Prevent Fuel Waxing This Winter

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With February in full swing, it may be time to start thinking about the cold flow capability of your fuel.

If you’re in agriculture, industry, or haulage, or supplying customers who are, you likely already know that cold weather waxing can turn your fuel supply into an active liability. What ought to be the lifeblood of your business is instead clogging engines, causing choking and stop-starting, and keeping some vehicles from starting up at all. Progress on the roads, in the fields, or with the excavator comes to a dead stop as you struggle to negotiate with the fact that you’ve just paid a significant outlay for fuel that the cold weather has made nearly unusable.

Red diesel is especially at risk from cold weather. Thanks to the mixed quality of what’s on offer in the modern market, waxing points in off-road diesel are sneaking higher every year. That means it’s not just good sense to consider an anti-wax solution: it might actually be necessary for off-road operators to do so if they don’t want to lose a significant chunk of their winter profits to unusable fuel and lost productivity.

For distributors, too, the benefits are obvious. Treated fuel offers your customers a necessary operational safeguard, and the added costs are very minimal, especially when compared to the massive potential for profit. An anti-waxing component gives your fuel the winning edge, elevating it to the quality of a premium product while keeping it at a standard product’s price point. It’s something your customers need, and that you can benefit from. Ultimately, it ends up being a winning proposition for both parties.

How Waxing Happens

All diesel fuel contains some paraffin. This is desirable and necessary: the high cetane content of paraffin makes for more efficient burning during normal use, resulting in better mileage and more even performance. When temperatures drop, however, paraffin freezes, forming stiff crystals of wax that block the fuel line, clog the combustion process, cause choking and stop-starting, and ultimately starve the engine of fuel entirely – leading to breakdowns and dead stops in the middle of what should have been a profitable day’s work.

Once fuel waxing has occurred, it can’t easily be reversed. That means waxed fuel stays waxed, and is effectively unusable. And it doesn’t just occur in vehicle tanks: if storage conditions are cold enough, fuel in storage tanks suffers from waxing too. Above-ground storage is especially vulnerable, and more so if it’s not fitted with insulation.

The result of waxing in the storage tank is blocked offtake lines, a wax sediment forming on the tank bottom – and potentially thousands of pounds’ worth of effectively unusable fuel. For most off-road operators, it’s a nightmare scenario.

How Syntec4 Wax Killa Treats Itwax-killa-transparent-png

Syntec4 Wax Killa is a specialised detergent that prevents paraffin from waxing at low temperatures by making sure the paraffin in diesel fuel stays separate, and fluid, no matter how cold it gets. It can be added to fuel in storage or in the vehicle tank, and works at its full efficiency with all types of diesel fuel, no matter their bio content.

For even better performance, operators can use Wax Killa’s sister product Glacier Extreme – a cetane-improving fuel treatment that brings off-road diesel up to a premium road quality specification. Glacier Extreme has all the properties of Wax Killa included in its formula, and also boasts water controlling, lubrication improving, and fuel life extending properties. For working hard in cold weather, it’s hard to find a better assistant.

Whether you choose to use Syntec4 products or not, though, it’s always worth considering the dangers of fuel waxing, and the profit opportunities that come with tackling the problem head-on.

Whether it means more work getting done on time, a healthy trade in additised fuel, or protection against losses on fuel you can’t use, the benefits are varied. The potential for better business (and thicker margins) is there – it’s just waiting for industry professionals to reach out and grab it.

Why You Should Enhance Your Off-Road Diesel

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Frequently, people tell us that they’d love the smoother running that comes with enhanced off-road fuel, but that they can’t afford the extra few pennies per litre. And, from their perspective, this makes sense: after all, many businesses run on narrow margins, farms especially. They view the better fuel as a luxury, something that makes their day-to-day job easier, but doesn’t have an impact (or in fact has a negative impact!) on their profit margins.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fact is, additised fuel pays dividends that aren’t just convenience-based. Once you look at the statistics, it’s impossible to say that the savvy buyer shouldn’t be additising their off-road diesel in 2016.

