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Old 07-22-2013, 05:30 PM   #1
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Old Fuel

I am about to take delivery of a trawler with two-225 gallon fuel tanks. If the gauges are fairly accurate, it has about 300 gallon on board now and will need 150 to fill up. A 2007 survey shows that the engine has only been ran about 80 hours since then. So, it's my guess that the previous owner filled it up six years ago and burned off 150 gallons. It is a single engine with one large Recor fuel filter (not sure of the model) and the usual two smaller filters on the engine. Is this a candidate for a fuel polishing service or something more. I do not know how long diesel can last. I still have a small diesel powered fishing boat that holds 100 gallons, but the fuel gets turned over pretty quickly in that boat.
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Old 07-22-2013, 06:37 PM   #2
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I would speak to a fuel company as to what to do with old diesel, I know that it can last for years if stored correctly. The large quantity of fuel used in standby generators at hospitals, fire stations etc. only gets used every once and a while (the hospital where I work runs the generators once a week for 15 min and stores 5500 gal) filtered and treated and it may be fine.

Call an expert
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:17 PM   #3
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Unfortunately, a lot of us don't burn off our fuel fast enough to turn it over every year.

Did it run alright during your sea trial? Take off the primary filter and check for water or gunk in the element. If you're still that concerned then draw off a sample or polish the fuel. Call the previous owner and talk to him about the fuel and any problems with filter fouling??

The condition of your oil will depend on a lot of factors, storage tank condition, temperature, filtration, water moisture. If it's clean and doesn't have water in it, you should be fine running it through the engines. Might be a good time to set up a fuel polishing system on the boat though.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
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First of all, congrats on your new boat!

If it has been sitting for that long, I would be most concerned about the growth of native yeast, bacteria, and fungus. #2 Diesel fuel typically has biocides added to it at the refinery. However, the biocides become less effective over time. If the boat has been sitting in the water for the entire duration of the time between the last survey and now, I would be concerned about biological contamination.

I would also be concerned about the presence of water in the fuel. The boat has been around a considerable amount of moisture for a considerable amount of time.

The first course of action I would suggest is to remove the filter element and inspect it. Run your finger across the membranes and determine whether there is a presence of slime. Smell the membrane as well. If it smells like rotten eggs or has a cheese-like smell, it is a strong indication the fuel is contaminated.

Obtain a pH meter or pH test strips and test the fuel's pH level. If it is below 5.5 (this is a well established industry standard), the organisms that contaminated your fuel have created corrosive acid. At that point, you need to seriously consider discarding that fuel.

Also, take samples of your fuel from various parts of the tank. Compare a sample from the middle of the tank to a sample from the bottom of the tank to a sample from the top of the tank (where your fuel level is). Place each sample in a jar and lay them side by side. If you see cloudiness increase as you go deeper, you definitely have contaminated fuel. What you are seeing on the bottom is essentially the remains from dead organisms.

I would not recommend polishing your fuel. Polishing is a fancy term for filtration on steroids. Regardless of what fuel polishing companies will claim, they cannot restore contaminated Diesel fuel to its original condition. They can destroy and filter many of the biological organisms and add biocides, but it simultaneously degrades the quality of the fuel and will affect your engine performance.

Note: If you need to get rid of bad Diesel fuel, you can use it for heating. Many kerosene heaters can burn Diesel. Since the heater does not have an injector pump and injectors, no need to worry about the fuel causing damage to mechanical equipment. The worst that could happen is a plugged orifice on the burner, which can be easily cleaned.
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Old 07-22-2013, 07:41 PM   #5
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Please provide the citations to support the "well known" industry standard for fuel pH, and please document refinery added biocides.

Please describe how filtration can degrade fuel quality.
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:25 PM   #6
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Please provide the citations to support the "well known" industry standard for fuel pH, and please document refinery added biocides.

Please describe how filtration can degrade fuel quality.
Several years ago, the California Department of Water Resources sponsored a symposium on biological contaminants in effluent from fuel refineries. Dow Chemical presented one of the sessions and provided an indepth discussion on the contamination of Diesel fuel. I attended the symposium and garnered the information from the materials presented. I took a snapshot of one of the documents that were a part of Dow Chemical's presentation. I do not remember which one of the standards specifically specified 5.5, but feel free to search through them.

