Clean fuel = efficient machinery
Occasionally, farmers tell Ken Rueter that their fuel filters are plugging, reducing engine power and efficiency. The energy management specialist with AgriPride FS says while filters are fairly simple to replace, that alone usually does not address the root problem. Improperly managed fuel can cause poor performance in machinery and cause filters to plug up faster.
Routine maintenance helps solve and prevent these problems. Rueter says condensation, microbes, and rust are the three main culprits when it comes to plugged filters.
“In the past 10 years we have seen a dramatic change in diesel engine fuel filters,” he explains. Filters have gone from removing particles more than 10 micron to now removing 2 micron particles. For comparison, a human hair is 15 micron, and a red blood cell measures 8 micron.
Changes in storage tank filters have kept pace. Five to six years ago, 10-micron filters were at the pump. Now, a 10-2 filter is recommended, meaning fuel first goes through the 10-micron filter and then a 2-micron filter. Randy Meseke, Growmark's facility equipment - petroleum manager, explains it is more economical to filter fuel at the pump. “We can filter fuel at the storage tank for less than $30, where an equipment filter may cost $100 or more,” he explains.
New technology needs cleaner fuel
The changes in machinery technology have caused the change in filters. It is especially important to run properly filtered fuel through newer high pressure injection systems. Improperly filtered fuel can cause injection systems to clog, reducing power and efficiency.
“With new machinery, it is so important to keep fuel clean,” Rueter says. With replacement injectors running around $1,000 apiece, Rueter explains that preventive measures are key.
Mark Dehner, Growmark's marketing manager, refined and renewable fuels, says that engines now use a high pressure common rail injection system.
“We are now looking at pumping diesel fuel into the combustion chamber through extremely small orifices at 25,000 to 35,000 pounds per square inch,” Dehner says. “That is why the fuel needs to be extremely clean and particulate-free.”
Instead of being made of paper, many of today's filters are made with fiberglass, which lets fewer contaminants, including water, into a machine's engine. This means that if fuel is contaminated, filters will clog faster than before – and the filter isn't the problem, because it's just doing its job.
New caps help prevent moisture problems
Fuel should be delivered in proper condition. However, any fuel can become contaminated during storage, regardless of delivered quality.
Condensation is the most common problem found in tanks. “Condensation, that is, moisture starts everything. It is the culprit in a lot of problems,” says Rueter. He suggests changing out old flip top-style tank caps to Pre-Vent caps, which prevent moisture from entering the tank by responding to changes in ambient temperature to avoid condensation. When farmers pull fuel from the tank, no moisture will come back in. The caps cause a vacuum-tight seal, which on the right day, will pop off when opened. “That means it is working correctly,” he explains.