What can be done over winter to upgrade your fuel storage system and ensure next year’s fuel supply is contaminant-free? Simon Henley investigates.
Diesel is a vital commodity in modern agriculture and modern diesel fuels require almost as much maintenance as the machines that use it. And just to make things more complicated, engines with SCR emission technology require AdBlue to be stored on-farm too.
The main issue with storing modern ultra-low sulphur diesel relates to the replacement of sulphur for lubrication and the addition of biodiesel.
Unfortunately, biodiesel has the ability to absorb considerably more water than regular diesel, which can encourage the development of diesel-bug micro-organisms, which feed on hydrocarbons in the fuel, excreting harmful biomass and corrosive acids in the process.
See also: Advice on reducing red diesel fuel costs
Filtering fuel every time it is moved is highly recommended. A modern farm fuel store should have a fuel-filtering system in place on the filler-nozzle hose, filtering fuel before it enters the tractor.
Companies like Goldenrod supply both water and particle filter systems to suit both gravity fed and electrically pumped storage facilities.
Fitting a pressure gauge between the tank outlet and the diesel-filter housing will indicate when the filter element needs changing. Additionally, a fuel-flow meter is a useful guide to how much fuel is being used.
Keeping water out
Diesel fuel should be regularly checked for water and microbe contamination. A simple test kit costs less than £20. If your storage tank is likely to be full of fuel overwinter, it may be prudent to add an antioxidant or a fuel biocide to help preserve fuel quality.
Condensation is the farmer’s worst enemy in the fight to keep fuel supplies clean. At night, as the temperature drops, cool moist air is drawn into the tank through the breather vent, where it condenses.
Steel tanks are more prone to condensation than plastic tanks, although the bunding ventilation systems on modern tank designs do much to eliminate this.
Limiting the extremes of temperature and keeping exposed single-skin tank structures out of direct sunlight by enclosing (or building a canopy over) the storage area, will help to stabilise the fuel temperature, reducing the potential for the formation of condensation. It will also keep rainwater out of an open bunding area.
A basic 5,000 litre polyethylene tank will cost about £1,500, while a 15,000 litre steel dispenser tank with a cabinet and pumping system will cost more than £10,000. If you’re thinking of buying a new bowser, it’s worth considering one fitted with an optional Adblue tank.
Bailey Trailers, for instance, offers a purpose-built 2,000 litre bunded bowser fitted with a 220 litre AdBlue tank, an 85 litres/min 12V pump and high-speed running gear for £6,900.
The good news is that Adblue is safer to store than diesel. It is non-toxic with a shelf life of two years. It is however corrosive to things like steel, copper and zinc, which means it can’t be stored in a galvanised steel tank.
Fully-bunded dispenser/storage tanks with capacities from 1,000 litres upwards boast similar specification to modern diesel tanks, with a combination of steel outer and plastic inner tanks and optional lockable filler cabinets.
No fuel tank is impenetrable, but building a locking cabinet for the filling equipment is a good start. Electric fuel pumps should have an isolator switch located inside in a secure area away from the tank so the pump can’t be activated.
Tank alarms that help keep tabs on fuel use can help. Vectec, for instance, offers a system starting at £500, where a sudden drop in the fuel level within a specified curfew limits activate an alarm system that notifies a nominated person’s mobile phone.