June 15, 2015 – For many years (and still today), the diesel engine manufacturers have advised their equipment buyers to avoid using diesel fuel additives of any kind. This position is expected given the fact that the engine manufacturers warrant the new equipment and its viability for extended periods of time after the purchase.
However, it is also true that many of the diesel engine manufacturers offer their own proprietary diesel fuel additives under their own name and brand. It is also true that many different fuel additive products (i.e. cetane improvers, lubricity agents, conductivity improvers, pour point depressants, CFPP reducers, etc.) are routinely incorporated to some extent into finished fuels by the petroleum refiners and terminal distribution points before sale to fuel consumers.
The US Government recognized the “restraint of trade” situation being created by the engine manufacturers against fuel additive suppliers and in 1975 passed the Magnuson-Moss Act. This legislation (among other things) makes it illegal for any equipment manufacturer to void a warranty because an equipment buyer uses a fuel additive.
In order for an engine manufacturer to void the engine warranty because of an additive, the engine manufacturer must “prove the additive caused the problem” determined by that engine manufacturer as a reason to void the warranty. This is a very expensive undertaking and the reason engine manufacturers discourage the use of any fuel additive during the warranty period.
Generally, engine manufacturers do not specifically say they will void the equipment warranty if a buyer uses an additive. But, the engine manufacturer’s inference to equipment buyers regarding not using additives is clear AND it is still illegal.
The Magnuson-Moss Act also makes it illegal for an engine manufacturer to advise an equipment buyer that he can “only” use a fuel additive that is sold by the engine manufacturer. This is defined in the Act as a “tie-in sales provision” and also is “restraint of trade” and “illegal”.
It is unfortunate engine manufacturers do not accept that all distillate (diesel) fuels are different and no diesel fuel sold today is the perfect fuel for all diesel engines. Most diesel fuels produced do meet the required ASTM D-975 Specification* minimums for sale, but that does not mean these fuels will necessarily provide the best possible operational results when used.
The ASTM D-975 Specification for diesel fuels only defines the “minimum” physical property levels of a limited number of parameters for diesel fuels that must be achieved in order for the fuel to be sold as diesel fuel. Accordingly, no one chemical additive can ever modify and fix all the diesel fuel properties in order to eliminate all operability issues that might be encountered with all different diesel fuels manufactured.
Therefore, there is a definite need to incorporate certain “specific” chemistries (additives) into finished diesel fuels in order to resolve those deficiencies in the fuels and allow the fuels to operate properly in the engines manufactured.
The engine manufacturers also fail to appreciate the “fact” that most diesel fuels contain varying amounts of different chemical additives. The refiners, distributors and suppliers may inject various additives in order to give them an advantage in the market place. However, the amount of these chemistries often is grossly inadequate to actually remedy potential problems and improve the performance of the fuel for the fuel user.
I have spent more than 40 years writing articles and publishing information in an attempt to educate fuel producers and fuel consumers about the benefits of using the ‘right’ chemical additives in the correct ratios to upgrade fuel quality and improve the performance properties of finished distillate (diesel) fuels.
Identifying the ‘right’ chemistries is an art as much as is the compounding of those chemistries into specific performance additive products that will accomplish the desired results. Sometimes this can be challenging, but it can be done.
The additives selected should enhance the performance quality of all distillate (diesel) fuels into the most economical cost effective “Premium Diesel Fuels” possible in the market place. The ‘right’ additives (at the proper treat rates) should work to eliminate all of the negative aspects of diesel fuels and allow the engine to properly transform all of the fuel BTU content into usable work energy (horsepower).
Once formulated, the finished fuel additive products must be ASTM laboratory tested to insure compound uniformity and compatibility with typical diesel fuels. Additional laboratory testing also must be done to verify the performance (claims) based on the chemistries chosen ‘before’ the fuel additive is marketed.
