AXI International Logo
AXI International Logo
Contact Us
AXI International White Logo
Contact Us
AXI International Logo
AXI University

The Truth About Biocides in Diesel Fuel

Posted July 25, 2023 by Tyler Moore

Fuel quality is of utmost importance for the efficient performance and longevity of equipment. To address fuel contamination issues, biocides have been commonly used in fuel management.

However, it’s essential to understand the disadvantages and limitations associated with biocides. In this article, we will explore the drawbacks of using biocides and introduce a superior alternative known in the fuel management industry as fuel polishing.

What are Biocides?

Biocides are used in a myriad of applications across the world. From food preservatives to hospital-grade disinfectants, biocide products “are those that are intended to destroy, render harmless, prevent the action of, or otherwise exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means.

Biocides are often used in fuel tank applications to kill and prevent the proliferation of harmful fungi, microbes, and yeasts within the fuel.

In fact, even the EPA recommends the use of biocides in underground storage tanks (USTs).

Although biocides serve their purpose when used within the proper application, there are several reasons why biocides are not always the best option when it comes to proper fuel management.

Biocide Safety and Health Concerns

Biocides may pose risks to both human health and the environment. Exposure to biocides can result in severe skin irritation, burns, allergic reactions, liver damage, and serious eye irritation and damage.

According to PAN Germany, biocides can often contain substances of concern with allergic, ecotoxic, carcinogenic, developmental neurotoxic or endocrine-disrupting properties.

For these reasons, it is crucial that biocides are handled and used by trained professionals who understand the associated risks.

Environmental Concerns with Biocides

Not only are biocides toxic to humans, they also pose an environmental risk.

Microbiocides, such as the ones used in many common fuel biocides, have been shown by the EPA to be toxic to aquatic life, including fish and ducks.

If a fuel tank leaks, it can cause harm to the surrounding environment. However, the negative effects would be further amplified if the fuel had been treated with biocides. The potential environmental impact calls for a more sustainable approach to fuel management.

The Limitations of Biocides in Fuel Contamination Removal

One significant drawback of biocides is their inability to remove contaminants and organic matter from the fuel itself. While biocides can effectively target microbial growth, they leave behind contaminants that can clog filters and impact fuel performance.

Biocides leaving behind dead organic matter after killing various microbes

This frequent clogging leads to increased maintenance and operational costs, as well as potential equipment malfunctions.

The main issue with biocides is that they only temporarily treat a symptom of the overall problem.

In a tank, where there is sludge and microbial contamination, there is water. The mere presence of water in fuel creates a breeding ground for harmful contaminants.

Microbes live in water and feed off of fuel. This microbial growth creates its own layer of sludge (commonly thought of as algae) in your tank.

Unfortunately, it takes the presence of only one spore or microbe to cause a problem, as these microbes reproduce asexually at a rapid rate.

Not only does the presence of water in a tank create a breeding ground for contaminants, water contamination can also cause other problems such as tank and fuel system corrosion as well as injector damage.

Treating a tank with biocide may kill the microbial contamination and temporarily stop the proliferation of sludge. However, once it is treated, dead or alive, your fuel tank will still contain sludge.

Beyond this, using excessive biocides in fuel treatment dilutes the fuel with an increased amount of non-petroleum foreign contaminants.

Instead of solely treating a fuel tank with biocide, fuel site managers should consider actively filtering out the sludge and contamination to completely remove it from the storage tanks.

Risk of Resistance with Biocides

Frequent use of biocides in a fuel tank may cause the bacteria and microorganisms within the tank to build up a resistance.

Microbes demonstrating resistance to biocide

This occurrence happens within the fuel industry and many other industries that use biocides including food manufacturing, cosmetics, and other consumer products.

Just as some bacteria that infects humans and animals are developing a resistance to antibiotics, microbes found within the tank ecosystem are following suit. This means that repeated use of a biocide in a tank may eventually become ineffective.

Fuel Polishing: A Better Option for Fuel Management

Fuel polishing equipment offers a superior alternative to biocides, addressing their limitations and providing comprehensive contamination removal. By physically removing contaminants, water, and organic matters from fuel, fuel polishing ensures higher fuel quality.

Because of this, there are a few key factors why fuel polishing is the preferred option for effective fuel management today.

  1. Fuel polishing tackles the root causes of fuel contamination, going beyond symptom treatment.

By eliminating contaminants, water, sediments, and organic matter that accumulate in storage tanks, fuel polishing prevents blockages, injector foiling, and fuel system corrosion. This approach enhances equipment performance and reduces maintenance costs.

  1. Fuel polishing focuses on achieving and maintaining optimal fuel quality.

By removing impurities and organic matter, fuel polishing ensures cleaner and more stable fuel. This improves combustion efficiency, reduces emissions, and ensures reliable equipment operation. Higher fuel quality translates to smoother running engines, increased fuel efficiency, and extended equipment lifespan.

  1. Unlike biocides that only target microbial growth, fuel polishing eliminates contaminants that heavily contribute to filter clogging.

By proactively removing impurities before they reach the filters, fuel polishing ensures uninterrupted flow. This saves time, money, and minimizes operational disruptions.

  1. By incorporating fuel polishing into your fuel management strategy, you protect your equipment investment.

Fuel contamination can damage equipment and lead to premature failure. Continuous removal of harmful contaminants, water, and sediments reduces the risk of corrosion, component wear, and engine damage. This extends equipment lifespan, reduces repair costs, and enhances overall reliability.

Considering the points above, it is clear the advantages of fuel polishing far surpasses the limitations of biocides in fuel management. Fuel polishing offers comprehensive contamination removal, ensures optimal fuel quality, prevents filter clogging, and extends equipment lifespan.

AXI International is a globally-recognized leader in fuel management solutions, and offers a vast product line of fuel polishing equipment that can meet the unique demands of any fuel storage tank.

The Importance of Fuel Quality

Fuel quality plays a critical role in the performance, efficiency, and longevity of equipment and machinery.

Whether it’s generators, vehicles, or industrial machinery, relying on clean and high-quality fuel is essential for optimal operation. Because of this, fuel site managers routinely test the quality of stored fuel to ensure that the fuel meets the operational standards of their application.

Fuel stability is crucial, particularly for stored fuel. Over time, fuel can degrade due to oxidation and the presence of contaminants. This degradation can result in the formation of sludge, fuel stratification, and the growth of harmful microorganisms.

By preserving fuel quality through proper fuel management techniques such as fuel polishing, you can maintain fuel stability, preventing fuel degradation and associated problems.

Fuel quality directly impacts combustion efficiency and emissions. Contaminated fuel can lead to incomplete combustion, resulting in reduced power output, increased fuel consumption, and higher emissions of harmful pollutants.

By ensuring clean and quality fuel, you can optimize combustion efficiency, reduce emissions, and comply with environmental regulations.

Maintaining high quality fuel is paramount for equipment performance and reliability. While biocides have been commonly used in fuel management, they come with significant limitations.

Biocides cannot remove contaminants and organic matter from fuel, leading to frequent filter clogging and potential equipment issues.

Instead, adopting fuel polishing as an alternative provides a comprehensive solution for fuel contamination, ensuring optimal fuel quality and maximizing the performance of your equipment.

Prioritizing fuel quality is a smart investment that yields long-term benefits in terms of operational efficiency, cost savings, and environmental sustainability.

AXI International linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram