Monday, April 13, 2009

Gas to Liquids – Another Piece of the Puzzle

Gas to Liquids - Another Piece of the Puzzle

We have all seen pictures of oil wells both on land and platforms on the water where there is a constant flame burning off gases that contaminate the oil.

When you drill for oil you almost always get gas. If it is not considered cost effective to build a gas pipeline to transport the gas it is known as “Stranded Gas” and is flared off, wasting trillions of Btu’s of energy and releasing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere with absolutely no benefit.

Also in refining operations, there are gases released that are also flared off.

In many landfills you will see a tower used to flare off Methane generated by the continuous breakdown of organic materials.

One potential improvement to the world’s fuel pool could be the updating of the process used by Germany during World War II to alleviate its constant oil shortages. It was originally designed to convert coal to liquid fuels, however variations are capable of converting gases such as Natural Gas, Methane, Refinery Gases, and others to liquid fuels such as diesel and gasoline.

The use of Gas to Liquid Fuel Technology can help stretch our fossil fuel supplies and reduce CO2 released into the atmosphere.

More information available at:

Post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here.

Doctor Diesel

Copyright 2009 – William Richards

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines – What Are They and What Do They Do

Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines – What Are They and What Do They Do

Shell Oil has recently begun advertising their Shell V-Power “Nitrogen Enriched” Gasoline.
Why would nitrogen improve the cleaning performance of gasoline detergent?

Here are some facts to consider:

1. The earth’s atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen
2. Nitrogen is an inert gas that is not combustible
3. Nitrogen atoms are larger than oxygen atoms
4. Nitrogen when combusted with fuel and Oxygen creates Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
5. NOx when combined with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) creates petrochemical smog.

Shell claims that fusing (their term) nitrogen with their detergent creates a more stable, longer lasting detergent that will be more effective in preventing gunk (their term) deposits (my term) from building up on the valves and other combustion chamber areas.

It would seem to me that adding Nitrogen will make the combustion process less efficient and could possibly lower combustion temperatures. This would seem to be the opposite of the desired effect.

It would also seem that adding Nitrogen could raise the NOx emissions from the engine which would tend to increase smog production, again the opposite of the desired effect.

I definitely applaud the idea of raising detergent levels in all gasolines. This is a quick and inexpensive way to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.

The whole Nitrogen thing is nothing other than another marketing ploy. Shell and many other refiners have attempted to convince the consumer that they are doing something unique and wonderful, when in reality they simply want to sell more and or charge more than their competitors.

Shell needs fewer “Cutesy” TV commercials and more science, or at least they should provide some documentation to support thier claims.

If you want to do the best thing for your gasoline powered vehicle, look for fuels containing “Top Tier” fuel additives used at the manufactures “Top Tier” levels or simply purchase and regularly use aftermarket “tank additives” that meet or exceed the “Top Tier’ requirements.
This together with proper maintenance will ensure peak performance and minimum emissions from your engine.

Please let me know what you think, post your comments, ideas, and suggestions here.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009 – William Richards

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Urea – More Things to Consider

Urea - More Things to Consider

I recently heard a new concern for those of you who will be storing and dispensing Urea for the 2010 diesel trucks. Urea is a very corrosive product that can quickly damage metal tanks, some types of seals, even dispensing nozzles.

Most fuel dispensing nozzles are made from nickel plated aluminum. When Urea is dispensed through such a nozzle, the nickel plating will react changing the Diesel Emission Fluid (DEF) to where it can cause damage to the SCR (Catalytic Converter) system.

The longer the Urea is in contact with the nozzle the more potentially damaging the fluid will become. What this means is that in high volume situations, the fluid will have limited contact with the nozzle and the likelihood of fluid being contaminated is significantly reduced. In lower volume situations where there may be extended periods of time between use, there is a higher likelihood of contaminating the fluid.

It may be desirable to go to a nozzle made of unplated metal or possibly even a composite material to prevent this contamination.

It is considered vital that a non-fuel nozzle be used to prevent the possibility of accidentally adding diesel to the DEF or DEF to the Diesel Fuel. Either mistake will likely cause rapid and catastrophic failure of the engine and or the SCR System.

In Europe a company called ElaFlex provides the defacto standard for AdBlue (Urea) nozzles that have a unique feature that prevents the AdBlue (Urea) from being added to the fuel tank.

ElaFlex has recently signed an agreement with OPW to provide these nozzles to the US and Canadian markets.

We will be providing a comprehensive list of suggestions on how to safely and cost effectively dispense Urea for your fleet operation.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009 – William Richards

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Alternative Fuels

Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Alternative Fuels

I recently had the privilege of speaking to members of the New York State Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) during their annual conference in Canandaigua NY.

The discussion was on Alternative Fuels and I spoke on the future of Alternative Fuels regarding how it will affect Public Works Fleets and Operations.

The attendees were very knowledgeable and very interested in the how the alternative fuels are likely to impact their operations.

The images shown are of General Motors Equinox Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle

This fuel cell vehicle operates on compressed hydrogen gas that when fueled with hydrogen derived from electrolysis powered by non-fossil fuels is a true zero emissions vehicle. It is truly amazing to drive this vehicle and even when following it you can actually see that the emissions are water vapor.

While we are a long way from having cost competitive hydrogen available at the local gas station, this is a practical, vehicle that can be driven without any special training and the only unusual consideration is in making sure you know where the next fuel station is located.

Monroe County (Rochester) NY is at the forefront of making alternative fuels into mainstream products. They have recently completed a new state of the art fueling center that provides gasoline, gasohol (E20 and E85), diesel (biodiesel blends from B5 through B20), CNG, and Hydrogen all in a modern, efficient, and safe Green Fueling Station.

Monroe County and its forward thinking team lead by County Executive Maggie Brooks who have not only acknowledged the future, but have embraced it. They have recognized that there is a lot Federal, State, and private money available to municipal governments that are willing to lead the way into a greener future.

They are benefiting from grants for infrastructure, equipment, and even free or low cost vehicles. They are able to take advantage of research initiatives by elite universities and world class manufacturers who are providing testing resources that would be virtually unobtainable outside of governmental involvement.
This proactive approach has benefited not only Monroe County, but will provide long term benefits to the private sector in the region surrounding their operations.

We strongly believe that this type of public leadership will directly translate into benefits for the taxpayers and residents both now and in the future.

I want to thank Dave Butters, John Graham (retired), and Bob Hamilton of Monroe County for providing me with the opportunity of speaking to this auspicious group.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009 - William Richards

Monday, March 16, 2009

OPEC and the Price of Oil – March 15, 2009

OPEC and the Price of Oil – March 15, 2009

OPEC, at its meeting Sunday (March 15, 2009) in Vienna decided not to ask members to cut output any further. This decision will hold off any official changes until the next meeting in May.

As is normal for this group of market manipulators, they cannot agree on what to do or how to do it, so they create a press release that tries to convince the not too bright, that they are maintaining production levels to “help” with the worlds current economic problems.

Nothing could be further from reality or the truth. They did not cut production for a host of reasons, first and foremost is that many of their members are ignoring the previous reduction of 2.2 million barrels per day that supposedly took effect in December. Even by their numbers (which are far too generous) they are only getting 80% compliance from their members on those production limits.

Why you may ask are they unable to control production and force up prices? Well the biggest issue is that many of these OPEC Countries (Note: OPEC Countries theoretically control about 40% of the world’s oil) spend their petro-dollars as fast or even faster than they take them in. Venezuela needs oil to be about US$80.00 per barrel just to pay the bills.

Many of the Middle Eastern countries have gone on staggering spending sprees basically acting as socialist entities.

These countries temporarily import workers to do their dirty work, while their own citizens do less and less but keep getting ever growing government handouts to live on (this sounds vaguely like some western country I may have heard of).