Too often fuel additive suppliers do not undertake these costly steps to prove the value of their products. They choose instead to present unsubstantiated “marketing fluff” as real world facts and, the fuel user does not obtain the fuel performance results expected.
Genuine diesel fuel additives with the ‘right’ amounts of chemistries will provide cost savings for diesel fuel users when applied correctly in all applications in all types and qualities of distillate fuels.
But, the fuel user must also test a chosen fuel additive in a particular diesel fuel and in specific diesel powered equipment in order to verify marketing claims and prove cost savings. These steps take time but they should not be ignored as additive marketer claims cannot be taken for granted. “Trust but verify is the best advice” for the fuel additive buyer.
What Are the Issues and What Is Needed to Fix Them?
In order to fix diesel fuel problems, one first must specifically identify what the issues are with each type of diesel fuel being used. Generally the heavier the diesel fuel (light distillate versus heavy distillate), the more issues will be encountered and the more fixes required.
The first issue with today’s diesel fuel is (1) low fuel ignition point quality (low fuel Engine Cetane Number) which does not allow the fuel to ignite quickly nor burn properly.
(a) Poor combustion causes difficulties in starting engines (especially during cold weather) operations
(b) Poor combustion produces excessive exhaust smoke emissions from the unburned fuel
(c) Poor combustion increases combustion chamber and post combustion area deposits
(d) Poor combustion reduces horsepower production and increases driver complaints
(e) Poor combustion decreases fuel economy (efficiency)
Fixing the fuel Engine Cetane Number requires the addition of a defined amount of typical combustion improver additive (Cetane Improver Additive; 2-ethylhexyl nitrate) to “raise” the fuel Engine Cetane Number. Increasing the fuel Engine Cetane Number decreases the ignition delay time between fuel injection and initial combustion of the fuel in each cylinder of the engine.
Decreasing the ignition delay time results in less combustion explosions (known as engine knocking) in engine cylinders. Eliminating diesel engine knock means the fuel droplets injected into each cylinder are burning completely and releasing all of the heat energy in a smooth controlled manner. This yields smoother engine operation with more optimized power productions from the diesel fuel consumed.
A second issue with today’s diesel fuel is (2) complex cleanliness quality which causes excessive fuel related deposits in the fuel delivery system (tanks, pumps and fuel injectors). Although most diesel fuels produced meet the required ASTM D-975 Specifications, not all diesel fuels are created equal.
(a) Fuel related deposits in the fuel delivery system (tanks, pumps, injectors, sensors, etc.) from poor fuel cleanliness quality negatively affect the fuel spray pattern in each engine cylinder.
(b) Poor fuel spray pattern causes incomplete burning of the fuel and increases smoke emissions
(c) Poor fuel spray pattern produces increased unburned hydrocarbon emissions and other fuel related combustion emissions (CO, VOC, Particulate Materials, NOx, etc.)
(d) Poor fuel spray pattern increases crankcase fuel dilution which results in increased engine wear
Correcting complex fuel cleanliness quality issues requires the addition of the ‘right’ amount of Detergent Additive plus Deposit Modifier Additives.
A third issue with today’s diesel fuels is (3) poor fuel lubricity value which initiates excessive wear in component parts of the fuel delivery system.
(a) Poor diesel fuel lubricity detected as high HFRR readings (High Frequency Reciprocating Rig Test) means those moving parts in the fuel delivery system lubricated by the fuel itself (pumps and fuel injectors) suffer increased wear
(b) Increased diesel fuel delivery system component part wear requires premature replacement which raises the cost of operating the diesel engine
(c) Poor diesel fuel lubricity value causes fuel injector sticking (chattering) which lowers the optimum amount of fuel delivered to each cylinder
(d) Decreasing the optimum amount of fuel delivered to each cylinder reduces the horsepower production
(e) Decreased horsepower production increases fuel consumption to pull the same load
Solving poor fuel lubricity value requires the addition of the ‘correct’ Lubricity Agents in the ‘proper’ amounts in all of the diesel fuel consumed. Treated correctly, this excessive component wear issue can be completely eliminated.
Eliminating the excessive fuel delivery system component wear problems allows the engine to be fueled correctly and presents the opportunity to optimize the use of dollars spent on the diesel fuel consumed assuming the ‘right’ other additives are also incorporated into the diesel fuel.
A fourth issue with today’s diesel fuels is (4) complicated winter operability problems identified in a laboratory by high fuel cold flow temperature readings such as:
(a) A high fuel Cloud Point temperature (the point at which the paraffin content in the diesel fuel begins to change from a liquid to a solid material or visibly becomes cloudy)
(b) A high CFPP (Cold Filter Plugging Point) temperature (the fuel temperature at which the engine’s fuel filters begin to plug with paraffin wax)
(c) A high Pour Point temperature (the fuel temperature when the liquid material solidifies and will not flow)
(d) A stratification of the paraffin wax formed in the diesel fuel at cold temperatures
(e) Moisture (water) content in the fuel system changing from a liquid state into solid ice crystals at fuel temperatures below 32 degrees F
Each of the above conditions will cause the engine to start poorly (or not start at all), operate sluggishly and produce low power from the fuel being consumed. This causes the driver or operator of the equipment to increase the throttle setting (or accelerator) which increases fuel consumption and escalates costs.
Diesel fuel cold weather operational issues require the addition of compound effective Cold Flow Improver Additives (CFPP reducers, Pour Point Depressants, Wax Dispersant Additives and De-Icer Agents) plus other Synergistic Formulation Stabilization Additives to counteract the separation effects of the individual winterization additive components.
Extensive laboratory testing of diesel fuels before cold weather is encountered is critical in finding the ‘right’ solution for winter operability issues experienced by the diesel operator. Laboratory testing allows the operator to choose a correctly formulated diesel fuel winterization additive that can and ‘will’ eliminate all of the cold weather operational issues for the diesel engine.
The ‘right’ winterization additive product can and ‘should’ eliminate all of the above issues without the use of additional amounts of expensive kerosene (K-1 or No.1-D) blending components.
A fifth issue with today’s diesel fuels is (5) the stability of the diesel fuel and its tendency to degrade over time. All diesel fuels deteriorate (breakdown) from the time of their manufacture until the day they are completely consumed.
(a) Degraded diesel fuels create sludge deposits and free carbon particulate precipitations
(b) Degraded diesel fuels are hard to burn, create more smoke and fuel related deposits
(c) Mixing different diesel fuels made by different refineries from different crude oil sources (which is done continually) negatively affects diesel fuel stability
What Are the Issues and What Is Needed to Fix Them?
It is very important for the fuel buyer to know how stable the diesel fuel is when it is received in order to determine how long the diesel fuel can be effectively stored before use. Knowing the delivered fuel stability allows the diesel fuel purchaser to decide how much storage stability additive is needed to protect the fuel’s value until it is consumed.
A good effective Diesel Fuel Stability Additive is inexpensive to purchase and easy to treat into the delivered diesel fuel. These chemistries usually are compounded with self-dispersing components to permit proper treatment with the fuel delivery agitation. Diesel fuel properly additized for stability can usually be stored for as much as 12 months with little degradation taking place in the fuel storage tanks. Less fuel stabilizer is needed if the diesel fuel is used quickly.
A sixth issue with today’s diesel fuels is (6) unwanted system contamination and fuel corrosiveness caused by mixing different fuel sources and carryover from contaminated bulk terminal (or refinery) storage systems.
(a) Excessive moisture (water) content is the most prevalent contamination found in diesel fuels
(b) Water is very dry and will cause excessive fuel system wear and related rust and corrosion
(c) Moisture in diesel fuel is “like a sponge” and will pick up dirt, debris and other contaminants and carry them through the fuel delivery system
(d) These fuel system contaminants increase the pump and injector wear and negatively affect diesel fuel combustion and overall engine efficiency
While there is no cost effecient means to remove dissolved water from diesel fuel, checking for separated “free” water in diesel fuel tanks is easy and removing it when found is not difficult. Adding a good rust and corrosion inhibitor additive to counteract fuel system moisture is inexpensive and extremely cost effective to prevent wear and deterioration of the fuel system.
