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Keep bulk fuel tanks free of water and contaminants

May 29, 2018
Water and contaminants in fuel tanks accelerate fuel degradation and can cause equipment breakdown. If these contaminants make it through the filter and into engines, it can lead to fuel pump failure or fuel injector plugging.

What do water, rust, dirt, dust, bacteria and algae have in common? You don’t want them in your bulk fuel storage tank.

Draining and cleaning tanks regularly is the only way to keep water, which attracts these other items, from accumulating.

Water and contaminants in fuel tanks accelerate fuel degradation and can cause equipment breakdown. If these contaminants make it through the filter and into engines, it can lead to fuel pump failure or fuel injector plugging.

Water also creates an environment for the growth of algae and microorganisms. The black slime from dead algae builds up at the bottom of the tank and can plug pumps and filters.

You don’t want this stuff in your equipment, especially newer tractors, which are even more sensitive to fuel contaminants.

Preventing water from entering the tank

It’s important to establish a process for monitoring and removing water. Common practices for preventing water-related problems include:

  • Make it a habit to monitor and check for water at the bottom of your storage tank. Install an automatic tank gauging system or manually measure with alcohol-compatible water paste on a gauge stick.
  • Remove any water found at the bottom of the tank or around fuel tank openings.
  • The tank fill area should be raised above ground and placed away from areas where rainwater and contaminants could flow in.
  • Inspect gaskets, hatches, vents and fill caps for damage. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect product spill containment buckets. If water is present, do not drain it into the tank. Remove and properly dispose of it instead.
  • Ask your fuel supplier what measures are taken to ensure fuel is delivered without water.
  • Hire professional contractors to examine and maintain the inside of the tank and remove water and sludge.
  • Have the tank drained and cleaned by professionals in the spring and summer.

Checking for water in the tank

Storage tanks should be checked for water as frequently as possible. At a minimum, it should be after each fuel delivery.

If you’re not sure about the type of monitoring equipment installed for your tank, contact your fuel supplier. They may be able to provide information about equipment and guidance for using the system.

An automatic tank gauging system is ideal, as long as sensors are maintained regularly to ensure functionality. You can also manually measure with alcohol-compatible water paste on a gauge stick. The paste changes color in water, but not fuel.

Samples should also be pulled from the inside of the tank and inspected periodically. Your fuel supplier or equipment dealer can provide details on sampling devices and procedures.

Cleaning the tank

Have the tank professionally cleaned if a large amount of sludge or contaminants are found. Monitor the tank closely after cleaning.

Sources: “Keeping Water Out of Your Storage System,” Steel Tank

About the Author

Ron Jessen | Director of Product Management and Business Development

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