PROVIDING a clean, reliant, and contaminant-free product should be the goal of the fuel oil industry, said Don Allen of ET Lawson Co during the New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) Convention June 13-14 in Boston, Massachusetts. He pointed out that a pristine fuel can compete with natural gas for clean-burning attributes.
Allen joined other speakers at the meeting to discuss the state of the fuel oil industry, some of its problems, and some of its solutions.
He called for more collaboration among members of the fuel oil industry to search for methods to improve the quality of the fuel they distribute. Competition, as Allen views it, comes from gas and electric utility companies rather than from individual fuel oil distributors. Improving the quality of fuel oil would equalize competition with the utilities, he said.
Wai-Lin Litzke, Brookhaven National Laboratory, noted that while more product is produced because of improved refinery technology, the final product does not store well. In addition, various handling and storage methods can contaminate the product.
One way to preserve fuel quality is to keep storage tanks full, said David Daniels, Octel Starreon Co. The procedure will help prevent the product from being exposed to oxygen, which causes problems and eventual sludge in the tank. Microorganisms multiply on the sludge, he said.
If that weren't enough trouble, Bob Hedden of Oilheat Manufacturers Association noted that heating oil components settle in the storage tanks during slower seasons. Now that pumps drive the product at a greater force, the sediment is stirred up during tank filling.
“Water is a huge problem,” he said. Condensation and leaks in fittings allow water to get through hatches. He advised fuel oil distributors to train their drivers to look for water and to check for fitting leaks. “Keep the hatches closed,” he added.
Both Hedden and Litzke advised the distributors to avoid copper tubing because it contributes to the fuel contamination problems.
Daniels discussed additives that can be used to improve fuel quality such as stabilizers, metal deactivators, dispersants, detergents, corrosion inhibitors, and biocides. He noted that corrosion inhibitors for storage tanks must be constantly replaced to maintain their effectiveness.
Tom Santa, Santa Fuels Inc, added that some additives can be used on a spot basis while others have to be used year round.