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Name:	ASTM Standards for Microbial Contamination of Diesel.jpeg
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:46 PM   #7
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... but feel free to search through them.
Ah, come on, it was a simple request that you backup your claims. I don't need to prove them, you do.
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:47 PM   #8
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The boat has been in Newport and San Pedro (LA) all of it's life, so not terribly wet or cold. It has aluminum tanks and all of the fuel filters were recently changed with 4 to 5 hours on them. So it may be too soon to check for slime in the filters. The engine fired right up on a cold start and ran smooth. It did produce just a little white smoke that stayed the same even after it was up to operating temperature. We all thought (hoped) it is just a dirty injector. I plan to take the injectors to a Diesel Injection shop next week. The previous owner will be getting with me next week to run me through all the operations. I'll find out then if he has ever had any fouling issues and if he put in any fuel additive. I have been using Stanadyne Lubricity Formula for the older Volvo in the fishing boat and occasionally use their Performance Formula. I just looked a bottle and Stanadyne doesn't say anything about having a biocide. Who offers a good biocide/lubrication/demulsifier additive?
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Old 07-22-2013, 08:48 PM   #9
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Ah, come on, it was a simple request that you backup your claims. I don't need to prove them, you do.
If I had the standards committed to memory, I would have happily shared them.
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Old 07-22-2013, 09:09 PM   #10
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The boat has been in Newport and San Pedro (LA) all of it's life, so not terribly wet or cold. It has aluminum tanks and all of the fuel filters were recently changed with 4 to 5 hours on them. So it may be too soon to check for slime in the filters. The engine fired right up on a cold start and ran smooth. It did produce just a little white smoke that stayed the same even after it was up to operating temperature. We all thought (hoped) it is just a dirty injector. I plan to take the injectors to a Diesel Injection shop next week. The previous owner will be getting with me next week to run me through all the operations. I'll find out then if he has ever had any fouling issues and if he put in any fuel additive. I have been using Stanadyne Lubricity Formula for the older Volvo in the fishing boat and occasionally use their Performance Formula. I just looked a bottle and Stanadyne doesn't say anything about having a biocide. Who offers a good biocide/lubrication/demulsifier additive?
I have had very good results with BioGuard. One container will treat quite a bit of fuel. I usually pick it up from West Marine.

VALVTECT BioGuard Fuel Micro-Biocide at West Marine
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Old 07-22-2013, 10:15 PM   #11
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I am about to take delivery of a trawler with two-225 gallon fuel tanks.
My trick for older fuel is to isolate it. Fill one tank to the brim with the old fuel and the other with fresh. Burn the old fuel off to about 1/2 full in the old tank tank and top up with clean fuel from the fresher side as draw down occurs. This way if any hint of trouble you can switch to good fuel side. Don't overlaod with biocides or treatment stuff.

I've run 10+ year old fuel in off highway equipment with no trouble. If filters are staying clean after 20 hours or so I'd say you are good to go. Anyway you can get a water in fuel analysis?
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Old 07-22-2013, 10:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by remwines View Post
I am about to take delivery of a trawler with two-225 gallon fuel tanks. If the gauges are fairly accurate, it has about 300 gallon on board now and will need 150 to fill up. A 2007 survey shows that the engine has only been ran about 80 hours since then. So, it's my guess that the previous owner filled it up six years ago and burned off 150 gallons. It is a single engine with one large Recor fuel filter (not sure of the model) and the usual two smaller filters on the engine. Is this a candidate for a fuel polishing service or something more. I do not know how long diesel can last. I still have a small diesel powered fishing boat that holds 100 gallons, but the fuel gets turned over pretty quickly in that boat.
I would submit my opinion only. If you are really worried about it, you have a few options. You could get is scrubbed or polished in the tank at a yard. You can get a fuel service company to come do it on a larger scale (they can do it faster and more times through a filter... but it will cost some more I would imagine). If there is access to inside your tanks via an access panel, you can have the tanks cleaned or do it yourself (I had mine done for $500). You can just have the tanks pumped out and put in brand new fuel. Finally, there is just keeping an eye on your filters, having a few spares on board, get proficient at changing them both at the dock and underway... and just run what you got.

Now, since it's new-to-you and you are going to be learning this boat over the next few months, I don't see why the last option isn't the best one to start off with. If the sea trial went well and she runs well now, no sense fixing a problem you don't know you have yet. Add it to the list to follow up on sooner-ish. Just make sure you don't throw her into rough seas before you know what you have going on in there. That is a terrible time to stir the muck up from the bottom of the tanks and have it clog your filter.

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Old 07-22-2013, 11:57 PM   #13
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[Just make sure you don't throw her into rough seas before you know what you have going on in there. That is a terrible time to stir the muck up from the bottom of the tanks and have it clog your filter.

Tom-[/QUOTE]

And this has been my biggest concern. This happened to me at Bodega Bay last year and I didn't have an extra filter for the Racor on board to deal with it. The extra filters were store nicely back in the shop at home. That will never happen again!

The boat is in San Pedro and after sorting out some issues, I will be bringing it up to the East SF Bay. Since the boat is already in SoCal, I plan on taking the crew to Catalina, then north to the Channel Islands. If there's a problem, we have Ventura and Santa Barbara to make repairs. But once we make the corner at Port Conception, the water can get a bit rough and stir up the long term crud on the bottom of the tanks. I planned on having a case of filters and will be checking frequently for contamination.

During the sea trial, we ran the main engine for a couple of hours and it didn't miss a beat. We also ran the genset for an hour to check all 120V systems and the come home electric motor, and it ran fine. So I guess I'll add a little biocide, check the sediment bowl hourly, and change the filter a few times just to be safe.

When I get closer to making the trip north, I'll be asking for help with trip planning, anchorage around the Channel Islands and places stay along the way. This will be my first extended trip.

Thanks for all the input!

Bob
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Old 07-23-2013, 12:37 AM   #14
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If I had the standards committed to memory, I would have happily shared them.
Good demonstration of maturity and patience! Well done.
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Old 07-23-2013, 07:38 AM   #15
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If I had the standards committed to memory, I would have happily shared them.
If such a standard existed it would be easy for you to find.

Still waiting for you to explain how filtering can change the fuel properties.
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Old 07-23-2013, 08:11 AM   #16
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If such a standard existed it would be easy for you to find.

Still waiting for you to explain how filtering can change the fuel properties.
I think you need to read his posting a little more carefully. He did not say filtering would change the fuel properties, at least I did not see such a statement. Rather what I read is that the filtered fuel you end up with may very well not be as good as the original fuel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astral Blue View Post
...If it has been sitting for that long, I would be most concerned about the growth of native yeast, bacteria, and fungus. #2 Diesel fuel typically has biocides added to it at the refinery. However, the biocides become less effective over time. If the boat has been sitting in the water for the entire duration of the time between the last survey and now, I would be concerned about biological contamination.

Obtain a pH meter or pH test strips and test the fuel's pH level. If it is below 5.5 (this is a well established industry standard), the organisms that contaminated your fuel have created corrosive acid. At that point, you need to seriously consider discarding that fuel.

I would not recommend polishing your fuel. Polishing is a fancy term for filtration on steroids. Regardless of what fuel polishing companies will claim, they cannot restore contaminated Diesel fuel to its original condition. They can destroy and filter many of the biological organisms and add biocides, but it simultaneously degrades the quality of the fuel and will affect your engine performance.
1) If in fact the organisms that have contaminated the fuel over a long number of years do create a corrosive acid. I doubt any filtering processes can filter out this acid. That acid could have a damaging effect on the injectors (expensive, sensitive items).
2) I think most fuel experts would advise against too many, and too much additives....it degrades the quality of the fuel.
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Old 07-23-2013, 09:18 AM   #17
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I think you need to read his posting a little more carefully. He did not say filtering would change the fuel properties, at least I did not see such a statement.
He very clearly stated that filtering ...

Quote:
... simultaneously degrades the quality of the fuel and will affect your engine performance.
That is absolute nonsense. Anyone publishing such a claim should be able to support it with documentation showing that filtration will alter fuel specifications or combustion qualities.

Quote:
If in fact the organisms that have contaminated the fuel over a long number of years do create a corrosive acid. I doubt any filtering processes can filter out this acid. That acid could have a damaging effect on the injectors (expensive, sensitive items)..
Acids produced by biological contamination are found in the free water upon which those biologicals live and die. If the water is removed by filtration, draining, or centrifuging, the acids are removed along with it. Acidic water can be a problem for the fuel tank but if removed it is not a problem for the injection system.

I challenge you to produce any reference in the literature to support injecton system failures due to acids produced by biological contamination not accompanied by free water. There is no pH standard for diesel fuel.
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Old 07-23-2013, 10:04 AM   #18
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RickB X2

The curse of the Internet is the lack of peer review. When I was working for real and writing/editing/proofing massive documents the redlining was at times more than half the document. It was expected and necessary to insure accuracy and dependability.
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Old 07-23-2013, 10:09 AM   #19
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A couple of comments

You mentioned white smoke, steam or white smoke? I think your plan to carry extra filters is viable, however you might find it difficult to change filters in rough conditions. There is a Racor double filter system that allows you to simply switch filters under power and change out the fouled filter without shutting down. Vacuum gauges on your filters is also a nice addition. Your electric get home motor may not have sufficient thrust to maintain steerage in anything but very calm conditions. I would plan on daily fuel filter changes at an anchorage or harbor. Late August though November is your best transit time. Don't make the mistake of under estimating Southern Cal conditions. A friend of mine lost his 38 Mediterranean at Point Conception. Even in the fall conditions the trip will be bumpy. Good luck and don't miss the Channel Islands.
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Old 07-23-2013, 10:32 AM   #20
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Scary brings up a good point. Get a vacuum gauge to replace the T-handle on your Racor. When the filter gets to above 6, replace it. The Racor brand Vacuum gauge will let you know what condition your filter is even after you turn off your engine (two hands, one that stays at highest reading after engine is shut off). It's a nice touch. Keep in mind that if you have the smaller 500FG Racor, you may have to cut off 2 threads of the gauge to get it to work. All other models, it should be a direct replacement for the T-handle.

What ever you do, get to know your boat before chasing rabbits down holes. It is perfectly acceptable to use your Racor to clean your fuel. Just be liberal with the filters until you know what you have.
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