They have spent hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects and other enticements to try and bring foreign businesses to their countries before the oil runs out (yes, it will run out).

However all of this has been based on cheap capital and the idea that oil would keep going up in price forever.

Well fast forward to today, There is more crude oil sitting in storage than at any time in history, the demand is off by more than 1 million barrels per day (Note: this is another manipulated number and the reality is that demand is off by two or even three times this number), the economy in the US and now the rest of the industrialized world is contracting and will likely do so for a year or more, before starting a slow, painful, and just plain ugly recovery, and it appears that there is at least a glimmer of hope that the world including the US will finally wake up and recognize that the way we have been using energy for the last 100 years is unsustainable and that we need to do things now, not is 20 years to fix the problems.

All of this leads me to some oversimplified conclusions on oil pricing over the next year or two. If there is reduced economic activity worldwide there will be less demand for oil. The oil inventories will likely continue to grow as OPEC and Russia will need to pump more and more to make up for the lower per barrel prices.

Right now there is a concerted effort to hold and try to push crude prices up. However to keep oil in storage costs a lot of money every day. At some point traders and speculators will decide that they cannot afford to pay $100,000.00 a day to park crude in a tanker because the price is not going up enough make it profitable. When this happens, we could see oil flood the markets at levels not seen since the 1970’s. This will then further exacerbate the problems of the oil producing countries who will try to pump even more.

Short of a war (not out of the question) or a cataclysmic natural disaster, it is hard to see crude oil going up significantly anytime soon.

Refiners and some marketers are likely to benefit as crude prices decline and more finished product becomes available. In some areas where there is tightly controlled distribution there may months or even years of high profitability due to reduction in cost followed more slowly by reduction in retail prices.

I have regrettably spent my life creating a carbon footprint of embarrassing proportions. I am now working on reducing not only my negative impact on the world, but on creating new and better ways for everyone to do the same without destroying their livelihoods or lifestyles.
Please join us in our efforts.
To read this and other articles on fuels, alternative fuels, oils, lubricants, and coolants, please go to: and click on technical articles.

Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Friday, March 13, 2009

Clean Coal – An Oxymoron or a Real Possibility?

Clean Coal – An Oxymoron or a Real Possibility?

Can coal be clean? We have all heard the condescending advertising, listened to the biased politicians, and been overwhelmed with huge amounts of conflicting “expert” opinion and research data from each side.

Let’s start with the basics, “What is coal?” Coal is a sedimentary rock made up mostly of carbon, with varying amounts of sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and lesser amounts of many contaminants including mercury and other poisonous compounds.

We believe coal is primarily made up of plant material that has partially degraded, compressed and through this pressure and with time and other geologic forces been transformed into the many forms of what we refer to as coal. Some of these forms are Peat, Lignite, Bituminous, Anthracite, and Graphite.

The process of photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into carbon, the conversion of the dead plant matter into coal sequesters the carbon in the ground. If we look at this in a very big picture sense, coal is the energy of the sun converted and stored. When the coal is burned, that carbon is released in the form of carbon dioxide. This could be a manageable cycle, however what is happening today, is that millions of years worth of this stored sunlight bound up in the form of carbon is being released in a relatively short period of time. This rapid release has overloaded the systems (the worldwide environments) ability to convert the carbon dioxide back into some stored form.

What can we do about this problem? First we must burn (or otherwise convert) this coal as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Large scale coal gasification and burning to create electricity will create fewer more easily managed source of pollution. These very large sources can be more easily forced to the use technology needed to clean the exhaust stream coming from such a facility.

Next we need to develop ways to reuse or store the Carbon Dioxide (CO2). There are ideas that would pump this material back into the earth either as part of oil pumping operations or into decommissioned mines.

I believe that we need to consider alternatives that would use some significant part of this CO2 to grow Algae as part of a closed loop energy system (See previous article on the Richards Cycle) or some other photosynthetic process that would convert the CO2 back into a safe storable (or reusable) form.

Coal can also be converted into high quality liquid fuel s (gasoline and diesel) through several processes. If we can create a more earth-friendly method of doing this, we could significantly reduce our dependence on and need for imported oil.
While this is not a permanent solution, it would definitely give us a cushion while we develop alternative energy forms and strategies.

Whether or not Coal can ever be Clean, I don’t know. What I am certain of is that we can develop much cleaner, safer, and eco-friendly methods to mine and use this high quality domestic energy source.

Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
For more information, please visit: and click on Technical Articles.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Biodiesel Cold Soak Filterability - ASTM D6751 Annex A1

New ASTM Biodiesel Test Specification for Cold Weather Operability

The American Society for Testing of Materials has recently added a new test requirement to the D6751 Biodiesel Specification.
This new requirement is referred to as ASTM 6217 or as Annex A1 of ASTM D6751– Cold Soak Filterability.

Cold Soak Filtration Analysis is defined as: The time in seconds that it takes for cold soaked biodiesel to pass through two 0.8 micron filters and the amount of particulate matter expressed in milligrams per liter (mg/l) collected on the filter.

What does this mean? When biodiesel is stored in temperatures below 40°F for extended periods of time, certain components will precipitate (fall) out of solution and fall to the bottom of the storage tank. This precipitate will build in a thickening layer at or near the tank bottom. In general the colder the temperature and the longer the biodiesel stays at a given temperature, the more material will fall out.

This material can very quickly plug filters and shut down engines, usually at the worst time.

What is this material? It can have to do with the feedstock from which the biodiesel is created. Certain feedstocks, particularly Used Cooking Oils (UCO), Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO), and Animal Fats (Tallow) will produce high levels of precipitate. The material can also be due to incomplete removal of glycerin during the transestrification process.

This new test is a positive step in making biodiesel a more consistent user friendly product.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

US EIA – Information on Gas and Diesel Pricing from the US EIA

US EIA – Energy Information Administration
The US Energy Information Administration provides daily information on regional, national, and worldwide inventories, pricing, and availability. You can view this information at:

You can also view a copy of this webpage and other related information at: http://

We will be exploring what goes into the price of fuel at the pump over the next several weeks.

Check back every day.

Please post your comments, suggestions, and ideas here.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Monday, March 9, 2009

Synthetic Oils - Are they Worth the Cost?

Synthetic Oils - Are they Worth the Cost?

Image courtesy of

Today we hear a lot of terms thrown around when discussing motor oils. Much of the time, they are being used incorrectly.

So let’s start with mineral oil, this is the oil most of us have used in one form or another since the internal combustion engine was created. Mineral oils are distilled from crude oil as part of the refining process.

There are three categories of mineral oils; Paraffinic, Naphthenic, and Aromatic. Mineral oil can be as simple as baby oil, or as complex as today’s heavy duty motor oils. The chemistry used to create multi-grade oils and pickup and hold contaminants in solution is extremely complex.

Synthetic – Synthetic Oils can be created from many different sources and can offer many helpful characteristics such as lower friction, better high temperature performance, better stability, better sheer stability, better cold start lubrication, reduced oxidation, improved protection against thermal breakdown, less tendency to form sludge, reduces evaporative loss, potentially extends drain intervals.

There are two main categories for synthetic oils the first is:

Polyalphaolefin (PAO) an American Petroleum Institute (API) Group IV Oil Base Oil

The second is:

Synthetic esters an API Group V Base Oils ((non-PAO) synthetics, including alkylated naphthalene’s, alkylated benzenes, diesters, polyolesters, polyglycols etc.)

There is also a category called Semi-Synthetics – a mixture of petroleum and up to 30% synthetic base oils. The name Semi-Synthetic is a misnomer, oils are either Synthetic or not. If they are a mixture then if you subscribe to the theory that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link applies and the mixture will only be as good as worst performing part of the mineral oil.

The primary reasons to change motor oil are because the oil gets dirty and or because the additive package in the oil gets used up. Dirty can mean physical dirt from the environment, soot from combustion, left over combustion products and a nearly endless list of contaminants.