A seventh issue with today’s diesel fuels is related to the (7) intricacies of the specific type of diesel fuel and specific engine type and the specific application where the diesel fuel is being used.
Different diesel fuel grades (i.e. light distillate/diesel fuels versus heavy bunker diesel fuels) have different energy (BTU) contents, different physical properties and present different issues for the fuel consumer in his effort to optimize the fuel’s performance in his particular engines. It is essential that the diesel fuel buyer fully understand these two types of diesel fuels and the specific problems associated with each.
What Are the Issues and What Is Needed to Fix Them?
In addition to the above issues noted herein for light diesel fuels, heavy diesel fuels (i.e. No. 4-D, No. 5-D, No. 6-D bunker fuels) compared to light diesel No. 2-D and No. 1-D fuels:
(a) Usually require heated storage and fuel injection systems because of their thick viscous nature which makes them hard to ignite and burn completely
(b) Cause more unburned hydrocarbons and particulate emissions
(c) Create more fuel related deposits and more acidic compounds in the exhaust areas
(d) Contain more moisture and undesirable contaminations
Accordingly, these different diesel fuels require varying performance fuel additive chemistries if the fuel consumer is to achieve the best possible results and maximize the use of fuel dollars spent. All diesel fuel applications, whether heavy diesel or light diesel fuel situations, require sophisticated custom compounded fuel additive formulations in order to eliminate the unique issues with each particular diesel fuel and allow the engine equipment used to maximize diesel fuel performance.
An eight issue with today’s diesel fuels affecting diesel fuel operability for the fuel user include (8) the various types of Biodiesel components which can be blended into the delivered diesel fuels. Biodiesel feedstock variables and processes along with other physical property alterations caused by the product exchange programs used throughout North America and other areas of the world make it absolutely critical that the fuel buyer analyze the diesel fuels AND the biodiesel fuel purchased.
Only through detailed laboratory analysis of the diesel fuel actually delivered can the fuel buyer determine what physical properties need to be addressed and what specific fuel additives need to be purchased to modify and correct those physical deficiencies.
My experience has taught me that there is no such thing as “typical” diesel fuels. All diesel fuels even from the same refiner or same terminal operation are different and they perform differently in different engines. It is important the engine manufacturers accept these facts.
Engine manufacturers build equipment that they hope will perform well for the buyer using the diesel fuels available. Unfortunately, the industry recognized ASTM D-975 Specification for Diesel Fuels is only a “guide” for the fuel producers and it does not represent the best possible product for all diesel engines.
There are fuel chemicals (additives) that can fix nearly all of the performance quality issues encountered by the fuel user. But finding those answers can be challenging for the fuel user.
Knowing the existing diesel fuel deficiencies and determining the corrective action to be taken is the only means for the diesel fuel buyer to optimize engine performance. This will allow the fuel consumer to maximize the use of the fuel dollars spent on a daily basis while protecting the equipment investment.
Once the diesel engine manufacturers appreciate the need for using the ‘right’ fuel additives in the correct ratios, the fuel buyer can effectively protect the life and operation of the equipment purchased. Additive acceptance for improving the quality and performance of the diesel fuel will ultimately be an enormous benefit for the engine manufacturers and the fuel user.
* ASTM International
Amalgamated, Inc is the only true independent “custom blender” in North America and a unique supplier of “synergistically balanced” distillate fuel additive chemistries. These custom blended fuel additive products are thoroughly tested and unmatched in operability performance in all types of diesel fuels and all engine applications because the additive chemistries are “specifically matched” to the fuel for optimum engine application.