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"Sticky Diesel" stops several canal boats


Alan de Enfield

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Following on from reports in Farmers Weekly (magazine) of 100's of agricultural vehicles suffering from 'fuel problems' RCR are reporting that its staring to happen with Canal Boat engines.

 

It might be reported on NBW but worth a read.

 

 

Curious cases of sticky fuel

 PUBLISHED: WEDNESDAY, 09 DECEMBER 2020

THE River Canal Rescue (RCR) reports there’s been an uncharacteristic peak in fuel-related component breakdowns not linked to diesel bug.

It cites two identical jobs where fuel injectors were diagnosed as needing an overhaul, yet their replacements stopped working within a week, and injection pumps were found to have failed even though the diesel was clear and bright.

Seized solid

Upon further investigation, engineers found in both cases the injector pump racks had seized solid and the nozzles were blocked, and when replacing the plunger filter head, they found the fuel had a sticky, syrup-like substance. Alongside stuck injection pump racks, injectors and filter head plunger failures, RCR is seeing cases of fuel filters blocking with wax inside them, with Managing Director, Stephanie Horton, explaining:

Stephanie Horton300“Over the last nine months we’ve come across higher than normal call-outs for injector, injection pump and fuel problems not related to diesel bug.  Our contractors are also reporting reoccurring issues with these systems and ‘sticky fuel’.

“It’s definitely a type of contamination, but not one we’ve seen before.  Samples have been taken and we’re trying to build a picture of the problem.  Our engineers are reporting problems across the UK and this particular issue is only becoming clear when a fault reoccurs, because the diesel on the whole, looks bright and clear.

“Initially we suspected sugar in the fuel, but sugar stays crystalline instead of dissolving.  We now believe it may be related to a reduction in FAME free fuel and a change in fuel and fuel treatment additives.”

Wants to identify the culprit

In order to identify the culprit, Stephanie is keen to hear from boat owners and engineers with similar problems, adding:

“I want to learn more about their experiences, where they filled up and what treatments they may have used, and increase my sample size. The more I know, the closer I am to finding a solution.”

Stephanie believes the issue could stem from chemicals, now present in some treatments and red diesel, which replaced banned additives, and she’s looking into the farming sector’s blocked fuel filter problems reported around a year ago.

Made with vegetable oils and animal fats

According to Farmers Weekly, in order to increase the proportion of fuel derived from renewable sources (capped at 7%), an increasing amount of biodiesel was blended with red diesel. Known as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester—FAMEit’s made from a combination of fresh and recycled vegetable oils and some animal fats.

The blockage problems were initially attributed to its storage, but differing regional cases discounted this. The UK Petroleum Industry Association (PIA) tested samples but failed to pinpoint a single cause.  However tests by a fuel additive producer showed there could be a problem with insolvable particles dropping out of some of the fuel blends.

After testing 100 fuel and clogged filter samples, only 15% were found to contain contaminants as a result of poor storage, and in many cases, they weren’t significant enough to cause a blockage. The remainder were contaminant free with a clear appearance.

High total of contamination levels

More detailed tests revealed the fuels had high total contamination levels and particulate counts, many between 15-20 mg/kg. Clean gas oil normally has a contamination level of 6mg/kg and the legal limit is 24. When an external lab tested the sticky residue it revealed the problem was caused by sterol glucoside and monoglyceride particles.

These substances can drop out of bio diesel components and the problem’s made worse at low temperatures. They can also easily accumulate as they don’t melt back into the fuel as the temperature rises. With FAME coming from multiple sources, the PIA says fuel producers are working to address the issues by changing the properties of their diesel fuel blend, with Stephanie continuing:

Marinas cannot supply FAME free diesel

“There’s an industry task force currently looking at sustainability and the use of second stage bio-diesel for marina applications and they report these ‘sticky fuel’ symptoms were reported in their testing samples when using first stage bio-diesels. It’s clear there’s an ongoing problem which I wonder may be due to marinas no longer being able to supply FAME-free oil.

“It’s important we get to the bottom of the problem as these are costly breakdowns and business are also at risk due to the reoccurrence of issues and covering repairs under warranty.”

Send in samples

Stephanie is asking anyone experiencing ‘sticky fuel’ issues to send in samples or get in touch with River Canal Rescue and to please give your name, email address, a date when the issue occurred, when you last filled up with fuel and where, plus information on whether any treatments were added to the fuel and if so, what type.

