Assess fuel quality after winter storage

February 14, 2023
Charlie Carter, product quality and additives manager for CHS refined fuels commercial supply, offers tips to ensure fuel is field-ready this spring.

When fields are ready, farmers want to hit the ground running. But quality issues in a fuel tank can add headaches and costly downtime during the busy spring season. Charlie Carter, product quality and additives manager for CHS refined fuels commercial supply, recommends assessing stored fuel quality well before you plan to run equipment. Use these tips to ensure your fuel is field-ready.  

Check fuel storage before planting

Fuel storage issues usually aren’t a quick fix, so finding problems early will help save valuable time when seasonal demands are high. A fuel sample analysis is typically needed to diagnose and troubleshoot a fuel quality issue, Carter says. It can take up to two weeks to get those test results, and then remedies may be needed to address any issues that testing reveals.

Know how to spot fuel quality issues

Carter says water accumulation in fuel tanks is one of the most common issues after winter storage.

“Water in the fuel supply can lead to a host of other issues if not addressed promptly,” says Carter. “Water left in a tank can cause an emulsion layer to develop between the fuel and water. If that emulsion layer gets into your fuel system, there is the potential for substantial damage to engine parts.” Water and other fuel tank contaminants can promote microbial growth that can plug filters and cause premature failure in fuel-related engine components.

Water is usually easily detected in a fuel sample using visual clues. “If water is abundant, fuel may appear cloudy. Given enough time to settle, it will appear in a fuel-water mixture at the bottom of a tank,” says Carter.

Take action to remove water from fuel tanks

Removing water using specialized filters or professional tank cleaning will be needed if noticeable changes occur in stored fuel.

“Depending on the local regulations and tank configuration, producers may be able to drain excess water easily through a bung on the bottom of the tank. Water-specific tank filters could also be installed to absorb excess water for safe removal,” explains Carter. “If those options don’t fix the issue or if microbial growth has been detected, more stringent actions such as a biocide, additive or professional tank cleaning may be needed, which can be costly and time-consuming.”

Prevent fuel contamination

Carter says the best approach is preventing fuel contamination before it can occur. Preventive maintenance, including replacing fuel filters, regularly inspecting gaskets and scheduling a professional tank cleaning every other year, can also help prevent fuel storage issues. Aboveground storage tanks should be located away from moisture flows from rainwater or snow melt.  

Invest in high-quality fuel

Start with high-quality fuel, especially if it will be stored for several months. “Having a complete fuel package such as Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® and Cenex Roadmaster XL® premium diesel fuels will help improve fuel storage stability. Both fuels include a two-phase total water management system that separates water from fuel and pushes it to the bottom of the tank with demulsifier technology for easy removal,” explains Carter.

Cenex high-quality premium diesel fuels also contain a storage stabilizer and corrosion inhibitor that enables up to six months longer storage than typical number two diesel fuel, says Carter. The ability to store with confidence means you can fill tanks when markets are favorable, knowing you’ll have high-quality fuel ready and waiting when spring activities resume.