First off, there’s the save on maintenance and components. Operators are used to tractors, construction vehicles, and other off-road equipment being able to run on the cheapest fuel available and come out the other end relatively unscathed. The fact is, that’s just not the case with this new generation of ethyl alcohol and fish oil-contaminated red diesel: if allowed to run unchecked, it’ll do real damage over time to various parts of the engine, particularly the fuel injectors. Experienced off-road operators don’t need to be told that injectors can cost thousands of pounds apiece to replace – and some statistics we’re seeing say that if you run a tractor or a piece of construction equipment on the sub-standard off-road fuel that’s all over the marketplace right now, you can expect to be replacing them yearly.

In the last few years, Caterpillar have launched a company specifically devoted to testing fuel quality as a part of equipment warranty claims. If they find that the fuel used in the damaged vehicle was sub-standard – and it almost always is – they reject the warranty. So far this year they’ve carried out in the area of 22,000 fuel warranty checks.

In 95% of cases, Caterpillar were absolved of responsibility to replace damaged parts, simply due to the fact that the vehicle had been running on fuel that fell below their minimum standard. That’s upwards of 20,000 agri and construction operators who have had to pay out of pocket for thousands of pounds worth of part replacement due to a problem they couldn’t have anticipated.

That’s a significant potential savings for spending an extra penny or two on fuel. And it’s not just “peace of mind” – it’s a real, actionable way to prevent the financial blow of early part replacement. But let’s also talk about the next point: fuel efficiency.

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Additised fuel runs more efficiently to start with. That’s a proven fact, and already well-accepted in the industry, but many people don’t think it’s enough. After all, if you use less fuel per hour of work, but spend slightly more on fuel per day, don’t those two things balance out?

The truth is, there’s a little more to it than that. It’s true that additised fuel offers a base-level efficiency increase, and that all things being equal, you’ll use less of it per Hp/h than the alternative. But the larger efficiency gain comes from all the other jobs a high quality additive can perform in the engine.

The right kind of additive will clean up combustion, minimising soot and emissions, and lowering the incidence of DPF clogging. It’ll lubricate pistons and injectors as it runs, making for a smoother conversion of fuel to energy. It controls water, meaning less “choking” and stop-starting as you’re trying to get a day’s work done. Syntec4’s products are also treated to prevent corrosion. Fuel that runs in a clean engine, all statistics show, is fuel that offers a higher rate of conversion from money spent to active work.

We offer one product, Vulcan Gas Oil Max, that gives up to a 6% efficiency boost from its combustion catalyst alone. That stacks on top of the core 10+% boost it delivers by raising the cetane number. Are you spending less than 116% of your normal fuel spend to have your off-road diesel treated with a product like Vulcan? Chances are, the cost is more like 101% or 102% – and that means you’re already making a savings.

There are even more benefits to treated fuel, too. But we’ll discuss those in a future article. For now, consider this a primer on why you might consider additisation – and why it might be the smartest financial move you could possibly make for your fuel solution.


 

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Gas Oil in Crisis: The Shape of the Problem

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What quality of gas oil are you buying?

If you think it’s all the same, think again.

Some of you may already have heard that the specification for gas oil – or “red diesel” – has changed recently. What you might not be aware of is that there are now several different fuels on the market, all being legally sold as gas oil or red diesel.

So do you need to be worried? Yes, is the simple answer.

Up to the change there were three different grades of gas oil: the standard agricultural red diesel, furnace fuel, and marine gas oil. Furnace fuel and marine gas oil were not readily available, and therefore were never or very rarely sold to the agricultural sector of the market.

Then came the change. Soaring fuel prices and duty levels introduced an incentive to suppliers to source cheaper fuel alternatives. At the same time, the EU decided to allow the addition of a Bio or FAME element to gas oil in the belief that it was the environmentally right thing to do.

This Bio- or FAME-treated gas oil has a relatively short shelf life – it can be as short as six weeks – and tanks must be cleaned or replaced regularly. In many cases, it is cheaper to buy a new tank than get a contractor to clean small tanks. As if that wasn’t enough, the Bio element in the diesel is corrosive, and can attack many types of plastic- and rubber-derived seals.

