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