The additive package provides friction reduction, neutralizes acids, holds contaminants in solution, prevents oxidation, prevents corrosion, and many other vital functions. The additives are consumed or used up over time and they need to be replenished or failure will result. The method most often used is to replace the oil. This method has the advantage of taking many or hopefully most of the contaminants out of the engine with it.

Synthetic Oils may or may not have super additive packages, but eventually the oil becomes dirty to the point that it needs to be filtered or replaced and the additive package replenished or again replaced. The problem is that synthetic oil becomes contaminated long before it is “worn out” and has to be replaced to prevent damage from the contaminants. This means that often you are unable to take full advantage of the superior chemistry and characteristics of synthetic oils.

When this happens the cost disadvantage of the synthetics outweigh its other advantages.

In situations of extreme cold, high heat, high loads, extended operation at high rpm, and other related situations synthetic oils offer many superior characteristics that may improve operability, increase engine life, provide better fuel economy, and potentially improve emissions.

However for the average grocery getter or most vehicles in normal operation the added cost of synthetic motor oil is probably not justified.

View all of the Fuel School articles at: and click on Technical Articles

Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Today's Economy - Lemons versus Lemonade

Today’s Economy - Lemons versus Lemonade
Today I want to take just a minute to address the current problems in our economy. While this is outside the normal scope of this blog, I feel that there is much to be considered and discussed.

In the real world where the 99.999% of us who are not politicians live, it doesn’t really matter what party or group you belong to, what matters is who you are and what you do.

Imagine you are in a small boat in the middle of a big ocean, in this boat is one person from every country in the world, for arguments sake let’s say there are 195 of us and let’s also assume that there are nearly equal numbers of men and women.

Now let’s say that we are in the middle of a storm, not just any storm, but a once in a lifetime or a “Hundred Years” storm. Our boat that before the storm was comfortable and appeared to be safe is now damaged and leaking from every seam with more water is coming in over the gunnel's. To make matters worse, our resident meteorologists say that this storm may last weeks, months, or maybe even years.

We have 195 opinions on what to do, some want to just wait for someone else to rescue them (note: not necessarily everyone, just them), others want to use this as an opportunity to take control of the boat and everyone in it, some want to do nothing, arguing that since we were stupid enough to get in this position, we are not worth saving and should just sink and drown.

However a few just quietly start bailing, they work night and day, sleeping little and working as hard as they can. Eventually when the boat stops sinking it is these same people who start fixing the leaks, taking care of the supplies, making sure that everyone gets their fair share. Some in the boat disparage these efforts; some even try to make things more difficult.

As time goes on some slip over the side and drift away, some refusing to help with business of living migrate to one section in the boat, where they grumble among themselves.

However most people begin to realize that by working together, they can make their own if not everyone’s life a little easier.

Over time the leaks get fixed, so we don’t have to spend all of our time bailing. We begin to pull things drifting by out of the ocean and make them into useful things. The boat is eventually repaired, improved, and even enlarged.
People realize that in spite of differences, working together in a common cause allows us to see other points of view and even to reach accommodations and compromises.

There are still a few in the “I disagree with everything” section, but the group seems to get smaller and smaller as time goes by.

As time goes on, the disaster fades into memory and life actually becomes better than it was before the storm.

Right now, individuals have little control over how big the storm gets or how long it will last. Individuals can however bail, they can help their friends and neighbors, they can band together to fix leaks, but more importantly, they can work together with like-minded people to find solutions and implement them to address the bigger problems.

Recessions can last a few months, a few years, or they can spiral downwards into depression. A ship’s captain (President) can head the ship into the wind and try to prevent the boat from being swamped, he can direct the crew to batten down the hatches, and start the pumps, but he (or she) is but one person and in the end the efforts and determination of the crew and passengers will decide how the voyage will end.

In today’s real world economy, things are pretty scary, with even well run businesses in trouble. So what does a good manager do to protect and grow his company’s business?

Well, in the midst of all these lemons, let’s try making some lemonade. There are more highly talented and highly motivated people available than ever before (remember a year ago everyone was panicking over a lack of qualified job seekers), there are more opportunities than ever before (think in terms of all the businesses cutting back or closing, where will their customers go?), there are more possibilities for consolidation and growth (again things that were considered unnecessary or even unthinkable when things were booming, suddenly make a lot of sense) and there are many more examples to be considered.

With careful thought and planning you can make your business grow and become even more profitable even in the toughest of times.

Consider that many of the strongest companies in the world today are ones that survived or grew out of the depression.

We will get through this difficult time, some will merely survive, some will grow stronger and prosper, which group will you be in?

Post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here.

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Friday, March 6, 2009

Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel – A Cautionary Note

Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel – A Cautionary Note

Natural Gas is currently being promoted as a domestic clean, safe, and cheaper alternative to petroleum fuels.

Some thoughts for your consideration.

Natural Gas as domestic source of energy. The US currently imports approximately 16% of its natural gas. Some comes to us by pipeline and some in the form of LNG via ship. Increasing the use of natural gas to replace petroleum fuels simply shifts our imports from one product to another.

Currently the US uses approximately 22% of our natural gas to create electricity. This is a poor use of a valuable resource for a need that has many other fuel sources available. If this was replaced by wind, solar, nuclear, and a future renewable bio-source (see previous article: The Richards Cycle) you could eliminate our imports.

Natural Gas as a clean motor fuel. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) both reduce certain emissions however they are not as clean as some would have us believe. If you look the whole basket of emissions that come out of the exhaust on an internal combustion engine, a 2010 Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) Diesel engine actually is less polluting than an equivalent CNG or LNG engine.

While I believe you can safely use CNG and LNG, it requires more training and much greater diligence on the part of drivers and operators vehicles and fueling stations. It is important to remember that it can take far longer to fuel LNG and particularly CNG fueled equipment. This long fueling cycle can lead to lack of attention and added expense in fueling equipment.

Natural Gas as cheaper alternative. Many people incorrectly try to compare a gallon of diesel to a gallon of LNG or a gallon of CNG. While the price per gallon of the LNG and CNG may appear to be cheaper, you need to consider the energy in the gallon. For example a gallon of diesel contains approximately 139,000 Btu’s of energy, while a gallon of LNG contains about 73,500 Btu’s, and CNG works to about 34,750. In short it takes about 4 times the space to store an equivalent amount of CNG as compared to diesel.

The other concerns with vehicles powered by CNG or LNG are that they are far more expensive to purchase, for example a school bus built to run on CNG can be $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 more than its diesel counterpart.

Also when you purchase a vehicle powered by CNG or LNG you locked into one supplier for all fuel system and some engine components for ever. There is virtually no secondary supplier compatibility. You limit the range and usefulness of the vehicle due to limited ability to refuel that vehicle away from its domicile. Lastly, you have to be concerned about the value of those vehicles when it comes time to trade or sell them. In many cases this limited resale market can make a used vehicle worthless.

There is an important and growing place for alternative fuel vehicles and equipment. It takes visionary leaders with long term commitment and very deep pockets to make a change to this type of equipment successful.

You can get more information on this and other fuel related subjects at: and click on Fuel School Articles.

Please comment here and share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cetane Number – What it is and Why it’s so Important

Cetane Number – What it is and Why it’s so Important

Cooperative Fuel Research Engine (CFR)

Cetane is a measurement of a diesel fuel ignition and or combustion quality. This Cetane Number or CN is one of several components that determine the quality of diesel and biodiesel fuels. This number is used for light and middle distillate fuels. For heavy (residual) fuels Calculated Ignition Index (CII) and Calculated Carbon Aromaticity Index (CCAI) are used.

In some ways this measurement is similar to the Octane Ratings given to gasoline. In its simplest terms Cetane Number measures the delay between the start of fuel injection into the combustion chamber and the beginning of compression ignition (Auto-ignition).

