ended sphincter scale.
An important consideration is where you get your fuel. You want a good safe source, a load of bad fuel or fuel with water is a PITA. Ask around. Look for somewhere that has a good reputation, perhaps a supplier that does high volume high turnover sales, including to commercial ferry type operators.
A diesel mechanic told me to take a glass container and squirt some fuel into it before filling tanks. If you see "bubbles" and they remain, they are water, not air bubbles, beware.
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:32 PM   #16
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I might consider it for a big tank load and a long voyage. Just as I would let it settle and polish it in some fashion.

Wxx3 experienced it first hand on his voyage.
We do long voyages and big tanks and that is the primary reason we test. Also, the primary reason we have polishing.
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:48 PM   #17
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Greetings,
Mr. b. "...that most diesels pump a lot of fuel and return most of it to the tank..." With Ford Lehman's being one exception.
Don't mean to derail the thread, but I'm curious. Do Ford Lehmans not return diesel to the tank?
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Old 04-03-2016, 09:02 PM   #18
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Don't mean to derail the thread, but I'm curious. Do Ford Lehmans not return diesel to the tank?
Virtually none....

I have never heard a concrete answer...

Anecdotally, during an engine run at a class in a parking lot, I heard that the instructor never hooked up a return line while running it, I also couldn't get any at 1000 RPMs in 5 minutes when testing for my new fuel manifolds.
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Old 04-03-2016, 09:15 PM   #19
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Thanks Psneeld. Interesting, so it has a return line, but doesn't return much fuel. Somehow, the lift pump delivers just the amount of fuel that the injection pump uses?
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:10 PM   #20
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I have read so much stuff, much of it contradictory, that the only reasonable conclusion is it really does not make much difference.
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This is also my experience. My reasoning, which explains my success in having burning a good amount of oftentimes 1+ year old fuel (I hold 2300 gallons and don't always burn it all in a year), is that with really good filtration, nothing bad (ie, water, growth or other particulates) can get through, so the only other downside to old fuel is a loss of cetane. Although I only occasionally run my engines anywhere near max hp or 90% load anywhere along the curve, I have never had combustion problems with old diesel -- no lack of power, no smoke and no temp problems.
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