Farmers Facing Diesel Quality Problems – Is FAME to Blame?
The media has recently reported an increase in diesel fuel problems with clogged diesel particulate filters and ultimately engine problems. This poses a problem for the small and large businesses alike across the UK that rely on diesel to keep their operations running smoothly.
At Crown Oil, we do everything in our power to ensure that the red diesel and white diesel that we supply is of the highest quality that meets the appropriate fuel specifications, helping to remove the risk of poor quality fuel which contributes to the inconvenient and costly problems of clogged filters.
But Crown Oil isn’t the only fuel supplier in the UK, and whilst it’s easy to place the blame on less scrupulous suppliers, the fuel in question was found to have met the British legal standards for fuel quality.
So what’s going on, and what can you do if you’re suffering diesel-related problems?
Is FAME causing diesel problems?
The issue seems to be the increased presence of Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) in gas oil, as required by the Government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).
The RFTO is one of the Government’s key policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions released from road vehicles and off-road machinery, such as tractors. The legislation came into force in 2008 and stated that a percentage of the fuel used in these applications must derive from sustainable sources. Without this renewable content, the fuel is subject to an additional fuel duty which increases the overall cost paid by the consumer.
Measures such as fuel recirculation, regular testing and cleaning are imperative to the safe storage of your fuel, in addition to replacing your tank every 10 years. Without these measures, the risk of bacterial attack, contamination and other issues will only increase over time.
Potential FAME problems
FAME has essential solvent properties to remove particles and dirt that have accumulated in the tank and pipeline, but these assets can also corrode the interior. Small particles (less than 10 microns) of tank debris are held in suspension within the fuel which can block filters and lead to an increase in fuel consumption and engine problems.
FAME also absorbs water which can affect performance as it provides the perfect condition for microbes (diesel bug) to feed on the diesel. Over time, diesel bug turns into a sludge substance that can cause clogged filters, injector fouling, reduced fuel flow, and unplanned power loss. Diesel (DERV) and red diesel (gas oil) both need to be stored carefully, and fuel quality needs to be checked regularly to avoid breakage and replacement costs.
Learn more about recovering your fuels from microbial contamination in diesel, using our fuel contamination services
Diesel seasonal grade could also be causing farmers’ diesel issues
The other factor that can impact diesel quality and cause problems with machinery is if summer grade diesel is being used during winter.
Both gas oil and white diesel come in two grades: summer and winter. Winter-grade diesel contains additives that make it more resistant to the cold, whilst summer-grade diesel doesn’t contain this added protection. This means that whilst winter-grade diesel can be used all year round, it’s also more expensive to produce than summer-grade diesel and is therefore not as cost-effective as using summer-grade diesel in the warmer months.
If you use summer-grade diesel in the cold months, you’re at greater risk of your fuel gelling (where the cold makes your fuel thick and vicious) and eventually clog filters and damaging machinery.
So it’s really important that you ensure that once summer ends, you replace your summer fuel with winter-grade diesel. Learn more about this in our winter blend vs summer blend diesel guide.
My fuel is contaminated – what do I do?
Only a very small number of people have been affected by diesel problems so far. It seems that every case is different but factors include the storage conditions, the age of the tank, the age of the fuel, the type of filter used and the outside temperature.
If your diesel has become contaminated, you must act quickly to avoid significant damage to your assets. Take advantage of our fuel uplift service to replace your contaminated fuel with clean fuel. The process is quick and simple and will cause little or no disruption to your operations.
What can I do to avoid red diesel quality issues?
- Store fuel carefully
- Clean your tank annually
- Beware of summer and winter grade gas oil
- Store enough gas oil for the season
- Replace fuel storage tanks every 10 years
- Replace your diesel with Crown HVO fuel
Are there diesel alternatives that are more resilient to diesel quality issues?
Crown HVO fuel is a paraffinic synthetic diesel that can be used directly on top of existing diesel stocks. It’s FAME-free and remains mobile and filterable down to -32oC. Thanks to its production process, all impurities are removed from the fuel to leave a stable and high-quality product, boasting up to a 10-year life in storage. That’s compared to 1 year for diesel.
It also has environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%, as well as offering a significant reduction in harmful pollutants.