In medium and high speed diesel engines (this all automotive and truck engines) fuel needs to have a CN between 38 and 55 to operate. In general the higher the CN number, the better for the engine and for emissions. However raising CN above 55 currently offers little if any benefit.

In the US the group setting the standards for CN is the American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) and currently the minimum is 40. While diesel engines will start and run with 40 CN fuel, they do not run as efficiently as they will at a higher number.

In Europe the European Union (EU) has systematically over several years raised the minimum from 38 to the current 51. This has allowed engine manufacturers to produce more efficient engines with lower emissions and better economy. Most fuel in the EU has a CN of 55 or even better.

Cetane Number is measured using a very expensive and arcane Cooperative Fuel Research (CFR) engine and a process that very complex.

You can also measure CN using an Ignition Quality Tester (IQT) which is somewhat less complex, but still quite costly.

There is a third measurement called Cetane Index (CI) that measures density and distillation range of the fuel and through a calculation provides a measurement. This method will calculate a reasonably accurate number for the refined diesel.

The problem is that today most diesel fuel uses additives to reach the desired Cetane Number and additives do not affect the density, thus the CI of a fuel containing additives is not accurate.

Some of you may have seen a device that looks like a battery fluid tester (a hydrometer). These devices are not capable of determining CN or CI with any accuracy.

You can raise CN by altering the refining process or through the use of Alkyl nitrates or di-tert-butyl peroxide additives. NOTE: Remember that additives do not raise CI.

Also, biodiesel, depending on the base oil from which it is derived has a natural Cetane Rating of 46 to as high as 60.

With the advent of Pilot or Multiple Pulse fuel injection, Cetane Number becomes more important than ever. The delay in auto-ignition (CN) affects the combustion timing, which has a significant effect on power output, fuel economy, and emissions.

Raising Cetane Number together with Improving Fuel Atomization is the fastest way to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions through the use of correctly formulated additives.

Please post your comments, ideas, and suggestions

More information at: - Click on Fuel School Articles.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Biodiesel and Cold Weather meet in Minnesota

Biodiesel and Cold Weather meet in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently released (February 15, 2009) a report to the legislature regarding the states mandated biodiesel program and the cold weather issues it has caused.

Starting in September 2005 Minnesota required that virtually all diesel fuel sold in the state contain at least 2% biodiesel. This level is supposed to be raised to 5% in 2009, 10% in 2012, and finally 20% in 2015.

This report by the Governors “Biodiesel Task Force” created in 2003 shows that there a number of significant problems with using biodiesel blends, particularly in areas subject to long periods of cold weather.

Some of the issues noted in the report:

· Discussion indicated at least fifteen cases of unusual filter plugging in commercial trucks this winter for which the cause had not been determined. Discussion of possible causes included engine manufacturers’ reduction of truck filter sizes (from 10 to15 microns down to 2 to 5 microns), paraffin from diesel, glycerin from biodiesel, water contamination, biotic contamination as a result of ultra-low sulfur diesel levels plus water contamination, and vehicle designs in which the fuel filter is located away from the engine.

· Discussion that existing cold flow test procedures are not sufficiently predictive of the
cold temperature performance of diesel fuel with or without biodiesel. ASTM International and other organizations at a national level must develop new test methods that are more predictive of the cold weather performance of diesel fuel and biodiesel blends.

· Variations in seasonal availability of fuel were also discussed, specifically routine shortages of diesel fuel at terminals in the fall leading to the practice of bulk plants and fleets buying and storing fuel in the late summer for use in the fall and early winter months when shortages of diesel are anticipated. Such stockpiling of B10 or higher could result in problems in above ground tanks.

· The suggestion was made that the Task Force discussions should freely address the availability and quality of all winter fuel in the state instead of being confined only to biodiesel. Given recent changes in the diesel industry, including biodiesel, low-sulfur diesel fuel and smaller fuel filter pore diameters, a wide range of issues regarding equipment and diesel fuel with and without biodiesel must be addressed.

Laboratory testing has indicated that blending with number one (#1) diesel at 50/50 rate produces results similar to treating with additives but the #1 fuel is at a far higher cost.

There is also a concern over whether the current testing (e.g. Cold Point (CP), Cold Filter Plug Point (CFPP), Pour Point (PP), Low Temperature Flow Test (LTFT)) done to assess cold weather operability characteristics of diesel fuel are adequate for testing biodiesel blends.

Unfortunately this discussion has been complicated by many factors including the change from Low Sulfur (LSD) to Ultra-Low Sulfur diesel (ULSD), that diesel fuel changes seasonally, the fact that biodiesel derived from different base oils have far different characteristics, that transportation and storage affect quality, and that materials will tend to precipitate out of biodiesel when it cold for extended periods of time.

To read the complete Minnesota Report to the Legislature please click here: Report to the Legislature February 2009

Please post your comments, questions, ideas, and thoughts.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

E-Diesel – A Fuel for the Future?

E-Diesel – A Fuel for the Future?

Image Courtesy of University Of Illinois

E-Diesel is a blend of Ethanol and Diesel Fuel together with a multifunctional additive package. E-diesel is typically a 7% to 15 % blend of Ethanol in #2 diesel fuel together with 2% to 5% of additive. Early on it was referred to as “Oxygenated Diesel”, now however; most call it E-Diesel.

E-diesel is popular in Brazil as they produce a large amount of Ethanol from biomass left over from growing and processing sugar cane. Brazil has a limited supply of domestic crude oil and this has given them a huge incentive to develop alternative fuels and their government has stepped up to the plate to make it happen.

As a result Brazil is today an energy independent country, something we should aspire to become.

E-diesel has not been popular in the US, although it has been tested in some large fleets here with mixed results.

However the problems with Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel, with Biodiesel being forced into our diesel and the recent very high price of fuel (now temporarily better) have made this technology worth another look.

E-diesel has a number of negative characteristics, it is hygroscopic (soaking up huge amounts of water if allowed to do so), Ethanol lowers the flash point of the diesel, Ethanol destroys lubricity in the fuel, and Ethanol makes the fuel less stable.

The pluses are that it improves cold weather characteristics, lowers CO and NOx, potentially (when derived from cellulosic biomass) lowers cost of the finished fuel, and increases the amount of non-petroleum renewable fuel available.

E-diesel using Ethanol produced from Bagass (the parts leftover from making sugar from sugar cane) is winner. Ethanol made from corn is a loser, the yield is very low, and it affects human and animal feedstocks.

The biggest winner is if you make diesel fuel from algae and use the biomass left over to produce Cellulosic Ethanol which can be burned in boiler, added to gasoline, or added to diesel. It is possible that Ethanol produced in this manner could cost as little as $1.00 per gallon.

The potential of producing a high quality cellulosic Ethanol from biomass is a game changer.

Ethanol in fuels presents significant problems in many areas. However these problems can be overcome or managed through changes in the way we handle fuels and blending, changes in equipment using these fuels, and though the use of properly formulated additive packages.

For more information please go to:

Please comment with thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gasohol – Ethanol Blended Gasoline – How to Prevent Storage Problems

Gasohol – Ethanol Blended Gasoline – How to Prevent Storage Problems
Image Courtesy of JME Sales

One of the biggest problems with gasohol (Ethanol blended Gasoline) is that it is extremely hygroscopic (the ability to attract water molecules from the surrounding environment and to hold them either through absorption or adsorption.

E-10 Gasohol (Gasoline containing 10% Ethanol) can hold up to 3.8 teaspoons of water in solution in the fuel. This water can lead to corrosion, poor economy, drivability problems, and to phase separation leading to other much more serious problems.

To combat this hygroscopic problem it is vital that storage tanks be purged of all water before any fuel containing Ethanol is added. The use of dispersant additives to deal with any residual water is also beneficial.

