People who maintain and operate poly diesel fuel tanks are usually familiar with the slimy, dark-hued material frequently appearing in their tank fuel filter elements. They can be usually seen at the bottom part of fuel tanks. We call them by many names, e.g. mud, algae, dirt, sludge and many more. All of which are unsavory sounding terms, misnomers if you want to call them that way.
Professionals who are working in the marine industry would refer to it as “algae”. While a manifold of bacteria and a host of other unseen microbes provide a significant amount of contribution and may actually accelerate their reproduction process, diesel may only form asphalt and wax but not “algae”.
Understanding Algae in Poly Diesel Fuel Tanks
You’d see things better if you know something about the nature and source of distillate products like diesel fuel, with respect to how they’re made in the modern refineries that we have today. About 15-25 years ago, in the “old days”, the processing of crude oil so they can be transformed in light distillate products we are familiar with such as home heating oil, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel — they were made by heating up the crude oil.
At different stages of the crude oil’s boiling point, various fractions of the evaporated liquid would be condensed, collected and sent to a designated storage tank for proper distribution. All the distillate products produced by this process were all fairly stable products. The individual shelf life of each one of them come in several months range.
After completing the distillation process, there is a leftover residual oil is about half the barrel of crude that was started with. It is very heavy oil and, thus, they are reserved for use by power plants and even large ships. Other industrial applications that are using this residual leftover oil are pharmaceuticals industry, asphalt, nylon, plastic producing companies and many more.
Refining Process of Today
The best way for us to describe the crude oil refining process we have today is that it is dramatically very different. There is immense growth in the demand for these light distillate products. This rendered the refiners to find more effective ways for them to extract something more from the crude oil.
Chemical cracking is now being employed by these refiners to help them produce more of these lighter distillates from a barrel of crude they have. This will leave only 16% of the residual to become heavy fuel oils.
Additional treatment of diesel was prompted by the increasing clamor of social groups due to environmental issues, like for instance measures that will lower sulfur content. Additionally, this has something to do with the instability of the fuels we have today.
The diesel fuel we store in poly diesel fuel tanks today is refined in a much different fashion compared to how we used to do it some 15-20 years ago. The use of catalytic chemical cracking is able to produce for us a far greater volume of distillate products from every single barrel of crude oil. One drawback for this? It has dramatically shortened the stability of these fuels we use today.
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