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Diesel: A threat to your guaranteed power

Safety/mission critical facilities rely on having guaranteed electrical power at all times. Did you know that power guarantee could be put at risk by bad or contaminated diesel fuel?

Modern diesel fuels are susceptible to contamination and spoilage from a number of sources. Most diesel now contains bio-diesel or fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), dependent upon specification; this can be up to 7% by volume. The downside of bio-diesel is that it absorbs water from the atmosphere, which can lead to the growth of diesel bug in your fuel tank. It is also prone to oxidation, which can cause the formation of acids and filter blocking gums and resins within the fuel.

The latest generation of diesel engines that power diesel UPS and other backup power systems are extremely sensitive to fuel borne contamination, which puts your guaranteed power at risk.

To maintain fuel quality, many engine and fuel companies now advise that a comprehensive Fuel Management Programme is implemented wherever fuel is stored for use in critical applications. Without monitoring, fuel contamination is a hidden problem, which can manifest quickly and cause costly damage.

IPU Group has recently visited a critical data centre, which had serious fuel contamination issues.

The problem:

IPU was called in to investigate issues related to fuel at a site for a critical data storage centre in a secure location. On the first visit it was established that the site had suffered a critical failure on their generators, after four minutes the generators had stopped working. This was during a power shutdown and fortunately the mains power was restored after ten minutes. IPU recommended the stored fuel and surrounding environment should be tested without hesitation.

The issues:

After carrying out a thorough site survey, the company established that the underground tank had a sheared dip cap. A high water table in the area and heavy rains meant the manhole of the underground tank was filled with water. The sump pump was unable to cope with the ingress of water and the ground water was entering the tank.

The solution:

Immediate action was to isolate, to ensure no water could enter the primary tanks.
IPU issued a warning that the situation with the underground tank be addressed urgently, to avoid further ramifications. With free water ingress the result would be fuel entering the manhole and potentially the groundwater.

After a series of specialised tests, it was evident that high volumes of groundwater had entered the tank and the facility now posed a potential environmental risk, with diesel fuel visibly in the manhole.

The IPU testing service was not only able to diagnose the problem, but also provided key tests to diagnose the exact contaminants and the level of contamination inside the stored fuel. IPU provided tests such as groundwater samples at critical points; these tests can be vital in areas where the surrounding environment may be effected.
Most major fuel companies now recommend having a comprehensive Fuel Management Programme to prevent engine damage and costly repairs.

BP, for example, advises: “Establish a system for filtering the contents of the main storage tank through a re-circulating filter system. This can be made automatic and will reduce the potential for problems by removing sediments and gums.”

IPU Fuel Management Systems can, using the latest technology, regulate the contaminant levels in your diesel fuel. From start to finish, IPU can offer a complete solution; from a series of specialised testing services and products specifically designed to detect and measure fuel contamination through use of biocides for microbial infection to bespoke Diesel Defence fuel polishing systems. IPU has the expertise to offer a bespoke Fuel Management Programme for customers’ specific requirements.

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