Storage tanks will pick up water from condensation of moisture in the air due to the daily changes in temperature. A large storage tank can actually generate anywhere from several ounces to as much as a gallon of water per day. Normally this water would settle to the bottom of the tank; however the Ethanol will pick it up, blend with it, and hold it in suspension.

The addition of a Desiccant type filter in the vent system will dramatically reduce or eliminate this condensation. While this idea is relatively new in the US many other countries mandate the use of these filters to prevent water problems.

It is also vital to regularly check the storage tank with water finding paste to be certain that there is no separated water on the tank bottom. Another advantage to water finding paste is that it will begin to slightly change color or in some cases small colored dots will begin to appear on the paste. This indicates that the fuel mixture is approaching the saturation point where phase separation will happen.

Note: Many of the electronic monitoring systems used for tank water detection may not register properly with Ethanol blended fuels. Also we have seen many instances where the fuel tank sending unit becomes saturated with water and stops functioning properly. When this happens the device will show the last good reading indefinitely.

It should be expected that tanks containing Ethanol will require a significantly higher level of maintenance than those holding regular gasoline or diesel.
For more information on this and other fuel related issues visit:

Diesel Doctor
Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Friday, February 27, 2009

Relying on Reliance – Rather than Relying on Ourselves

Relying on Reliance – Rather than Relying on Ourselves

Reliance Industries Ltd. an Indian company is preparing to startup its second huge refinery in Jamnagar in Western India. Reliance is already operating a 660,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery there that together with the new 580,000 bpd unit creates the world’s largest refining complex, a 1.24 million barrel per day monster that is going to have a major effect on refined fuel prices around the world.

The new unit has been built strictly for exporting finished product, primarily gasoline, diesel and Jet A. This unit has been built specifically to produce fuel for the US market. It can meet all of the current and proposed fuel standards that the EPA has created.
Reliance has leased 935,000 barrels of storage space at Hess’s Port Reading terminal and has opened a trading office in Houston.

They will very quickly become a major force in the US marketplace. While in the short term this will likely drive prices at the pump down, the long term effect while be negative.
Over the last few years we have heard time and time again how much the major oil companies have been earning in profits, billions every quarter. However they have invested precious little of this windfall in infrastructure here or abroad.

The US cannot refine all the fuel we use, so others are doing it for us. In every way this is a bad idea and we will suffer for it later. The irresponsibility of not investing in refinery capacity, storage, pipelines, and other required projects is leading us into a mess our children and grandchildren will suffer for.

In eastern Canada, Irving Oil is making a 300,000 bpd expansion to its Saint John’s New Brunswick refinery to provide finished product for the northeastern US markets and now India will add 580,000 bpd to this amount. Again while this may temporarily lower pump prices, it is a strategic mistake to outsource the refining of our fuels.

We are sending more money overseas for no other reason than it is easier than dealing with our problems here.

Another part of the problem is the whole NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) theory. We don’t build refineries because we don’t want to see or smell them.

Well it is time that we grow up, and either put new refineries where they won’t bother anyone or we need to figure out how to clean them up enough that we can live with them.

It is not bad enough that we have to import 2/3’s of our crude oil to support our addiction, and then we import another 10% of our total usage in the form of finished product. Apparently we don’t even want to make the money and have the jobs that we should get from refining it.

The idea that we in the US have so much money that we can afford to simply let someone else deal with our problems while sending them boatloads of money is shortsighted and frankly, stupid!

For more on this and other fuel related subjects go to: and click on Fuel School Articles

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Parking Crude Oil

Parking Crude Oil

Here is a bit of information that is hard to digest.

Speculators are leasing Super Tankers called Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC’s) (tankers holding 2 million barrels or 84,000,000 gallons each.) to store crude oil. There are currently between 35 and 45 of these behemoths sitting, many in the Gulf of Mexico and Persian Gulf holding approximately 80,000,000 (80 million) barrels or 3,360,000,000 (3.36 billion) gallons of crude.

This is almost one day’s worldwide consumption. The speculators are and have been paying $60,000.00 to $75,000.00 dollars per day to lease each of these tankers to sit holding this oil.

Factoid: If you lined 35 VLCC tankers end to end, the total length would be about 7 miles.

Why would someone pay this huge amount of money to park oil in the ocean? Well look at it this way, using the $60,000.00 per day figure to store 2,000,000 gallons of crude works out to approximately $.03 (three cents) per barrel per day. If it sits there 100 days that’s only $3.00 per barrel.

Now let’s say that you purchased crude that was $35.00 per barrel and today (02/26/2009) it is $45.00 per barrel. Even if you have stored it for 100 days at $3.00 per barrel or $6,000,000.00 ($60,000 X 100 days) you will still profit $7.00 per barrel or $14,000,000.00.

So this might us to conclude that the current rise in crude oil prices is a manipulation of the market rather than the result of supply and demand.
Right now the market is off by about 1,000,000 barrels per day, there are at least 80,000,000 barrels floating around, every land storage tank in the world is full, all waiting for the price to go up.

OPEC would have us believe they are reducing production to stabilize (this means “drive up”) the price of crude oil. In reality they are reducing production only because they have no where left to put it.

In a true supply and demand world, prices should be going down, not up.

One thought is that our government should be filling the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as fast as they can get it in the ground. If all of these speculators believe crude will go up in the future then this a worthwhile investment to make.

In spite of the fact the current price is based on market manipulation, I doubt that the government will ever be able to police it. The ability to move staggering amounts of oil around the world with little or no regulation or accountability makes tracing it virtually impossible.The best things we can do are to reduce consumption through more efficient vehicles, equipment and practices and to work on alternative fuels to reach a point where we are able to produce most if not all of our fuel domestically.

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009© - William Richards

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Happens when Gasoline is Burned in an Engine

What happens when gasoline or other petroleum fuel is burned in an Engine?

Gasoline (or any petroleum fuel) is mostly carbon that when burned releases energy in the form of heat. This heat energy makes the engine run and allows it to do work.

The bad part of this process is that the carbon when burned is converted into Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Imagine that a gallon of gasoline weighs between 5.93 to 6.42 lbs (depending on type, temperature, blend and other factors) and as it is burned most of it is converted into CO2 weighing between 5 and 6 lbs per gallon.

If this CO2 was a visible solid, you would have to constantly plow the roads as it would build up like snow in a blizzard. But as it is an invisible gas that floats away, nobody pays any attention to it.

Now imagine that worldwide we burn 80,000,000+ barrels (3,486,000,000+ gallons) (Note: The US uses approximately 25,000,000+ barrels or 1,050,000,000+ gallons) of oil per day and 90% - 95% of that becomes CO2.

That’s 20,916,000,000+ lbs. (Twenty Billion, Nine Hundred Sixteen Million Pounds per Day) of CO2 per day, an incredible amount of carbon that we expect the atmosphere to magically absorb. Again if this was a visible solid, we would be buried in a matter of weeks.

Now, I am a proponent of diesel engines, if for no other reason that they are far more efficient than gasoline engines (30+%). If the portion of this fuel that is refined into gasoline was instead refined into diesel you would reduce that consumption by 30+%.

If you capture CO2 from the atmosphere or better yet from the source and use it to grow algae or other plants, you are using photosynthesis to sequester this carbon. If that biomass is then converted into a biofuel and burned in efficient manner you have formed a closed loop where you can nearly stop the increase of carbon released into the environment.

I believe that short of someone developing cold fusion, the development of algae oil biofuels is our best choice for continued use of liquid fuels. This technology could be made commercially viable in just a few years and produce a high quality oil that could be converted into diesel and other fuels for about $20.00 per barrel. Even if I am wrong by 100%, the cost would still be where the cost of crude is today (02/25/2009).

These are things we need to be thinking about. What’s your opinion?

Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009©- William Richards

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Richards Cycle

The Richards Cycle™

The Richards Cycle™ is a renewable energy concept that combines existing and developing technologies to produce a high quality biodiesel fuel and electricity through a carbon neutral process. Additionally this process can absorb huge amounts of CO2 from other fossil fuel burning processes and plants.

In the Richards Cycle™ land not suitable for farming such a desert and high desert areas can be used for producing oil from Algae. Algae grown in high density greenhouses can produce as much as 100,000 gallons per acre per year. In this process tons of CO2 together with sunlight are converted through photosynthesis into Algae Oil.

You could theoretically place a coal burning power plant next to the greenhouses and pipe the CO2 emissions from the plant right into them where it would be absorbed immediately.
You can then transesterify and or refine the Algae Oil into high quality diesel or heating fuels. You can then use this fuel to generate power or pipe to markets all over the US as motor or heating fuel.

This fuel when burned in a state of the art power plant would be carbon neutral and would produce low cost power. Biodiesel derived from the Algae Oil can be made to burn cleaner than petroleum fuel and would be considered carbon neutral.

This method could produce a significant portion of the nation’s motor fuel, heating oil, industrial fuel oil, and can provide a way to produce an important amount of electrical energy through coal or oil fired power plants without a negative impact on CO2 emissions.

Because this method can be used in most climates, over most of the earth it provides a way to obtain reasonably priced biofuels for motor fuel, heating fuel, industrial fuel oil, and marine fuel oil without the need petroleum fuels.

For areas of the world that currently derive large percentages of their electrical energy from oil fired power plants and diesel powered generators, this provides a way for them to break their dependence on imported or low grade domestic oil.

This is the first viable sustainable renewable energy project that does not use up materials and land diverted from producing foodstuffs.

We encourage your comments, thoughts, and ideas.

Doctor Diesel

Copyright 2009© William R. Richards

Monday, February 23, 2009

Asphaltene's and Plugged Fuel Filters

Asphaltenes and Plugged Fuel Filters

Asphaltenes in diesel fuels are becoming a much larger problem since the introduction of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD - S-15) fuels.

There are actually several problems that have come together to cause the filter plugging black slime we so often see today.

Asphaltenes are highly polarized long chain components in crude and the heavier refined oils. Under certain circumstances these compounds associate themselves to form complex colloidal structures.

In Low Sulfur Diesel (LSD – S-500), High Sulfur Diesel (HSD – S-5000) and heating and bunker fuels the higher aromatic content of the fuel tends to discourage the formation of the complex colloidal structures limiting the problem.

However the EPA mandated reduction in aromatic content in ULSD has allowed this problem to happen sooner, more often, and in cooler temperatures than had been seen previously.

Asphaltenes agglomerate into an oily sludge. This problem is made worse when water is added to mix.

Petroleum and bio-derived fuels all hold water suspended in them, ULSD unfortunately holds approximately twice as much as the LSD and HSD fuels we had seen prior to June of 2006. Biodiesel (B100) can hold ten (10) times as much water as LSD and HSD, so even small amounts of biodiesel blended with diesel fuels dramatically increases the amount of dissolved water present.

Blending of fuels refined from different crude stocks further exacerbates this problem. Also, warmer temperatures in storage or due to the recirculation of fuel by the engine fuel system speeds the process and thickens the sludge.

Fuel that looks perfect going into a clean tank can develop tiny asphaltene droplets in a matter of hours when recirculation temperatures exceed 140°F (note: some newer engine fuel temperature as it exits the head exceeds 210°F). These pin-prick sized droplets can plug a 10 micron fuel filter in 3ooo to 4000 miles or less 50 hours of operation.

Many people mistakenly see this as a biological (bacteria and fungi) problem, however in the majority of cases the accelerated biological growth is the result of near perfect growing conditions that allows this rapid growth after the filter plugging asphaltene material has blocked the filter(s).

Keeping the water out helps, but the real solution is a thermal stability additive, a oxidative stability additive, together with a water dispersant.

Please comment with your experiences, suggestions, and or questions.
Diesel Doctor

Copyright 2009©

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coolant Problems in 2007 and Newer Diesel Engines

Coolant Problems in 2007 and Newer Diesel Engines

The 2007 and newer medium and heavy duty engines with the new emissions devices are creating new and potentially serious problems for cooling systems in general and coolants in particular.

With cooling loads increased by as much as 30% over the previous engines we are seeing issues that must be understood and addressed by users.

As trucks have become more aerodynamic the underhood area has been reduced and airflows restricted. At the same time we have larger displacement engines often with higher horsepower density, plus EGR systems recirculating greater volumes of very hot air together with other heat producing, exhaust restricting Emissions devices.

We have seen trucks with fiberglass hoods that have warped or melted from this tremendous heat load.

All of this places more heat into the coolant, and not only more heat, but higher average temperatures.

Many of today’s coolants are excellent products, however they need more monitoring and more maintenance than ever before.

In the past many fleet experts and OEM’s would recommend an annual check of the coolant. Today these high loads can use up the additive package found in coolants in weeks rather than months. We have seen instances where coolant is properly checked and found to be in good condition, yet in less than a month it can be worthless.

We have seen coolant actually turn black, not from contamination, but simply from continuous high heat loads. Silicate drop out and gelling is more prevalent than ever before.

When this coolant begins to deteriorate the cooling system can be damaged very quickly. We are seeing radiators and heater cores that the solder has been eaten away by the coolant. We are seeing far more liner and even block cavitation problems than ever before.

As a result we have some suggestion and recommendations to try and protect your engines and cooling systems.

Check coolant with fresh Test Strips or Refractometer at every oil change or quarterly, whichever comes first. (Note: Old test strips can give inaccurate readings)

Use only fully formulated coolants from reputable sources for top-offs, and replacement. There is now a huge problem where some suppliers are purchasing used ethylene glycol from manufacturers that had used it in the manufacture of made-made fabrics. They then try to filter out the contaminants and then they use substandard additive packages to make what they claim is new antifreeze from virgin product. This is usually a poor to very poor quality product. It will look OK and a level 1 or 2 test might not show a problem. However a level 3 or 4 test done by a reputable lab will show real and potentially damaging problems.

Never top-off with just water. Coolant works best at a 50%-50% to 50%-70% mix. If it gets out of spec, it will not work properly, and can actually cause expensive damage.

In our opinion all diesel engines in medium and heavy duty applications should have coolant filters.

If you decide that have buy concentrate and mix it yourself, get a mixing system and install either a de-ionizing system for the water or use distilled water. Contaminants in some tap water can render the coolant useless. (See item 2)

You should use only the coolant recommended by the OEM. Do not mix colors especially OA (orange) and OAC (red) with anything.

If you have a failure where oil gets in the cooling system or where you have silicate drop-out or silicate gelling, you need to flush the system with an acid type cleaner and neutralizing agent. If you don’t spend the time to do this procedure, you will have continuing cooling system problems.

Use SCA additive as required to bring the coolant back to the OEM specification.

If you have a problem where you need to make the same repair over and over, get some help. Many of the old rules don’t apply anymore.

The 2010 engines are likely to be even hotter, get ready.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fuel Storage Tank Maintenance - Keep It Clean

Keep It Clean - Fuel Storage Tank Maintenance

Most owners and operators of fuel storage tanks do not understand that maintenance is required to safely and successfully operate fuel storage tanks.

We constantly hear that customers have tanks that have never been cleaned and worse yet, that they believe that they never need to check to see if they have any problems.

This is made even worse by the information that some fuel suppliers tell their customers; for example that it OK to have some water at the bottom of the tank.

Well here is some real world information for everyone on this subject.

Fuel Storage Tanks all require regular maintenance. They are designed with the pickup tube 3" to 6" from the tank bottom so that small amounts of water, sediment and other contaminants have a space they can settle out so that they will not be drawn into the vehicle or equipment tanks as fuel is pumped out. This water and sediment material will accumulate over time and will cause problems if not removed periodically.