Letters should be addressed to: Fuel Samples, River Canal Rescue, 11 Tilcon Avenue, Baswich, Stafford ST18 0YJ, email: enquiries@rivercanalrescue.co.uk with fuel issues in the subject line or call 01785 785680.

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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Interesting stuff, it sounds not unlike an issue I had several years ago, though I described the stuff as "diesel marmalade" rather than syrup as it was quite solid. It formed in the injectors and injector pump but not the filters. The fuel system was otherwise very clean.  I never really got to the bottom of it but dd suspect that fuel additives and low temperatures could be factors, with the copper fuel lines also a possible contributer.

 

................Dave

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It seems very like the "cream makers" of old where you made "cream" by mixing milk and unsalted butter and forced it through a small orifice under pressure.

 

The description could fit the injector pump and  the injectors so what is taking the place of the butter, could it be something in the new bio-diesel produced for domestic and forestry waste? Interesting to know if the rotary pumps suffer in a similar manner.

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The waxing of diesel in low temperatures was a common problem right into the 80s and it was a common sight to see trucks with little fires under the tank on freezing mornings. Better refining and additive solved this problem but the advent of bio fuel which is now blended with diesel has created problems. It was introduced in France as NRG oil non road gas oil and it came with a warning not to store for very long.

Edited by Dav and Pen
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18 minutes ago, Dav and Pen said:

The waxing of diesel in low temperatures was a common problem right into the 80s and it was a common sight to see trucks with little fires under the tank on freezing mornings. Better refining and adaptive solved this problem but the advent of bio fuel which is now blended with diesel has created problems. It was introduced in France as NRG oil non road gas oil and it came with a warning not to store for very long.

The addition of the FAME has resulted in 100's of problems in the Agricultural industry (where machinery can be quite old) and something has been 'dissolving' rubber seals in fuel pumps etc.

Changing the rubber compound (to, I think) Nitrile has reduced the problem but the issue of 'jelly' is still found.

I had huge problems with both of my Tractors and the excavator as we went into winter (not particularly cold but reduced temperatures compared the previous months) starting got harder and harder, and the filters were full of (what looked like) 'beef-dripping' and it didn't disappear when I heated it.

 

This next round of FAME percentage increases can only exacerbate the sitaution,

Maybe its another tactic to wean people off using ICE engines ?

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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17 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

I had huge problems with both of my Tractors and the excavator as we went into winter (not particularly cold but reduced temperatures compared the previous months) starting got harder and harder, and the filters were full of (what looked like) 'beef-dripping' and it didn't disappear when I heated it.

 

The refineries switch between winter and summer grade fuels - there's less of the longer chain fractions in the winter stuff, and often an anti-waxing agent too.  For infrequently used machinery - like many boats - you are much better off filling them with winter fuel rather than summer fuel if you can get it.

 

Boats that fill their tanks ready for winter in August them use them at Christmas are likely to suffer more from this than liveaboards who keep using and replacing fuel through the winter.

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1 hour ago, Tony Brooks said:

It seems very like the "cream makers" of old where you made "cream" by mixing milk and unsalted butter and forced it through a small orifice under pressure.

 

The description could fit the injector pump and  the injectors so what is taking the place of the butter, could it be something in the new bio-diesel produced for domestic and forestry waste? Interesting to know if the rotary pumps suffer in a similar manner.

As my "problem" appeared only in injectors and pump I also concluded that it was pressure related. I did a lot of www research and there are things that happen under pressure. There is also stuff in some additives that might give trouble with copper pipe/brass fittings.

My pump is a rotary pump, I suspect they suffer more because there are lots of little parts inside to go wrong, but the "marmalade" was all over the pump, not just in the high pressure part, I suspect the transfer pump was enough to do it.

The issue that I had was very different to waxing, the RCR article is a bit confused in this respect as it implies a new problem but also mentions waxed filters.

 

............Dave

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2 hours ago, Tony Brooks said:

It seems very like the "cream makers" of old where you made "cream" by mixing milk and unsalted butter and forced it through a small orifice under pressure.

 

The description could fit the injector pump and  the injectors so what is taking the place of the butter, could it be something in the new bio-diesel produced for domestic and forestry waste? Interesting to know if the rotary pumps suffer in a similar manner.

Interesting.  This "forest waste":  I've not come across this as a diesel additive, so is it something that gets extracted from waste wood?  In my working days I was involved with animal feed supplements and we used a material that was a by-product in the paper and wood chip industries as a binder in mineral blocks.  We referred  to it as a "vegetable gum" (I even got it accepted as an organic ingredient).  It was also used as a binder in the brick industry.

If this material is similar it is not surprising it is gumming up the injectors.

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14 minutes ago, dmr said:

As my "problem" appeared only in injectors and pump I also concluded that it was pressure related. I did a lot of www research and there are things that happen under pressure. There is also stuff in some additives that might give trouble with copper pipe/brass fittings.

My pump is a rotary pump, I suspect they suffer more because there are lots of little parts inside to go wrong, but the "marmalade" was all over the pump, not just in the high pressure part, I suspect the transfer pump was enough to do it.

The issue that I had was very different to waxing, the RCR article is a bit confused in this respect as it implies a new problem but also mentions waxed filters.

 

............Dave

 

A few years ago RCR did find contamination that coated the filters in an almost  waxy type substance that was a sort of white to buff colour. If blocked the filters so well that flue pressure/suction pushed the paper coils down. I would not melt. I think this is a new thing.

 

I have seen a fuller bulletin from RCR that named the substances involved and to me, a distinctly non-scientist, they looked as if they were organic in nature.

 

Edited by Tony Brooks
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2 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

A few years ago RCR did find contamination that coated the filters in an almost  waxy type substance that was a sort of white to buff colour. If blocked the filters so well that flue pressure/suction pushed the paper coils down. I would not melt.

 

That exactly descibes the problem I had in my Tractors and digger last Autumn.

 

"Dripping" colour & texture

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1 minute ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

That exactly descibes the problem I had in my Tractors and digger last Autumn.

 

"Dripping" colour & texture

the analysis RCR had done that time seemed to implicate additives, probably the emulsifier type which together with some info I got from Eberspacher made me decide that manual removal of water from the tank was the way to go together with an "over winter layup" use of a biocide.

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1 minute ago, robtheplod said:

Is this an issue with red diesel only?

I don't think anyone knows because vehicles tend not to sit about for weeks on end. As I understand its difficult or impossible to get bio free red and red has to be low sulphur now I suspect DERV can suffer as well.

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23 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

As I understand its difficult or impossible to get bio free red

I order 'Red' in bulk, and when phoning around the suppliers for quotes always ask if FAME free is available. 

Most of the suppliers say 'we cannot guarantee FAME free, but we can put the request on the order'

 

The firm I have used for the last couple of years say they do supply FAME free & send a Tanker to Immingham to fill up directly from the refinery 'tanks', maybe they buy enough to make it worthwhile for the refinery to produce FAME free ?

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13 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

I order 'Red' in bulk, and when phoning around the suppliers for quotes always ask if FAME free is available. 

Most of the suppliers say 'we cannot guarantee FAME free, but we can put the request on the order'

 

The firm I have used for the last couple of years say they do supply FAME free & send a Tanker to Immingham to fill up directly from the refinery 'tanks', maybe they buy enough to make it worthwhile for the refinery to produce FAME free ?

I used to get FAME free but it became impossible, I now use whatever I can get and no problems yet.

We did get one terrible batch of diesel from a well known FAME free supplier, had to pay to get it pumped out and taken away.

 

lt's interesting that the FAME in diesel causes so much trouble whilst its quite possible to get bio diesel that is environmental friendly and actually superior to standard diesel (HVO). I am unable to find the price of this but suspect about £3/litre. Maybe this is a better way forward than electric boats.

 

...............Dave

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12 minutes ago, dmr said:

I used to get FAME free but it became impossible, I now use whatever I can get and no problems yet.

We did get one terrible batch of diesel from a well known FAME free supplier, had to pay to get it pumped out and taken away.

 

lt's interesting that the FAME in diesel causes so much trouble whilst its quite possible to get bio diesel that is environmental friendly and actually superior to standard diesel (HVO). I am unable to find the price of this but suspect about £3/litre. Maybe this is a better way forward than electric boats.

 

...............Dave

On behalf of the IWA Sustainable Propulsion group I am currently running a trial using Hydro-treated Vegetable Oil (HVO) in combinations of inland boat diesel engines and domestic heating and cooking devices. HVO carries OEM approvals from all the major diesel engine manufacturers so I'm not anticipating problems with propulsion issues but we need to establish that it is happy in everything from an Eberspacher through to Dickinson ...... and everything in between! So far everything is looking good.

 

Classic boat engines are obviously outside this range of OEM approvals with manufacturers having long ago ceased production, so there is a Bolinder and 5-cylinder Gardner lined in an extension to the trial due to be conducted in the spring.

