Today’s Diesel Fuels and Winter in the Northeast

Formulation of a consistently top quality diesel fuel for use in the Northeastern United States is an ongoing challenge. Several years ago when on-highway diesel fuel was reformulated to meet the EPA’s low sulfur requirements, many diesel marketers encountered fuel operability problems. The de-sulfurization process left the diesel fuel lacking the lubricity needed to keep fuel pumps operating properly. Cold weather operability became more complicated than just adding kerosene to #2 oil.

A good quality diesel fuel, like our additized diesel addresses these needs and many more. See our Commercial Fuels page for more information.

Good Housekeeping

Many end users of diesel fuel in the Northeastern United States encounter cold weather operability problems. Most dismiss the problem as fuel “gelling” when ambient temperatures fall below zero. While this may be the case, “icing” may also occur which is caused by a set of events different from those that cause fuel gelling. Using additized fuel along with good housekeeping practices and common sense can help to greatly reduce your winter fuel problems.

What causes gelling?

Fuel gelling occurs when the temperature of the fuel falls to a point where wax crystals have formed in the fuel to such a level that they restrict the flow of the fuel. The fuel appears very cloudy and jelly-like. All fuel has a cloud point, that is the temperature when wax crystals begin to form. The fuel will still flow and is usable at this temperature. The cold flow improvers and pour point depressants in our diesel fuel help insure that.

What causes icing?

Fuel icing may look similar to gelling, but occurs at low temperatures when small amounts of water are present in the fuel. Upon examination, the presence of ice inside fuel filters will usually confirm this problem. Our fuels are additized with a de-icer that lowers the freezing point of any water in the fuel to help prevent icing. It is normal for fuel to contain miniscule amounts of water. Steps should be taken to insure that additional water is not present in diesel fuel. Excess free water in fuel can also cause filter plugging, corrosion, and microbial growth.

What steps can I take to improve the quality of my fuel storage?

  • Periodically check for water. Water will separate and lay at the bottom of your tank. Using a waterfinder paste on your dipstick will indicate the presence of any water.
  • Do not allow rain, snow, or ice to get into your tank.

If aboveground:

  • Be sure all fittings are tight and not cracked
  • Do not place tank in area where run off or melting snow or ice constantly dipping on tank.
  • Clean tank off after snow or ice storms

If Underground:

  • Be sure cap is always tightly seating on fill pipe.
  • Do not allow rain, snow, or ice to accumulate in fill box.
  • Remove snow and ice from area around fill box.

Protect aboveground tanks from accumulating condensation:

  • If possible keep tank protected from extreme hot and cold. Locating tanks under a reflective roof is a good idea.
  • Paint tanks a light color to reflect sunlight. (Dark colors absorb sunlight and heat contents of tank. As temperatures fall at night condensation forms).

Cold weather comes along with living in the northeast. The cold filter plugging point of our diesel fuels in the winter months typically runs between -12° F and -18° F. This is accomplished through chemical blending and the addition of a percentage of kerosene. As good as these specifications are, on any given day temperatures close to and below these ranges can be reached. When the temperature does drop these low, small differences in housekeeping can make the difference between having your vehicles run or having them sit.


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