Some will tell you that 1/2" or 1" or even 2" of water is alright, and they are flat out wrong. Every time fuel is transferred into that tank it stirs up all that material and it may take as long as a day for it to settle out again. In the meantime every tank you dispense fuel into gets some of this material.

If you have a steel tank that water is corroding your tank from the inside out and putting rust particles into your fuel. We often find above ground tanks only a few years old that have rusted from the inside to the point of leaking from water and sludge in the tank.

Many customers have electronic monitoring systems that provide constant readings showing fuel level, water level, and leak detection. Some of these customers will see 1/2" or a few gallons of water on these system and ignore it because they have been told it is not important.

One problem we see time and again is that the sensors on these monitoring systems fail and they don't tell you when they fail, they just go on showing the last reading forever. This goes on until they start pumping water into their equipment at which point someone checks the tank with a stick and water finding paste only find that they actually have several inches of water.

We have told all of our customers for many years that even though you have spent several thousand dollars for a state of the art monitoring system, you still need to have some one check every tank at least once a month with a stick and water finding paste.

And this rule should be written next to the monitor and maybe next to where you store the measuring stick: "The Only Acceptable Amount of Water in Any Fuel Storage Tank is ZERO (0)".

For those of your with in-ground steel tanks, these tanks have Sacrificial Anodes attached to them. These Anodes take the weak electrical current generated by the tank and pass it into the ground through them. This prevents the tank metal from corroding, however the Anode "Sacrifices" itself in this process. The Anode is used up over a period of time. When the Anode is "used up" the tank begins to corrode often very quickly. Tank owners should periodically check these Anodes and Replace them as necessary. In many states this is part of the required maintenance and testing procedures, however you should know this and check to be certain it has been properly done.

Caps, Sumps, and Vents should all be checked for integrity and to see that they are doing their intended job.

Fuel Storage is a vital link in getting clean fresh fuel safely and efficiently into vehicles and equipment. You have a big investment in the tank, its installation, and in the fuel in it. It only makes sense to properly maintain and protect this investment.

Today we have new challenges with Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), Biodiesel, Gasohol, Conventional Gasoline, and Reformulated Gasoline containing any amount of Ethanol. These fuel products hold much higher levels of water and are much more corrosive than fuels we have traditionally dealt with. They require much higher levels of monitoring and maintenance to have a safe and trouble free delivery system.

We are happy to offer analysis and suggestions on how to operate and maintain your systems.

Please post your comments or questions here.

Diesel Doctor

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Biodiesel from Algae - The future of Biofuels

Biodiesel from Algae - The future of Biofuels

Biodiesel From Algae is likely a long term solution to the problems related to declining crude oil production and ever increasing prices.

Biofuels derived from Algae produce an Algae Oil are considered high quality and can be converted to an excellent biofuel. While all the technology is not yet in place to produce fuel on a mass scale, we are able to see that this is the direction we need to heading.

If you look at yield as a measure of viability, an acre of corn can produce approximately 20-30 gallons of Ethanol or 1,680,000 to 2,520,000 Btu's (84,000 Btu's per gallon) of energy; biodiesel derived from Soybean Oil produces approximately 70 gallons per acre or about 9,100,000 Btu's (130,000 Btu's per gallon), whereas biodiesel derived from Algae can produce up to 100,000 gallons or 13,000,000,000 (yes that's 13 Billion) Btu's (130,000 Btu's per gallon) from a single acre of non-arable desert.

As an oversimplified example if you converted 7,786,000 acres to the production of Algae Oil and converted that to biodiesel you could meet all of the fuel needs for transportation in the US. Note: This is about 10% of the size of New Mexico.

While this is likely a long way off, I believe our government and others in private industry should be investing in developing this technology as quickly as possible.

This technology can also be used to soak up huge amounts of CO2 and it leaves behind a biomass suitable for animal feed and many other possibilities.

Below, is a YouTube CNN video that shows some of this technology and how it can work.

We would appreciate your comments, questions, and ideas.

Diesel Doctor

Monday, February 16, 2009



Type - 4-stroke cycle diesel

Cylinders - 9-static radial configuration

Cooling - Air

Fuel injection - Directly into cylinders at a pressure of 6000 psi

Valves - Poppet type, one per cylinder

Ignition - Compression-glow plugs for starting -air compression 500 psi at 1000 F.

Fuel - Distillate or "furnace oil"

Horsepower - 225 at 1950 rpm

Bore and stroke - 4 13/.16 x 6 in.

Compression ratio - 16:1---maximum combustion pressure 1500 psi

Displacement - 982 cu in.

Weight - 510 lb without propeller hub

Weight-horsepower ratio - 2.26 lb hp

Where manufactured - U.S.A.

Fuel consumption - .46 lb per hp/hr at full speed

Fuel consumption - .40 lb per hp/hr at cruising

Oil consumption - .04 lb per hp/hr

Outside diameter - 45 - 11/16 in.Overall length - 36 - 3/4 in.

Optional accessories - Starter---Eclipse electric inertia; 6 volt

Generator -Eclipse type G-1; 6 volts. Special Series no. 7

The specifications from SMITHSONIAN ANNALS OF FLIGHT,

The First Airplane Diesel Engine Packard Model DR-980 of 1928

Robert B. Meyer 1964

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Accidental Mixing of Gasoline and Diesel

Accidental Mixing of Gasoline and Diesel

Recently a customer of ours had a problem where their fuel supplier mistakenly unloaded 3000 gallons of ULSD#2 into their unleaded gasoline tank that contained about 700 gallons of gas.

When this happens there is very little that you can do beyond having the tank completely pumped out and then replacing the fuel.

Diesel in gasoline will generally cause the engine to either not start at all of run very poorly.

There is no acceptable amount of diesel in gasoline, although the engine will likely run if the amount of diesel is only 1 or 2% of total.

Gasoline in diesel is an equally serious problem. Even very small amounts (1%) can affect the flash point of the fuel significantly. This lowering of the fuels flash point can have catastrophic effects on the engine as it affects the fuels ignition and can also strip the lubricating ability of the diesel fuel, quickly damaging pumps and injectors.

In the past truck drivers would sometimes add a small amount of gasoline to their diesel fuel to try and prevent gelling. Many of these drivers feel that at long as the engine kept running it must be a good idea. It has never been a good idea for the reasons mentioned above and the fact that the engine kept running does not take into account increased wear and failures that happened days, weeks, or months later.

The addition of Ethanol to most gasoline available today simply makes using any amount of gasoline in diesel a very dangerous proposition.

In general, you should have this contaminated fuel taken away by a company licensed to handle it.

If you ever get gas in your diesel or diesel in your gas, the safest thing is to immediately without running the engine, have the tank drained and then replace with the correct fresh fuel.

Please let us know what you think and any experiences you may have had.

Diesel Doctor

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Snake Oil - The Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly

Snake Oil
The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

As someone who has worked in the chemical business for a number of years, I always cringe when someone uses a term like “Mechanic in a Bottle” or “Snake Oil” to define the chemical industry in general and fuel additives in particular.

Unfortunately many of the companies out there today with products that do little or nothing and even worse those that actually cause more harm than good have given the industry a black eye

This has made it a real challenge for those of us that have dedicated their businesses to producing real products, that solve real problems, and produce real measurable results.

So here I want to offer some things to consider when you look at a new chemical product.

When you hear about a product claiming a 15% to 20% or more improvement in fuel economy, you should be skeptical.

We were recently asked to analyze and report on a product that made claims of improving fuel mileage by 10% to 17%, increasing horsepower, reducing hydrocarbon emissions, providing additional lubricity, and several more.

The only claim to involve any real numbers in all of their literature is the mileage claim, so let’s start there.

