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Biodiesel storage in winter

Forklift trade body the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) is urging companies to ensure correct storage of fuel during the winter, and to check specific fuel requirements in light of changing emissions legislation and the requirements of modern engines, particularly around the use of biodiesel and ultra-low sulphur diesel (ULSD).

BITA technical consultant Bob Hine said: “Incorrect storage of fuel, potentially leading to contamination, can create real problems for forklift truck operators, particularly with cold weather operation. Add to this the need to ensure that the correct grade of fuel is being used means a winter of potential risks to operational effectiveness and efficiency.”

Key causes of contamination include: water in fuel, particle contamination or poor filtration, extended storage periods, diesel microbial contamination and irregular tank maintenance.

BITA says that because up to 7% of biodiesel can now be included in UK gas oil/red diesel, and because biodiesel blends can absorb more water, this can precipitate out of solution when the temperature changes. This in turn can create microbial contamination, leading to sludge problems.

Biodiesel also oxidises and breaks down more easily in the presence of oxygen, creating peroxides that eventually form acids. This lead to the creation of gums and resins which can block fuel filters.

To avoid such issues, BITA suggests buying from reputable sources, maintaining tanks, keeping tanks full, limiting storage time, controlling temperature, running fuel through a filtration system when moving it, and regular testing for microbes and water.

The organisation also flags up potential problems with using the incorrect grade of fuel. For example, engines designed to run on European grade diesel, with a cetane rating of 51, can struggle to run effectively on UK red diesel, which has a cetane level of 45. ULSD can also mean a reduction in the ‘oiliness’ of fuel or lower ‘lubricity’, which can be an issue if used in older engines not designed to run on ULSD.

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