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A Matter of Degrees: How Tank Temp affects Bacteria Growth

By Stephen Bennett

A sharp difference in the temperature of fuel in a large tank and fuel being added to that tank can spell w-a-t-e-r, reported Brian Savage of Savage Associates, a bulk plant system designer based in Martinsville, N.J.

“If there is a major difference in the temperature between B100 and diesel fuel or heating oil we see a phase separation and a knock-out”—that is, water collecting in the tank, Savage said. “We also see a major increase in bacteria if we don’t treat it with bio-oxide,” he added.

Savage recounted how bacteria growth occurred in a large tank that had received a delivery of B100.

“Warm product was brought in by tank [truck] and the temperature differential was around 30 degrees,” Savage said. “In a matter of two days there was a crazy bacteria buildup inside the tank.”

As a result, the plant operator is considering adding bio-oxide to the B100 at the plant, instead of doing so downstream, as has been the practice “for the past number of years.” Instead, Savage said, bio-oxide could be dropped in during the actual blending of B100 with on-road diesel and fuel oil.

“It’s not just corrosion that we’re trying to address,” Savage said. “We’re trying to address particulate buildup due to bacteria. “

The same problem with bacteria growth cropped up in much the same setup at another bulk plant operation in New England, Savage said. That operation gets its fuel from a different supplier than the operator in the first example he cited, Savage noted. In both cases, the bacteria problem was “strictly due” to temperature contrasts between the stored fuel and the fuel being delivered, he said.

Leo Verruso, general manager of Advanced Fuel Solutions, a maker of heating oil additive based in North Adams, Mass., said, “The product itself acts as a better lubricant than its generic counterpart so it’s better for the equipment because all equipment—trucks and oil burners—has pumps and gears and metal surfaces that rub together. So when the fuel has a better lubricating quality it helps the engine and its components and it’s better for emissions.”

Verruso added, “Dealers really should talk about the evolution” of bioheat and biodiesel. “It’s our fuel getting cleaner, and that shows the commitment of our industry,” he said.

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