Cleaning up Combustion Chamber, Fuel Injector, and Valve Carbon Deposits does make a real difference in engine operation and efficiency. You can improve starting, drivability, fuel economy, and emissions by cleaning up those deposits.

In a very dirty engine you might be able to make an 8% to 10% improvement in fuel economy. However if you look at a fleet operation or an average individual engine you are realistically looking at a 3% to 5% improvement.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ethanol/Gasohol Problems with 2 Cycle Engines

Ethanol/Gasohol Problems with 2 Cycle Engines

2 Cycle gasoline engines have new challenges when used with gas containing Ethanol.

A 2 cycle engine gets all of its internal lubrication from a special oil mixed with the gasoline. This premix of oil and gasoline can have serious problems when Ethanol is added to the gasoline. Lubricating oil normally creates a bond with the metal components of the engines. The oil molecules create a boundary layer that protects the metal and reduces friction.

When Ethanol is present it will actually get between the oil and the metal, preventing the boundary layer from forming. This results in little or no protection for the moving components, and little or no reduction in friction forcing the engine to work harder, run hotter, and often to destroy itself.

Also many small engines have plastic carburetors, fuel tanks, and other components that Ethanol can soften or dry out which will cause them to fail. Many rubber fuel lines, o-rings, gaskets, and other parts can be delaminated or turned to a gelatin like material often failing very quickly.

Storing this type of equipment with Gasohol (Ethanol blended fuel) can lead to catastrophic failure in a relatively short time.

There are a very small number of additives that can reduce the negative characteristics of Ethanol in the gas.

We recommend that everyone operating 2 cycle engines switch to a pure synthetic two cycle oil.
The synthetic oil will provide the boundary layer lubrication in spite of the Ethanol.

Please add your comments to this post.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel Cold Weather Information

Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel
Cold Weather Information

The Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD (S-15)) that we started to receive in mid 2006 has shown some dramatically different cold weather characteristics from the earlier High Sulfur (HSD (S-5000)) and Low Sulfur Fuels (LSD (S-500)).

These new characteristics including higher temperature gelling, wax dropout, icing, and difficulty in treating have in the first year and will continue into the foreseeable future to provide some significant challenges to distributors and end users during cold weather.

Due to these new characteristics users in areas of the US where they have not seen cold weather problems in the past, are now and will continue to see serious issues with gelling, wax dropout, and icing.

Here are the main issues known today:

Wax in diesel fuels – Paraffin wax is a natural and important part of diesel fuel. This wax provides several beneficial characteristics including high energy content (Btu’s), lubricity, stability, and viscosity. The negative characteristics mainly revolve around cold weather operation and include gelling and something new we refer to as wax dropout.

In HSD and LSD the wax characteristics were relatively well understood and consistent. For example the “Rule of Thumb” used for adding kerosene (#1 diesel, Jet A) to #2 fuel to lower Cold Filter Plug Point (CFPP) was that for every 10% kerosene added to #2 diesel you would lower CFPP by approximately 5°F. An example would be that a 50% blend would have improved CFPP by about 25°F.

However the new ULSD has had several important characteristics changed by the new refining processes. The catalytic cracking and hydrodesulfurization processes remove some of the wax, it alters the size and shape of the wax seed crystals in the fuel, lowers the aromatic content of the fuel, removes a significant amount of the Lubricity, and lowers the fuels ability to dissipate static electricity by as much as 100 times.

The result of this is that the ULSD fuel actually will gel at a higher temperature than the old LSD and HSD. This problem is made more difficult because we can no longer use regular kerosene (#1 diesel, Jet A) for cold weather blending. These fuels are considered High Sulfur and their use would cause the end fuel to have sulfur content higher than the allowable 15 ppm. So refiners have had to create an ULSD #1 specifically for winter blending purposes.

There are a number of problems with this new fuel. First, it is currently very expensive, ranging anywhere from $.30 to $1.00 more than regular kerosene, second it is not available in all areas, and third this new ULSD #1 is not as effective at lowering the Cloud Point (CP) and CFPP (gel point) of the fuel. For example; ULSD #2 when blended with 10% ULSD #1 will lower the CFPP by only 2°F or maybe 3°F. This means that a 50% blend would only improve CFPP by 10°F.

To make this problem even more difficult, many of the diesel fuel anti-gel additive products that have been on the market for last 5 to 30 years have little or no effect on ULSD. The change in fuel chemistry brought about by changes in the Catalytic Cracking processes and the addition of Hydrodesulfurization have rendered many of the most popular products nearly useless in ULSD.

There is a new cold weather problem that the industry has not adequately defined
as of today. We are calling this issue “Wax Dropout”. Wax Dropout occurs when diesel fuel is “cold saturated”. This where the fuel reaches a given temperature and stays at or below that temperature for a given period of time. This time period is usually between 48 and 72 hours or longer and the temperature can vary with different batches of fuel. This past winter we saw this problem at between 5°F and 10°F.

When the fuel gets to the Wax Dropout temperature, say for example 8°F and stays there for 48 to 72 hours, the wax will suddenly agglomerate and fall to the bottom of the container. This wax plugs filters and fuel lines until it is removed or until the fuel temperature is raised to a point where the fuel will reabsorb the wax.

Again there is a further complication, in that the “old” HSD and LSD wax would gradually start to reabsorb as the fuel temperature rose. With ULSD when wax dropout has occurred the wax does not begin to reabsorb until the fuel reaches fairly high temperatures, often above 40°F, 50°F or even higher. This can make the process of getting an engine with gelled fuel to run properly far more challenging than we have ever seen before.

In the fuel distribution and fleet operations businesses, we have relied on CFPP as
a measure of winter fuel quality for many years. CFPP is a fairly complicated test involving using a vacuum to draw a sample of fuel through a 45 um (micron) screen within a given period of time.

When the HSD and LSD were most prevalent and most fuel filters were 10 um there was a good correlation between CFPP and the temperature at which a standard fuel filter would plug. For example you could be relatively certain that a fuel testing for CFPP of -25°F would provide trouble free operation to -15°F to -20°F.

However the relationship is much different with ULSD. A ULSD fuel testing
-25°F CFPP might have filter plugging problems at between -5°F and -10°F. Also CFPP does not seem to be directly related to Wax Dropout. A fuel can test for
-15°F and still have Wax Dropout at 8°F.

Furthermore, OEM engine manufacturers have changed the media size of their fuel filters. Where 10 um has been almost an industry standard, we now see 7 um, 5 um, and even 2 um filters today. This throws the whole relationship between CFPP and winter operability out the window. For example fuel that is at the CP can have filter plugging problems with a 2 um fuel filter.

The industry has not yet agreed on or developed testing methods to measure cold weather operability with the new fuels and filters.

Until such time as the industry develops a test method for determining the relationship between CFPP, PP, Wax Dropout, and filter media size for ULSD, we suggest the following: For 10 um filters; Take the midpoint between PP and CFPP, for 7 um filters, take the midpoint between PP and CFPP, then take the midpoint between that number and the original CP, for 5 um and 2 um use the CP.

Water is more of a problem than ever before. Diesel and biodiesel fuels hold
water dissolved in them. The amount of water that ULSD is able to hold is greater than that of HSD or LSD. One of the characteristics of fuel is that its ability to hold water in solution diminishes as the temperature decreases. Fuel delivered at 70°F with 200 ppm of dissolved water will as the temperature drops begin to push that water out of the fuel into droplets. These droplets can be seen floating in the fuel and as temperatures reach and go below 32°F those droplets freeze becoming ice crystals.

As a result many of the cold weather problems where people believe they have fuel gelling problem are actually a fuel icing problem. If you have operability issues in temperatures above 0°F you should check to be sure that you aren’t dealing with ice.

Customers are regularly reporting situations where they have no water in storage tanks, no water in vehicle or equipment tanks, but they constantly have water in filters and separators. This is due to the dissolved water falling out of solution due to temperature changes.