 

Currently availability of HVO is very limited with, as far as I'm aware, just 3 suppliers in GB – 2 in the London area. Crown Oils (the 3rd supplier – https://www.crownoil.co.uk/products/hvo-fuel-hydrotreated-vegetable-oil/) are based in Bury and do have a national distribution network. They are promoting HVO in a big way and reckon that for the time being at least it will run out at about £0.10/litre more than gas oil. My experience, at least where small quantities are concerned, is that the figure is currently closer to £0.20/litre.

 

At present its a supply and demand equation (coupled with availability) in the sense that there is relatively little available due to limited demand. Subject to it ticking all the combined use boxes, IWA will be promoting it as the drop in alternative to dino-diesel as at 92% carbon neutral, with fell swoop it takes inland boating a long way down the road to net zero. Yes, it is superior to dino-diesel in every respect as you say and in a recent Land and Water trial https://www.crownoil.co.uk/news/crown-hvo-fuel-in-a-modern-2bt-excavator-land-water-case-study/ it gave an improved fuel consumption go 10%. NoX is down by a similar amount and with a 1% retardation in injector setting, NoX can be reduced by around 35%.

 

I could ramble on for ages but for those that want to see where IWA have got to (including a copy of the letter now sitting on the Chancellor's desk from the chairman of the APPG for the Waterways with a series of relevant waterway-related 'Asks') go to: https://www.waterways.org.uk/about-us/news/electric-charging-points-gain-support?utm_campaign=IWA+Updates&utm_content=IWA+Bulletin%3A+

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Up-Side-Down said:

On behalf of the IWA Sustainable Propulsion group I am currently running a trial using Hydro-treated Vegetable Oil (HVO)

The future is in Zero Emission  Ediesel produced from Algae, HVO may be a stepping stone, but with things moving so quickly any investement in HVO maybe misplaced.

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10 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

The future is in Zero Emission  Ediesel produced from Algae, HVO may be a stepping stone, but with things moving so quickly any investement in HVO maybe misplaced.

In inland boating terms we certainly see HVO as a stepping stone ............. but towards serial hybrids, initially battery-power and ultimately hydrogen fuel cell-powered .......... in the meantime I'm just popping out to replenish my supply of popcorn ........

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11 minutes ago, Up-Side-Down said:

In inland boating terms we certainly see HVO as a stepping stone ............. but towards serial hybrids, initially battery-power and ultimately hydrogen fuel cell-powered .......... in the meantime I'm just popping out to replenish my supply of popcorn ........

I see hybrids of any 'flavour' as just short term.

With the use of EDiesel you retain your original ICE engine - no investment in batteries, managament systems, generators, etc you just use your old engine and it now has zero emission.

 

You can buy a lot of EDiesel (even at premium prices) when you are saving £25-£35k on an electric system, plus your payment is spread over a long period, just a few £'s extra each time you fill upo, but, when you go electric you have to find all that cash 'up-front'.

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24 minutes ago, Up-Side-Down said:

On behalf of the IWA Sustainable Propulsion group I am currently running a trial using Hydro-treated Vegetable Oil (HVO) in combinations of inland boat diesel engines and domestic heating and cooking devices. .......

 

 

Keep us informed.  If it could be produced in large enough quantities then it could be the way forward for those applications where electric propulsion is not viable. A series hybrid able to run off a charging point, or HVO for long remote cruises, would be perfect.

I assume at some some stage the government policy will start to move from "aspirational" to practical reality and so diesel will have a longer term future.

I tried to get a quote to get 200 HVO litres delivered but it was just too difficult, they wanted a site meeting, so they are not promoting it very well ?

I have read the specs and the viscosity is a little different to standard which might just upset my injection pump. There are a few hundred Beta JD3's on the cut and the fussy Stanadyne pump would be a good test of HVO.

 

Once we have to use full price white diesel then HVO might be attractive, if its really only an extra 20p/litre then its very attractive, I thought it was about £3/litre. It only takes one FAME related fuel issue to run up a bill of £1000 so it would be good to avoid this.

 

Its interesting that you mention retarded timing, this does reduce NOx but can increase smoke/particulates, maybe its a different balance with HVO.

 

............Dave

 

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Re @Up-Side-Down's post. If RCR are correct that this is different to the previous problem they found then one has to ask "what changed" and one answer may be HVO is now available and is replacing FAME as the bio-addition from some suppliers. I just hope the IWA do some diligent research into how it reacts with the addition of the variety of additives that are on the market because once again certain additives MIGHT be implicated.

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