Effectively there are now a myriad of high, low and sulphur free fuels, some with a bio or FAME content, some without – and on top of this, there are also recycled or reworked gas oil and blends of any of the above.

So there is a problem with quality – but if it’s cheap and legal, where is the problem?

Put simply, only some of the fuels are legal to use in tractors for example. It is quite legal to sell any of these fuels to the market: however, it is not legal to use them in wheeled equipment like tractors. Similarly, it is quite legal to sell gas oil to an end user – but if that user puts it in their car and drives down the road, then they are breaking the law, not the supplier of the fuel.

Why would any fuel distributor risk selling poor quality fuel?

Large amounts of extra margin can be made through the mis-selling of fuel.

Many years ago most fuel distributors were small independent regional companies very often selling branded fuels, Esso, Shell, BP, etc. etc. guaranteed quality, very often all the brands were all loaded from the same oil terminal, in many cases it did literally all come out of the same tank, gas oil was a simple commodity.

Now however things are very different and in some areas of the UK all or most of the independents have sold out to the large national groups, staff are under pressure to sell more and increase margin, big commissions can be made. The personal touch has gone, it’s much easier to mis-sell a product over the phone, and claim there was a misunderstanding. If the customer is known to shop around for every load, it’s impossible to prove who sold the offending product, as it can take months for symptoms to show.

Gas Oil in Crisis: Advice for Buyers

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How can you tell if you have been sold poor quality product?

It’s not easy: while there can be differences in smell and appearance, testing product before it goes into the engine is something few operators have the facility to do.

But the cheaper cuts of gas oil burn less efficiently. In effect, you use more fuel to do the same amount of work.

With some product the engines will run but will be noticeably down on power, with a haze of blue exhaust smoke. Some distributors will pretreat the fuel with an additive to eliminate the power and smoke problem, but this still does not make it legal to use. The practice is so common that the tanker manufacturers are offering an automatic dosing system on trucks, allowing the driver to decide if the end user is going to use the fuel in a tractor or boiler.

Look for problems with sediment building up in bulk tanks, or for fuel waxing in cold weather. Winter grade diesel is tested to minus 15 degrees celsius: last winter, 2015/16, many users reported problems at minus 5 or warmer. Look for trouble with filters clogging with a slimy black or white deposit, and fuel leaks on tanks and equipment.

Be suspicious of prices if one quote is much cheaper than the rest. Be warned, however: some companies trade under many different names with different phone numbers all terminating in the same anonymous office, at the other end of the country.

Some distributors tell their customers that all gas oil has a bio content by law: this is not the case. The law only states that gas oil to BS2869 2010 A2 may, not must, have up to 7% Bio content.

But who would ever know? When did you last see a Customs Officer stop a tractor in a field?

Customs already have all commercial gas oil users’ names and addresses provided to them, every month, by all distributors. If the distributor is questioned he could claim that he cannot control how the fuel is used, and as they have by law to send a monthly report to HM Revenue and Customs, it’s an easy job for Customs Officers to knock on the end user’s door. Customs don’t have to prove anything: it’s the end user who would have to prove that the fuel has been used in ship or boiler, for example.

If they can’t, then they are liable to pay all the unpaid duty as decided by Customs. This happens all the time in the road fuels market. It’s only a matter of time before HM Revenue and Customs start policing the off-road market.

How can you minimize your risk?

Build a long term understanding with your supplier, and be sure you know who you are trading with. Have they got a local office or representative? Don’t just buy on price: ask for details of the product specification, and don’t be put off by telesales who don’t know but promise to get back to you. Ask for it in writing or on email, and keep it on file so if Customs come knocking, you can prove good faith.

Ask to see the original loading manifest, checking dates, times and where the fuel was loaded. All tankers have to carry them by law. Be suspicious of photocopies.

Question drivers and representatives about the source of the product. If they claim not to know or are evasive, be suspicious.

Finally, be cautious when relying on internet price comparison sites. Many are not independent, and are owned by the companies who post prices on them.