Field Testing Fuel
Fuel testing is the only way to accurately verify fuel
quality. There are many types of field tests and equipment available to
identify problems. Field testing with instant or near instant results can provide
a quick and responsive method for monitoring fuel quality. There are value
tests available to measure water in ppm, acid number, microbial contamination
and ethanol presence. There is also portable equipment designed to measure
particulate contamination, water content, octane and cetane. The downside to the equipment is the cost.
Acid Number, Ethanol Presence and Water
detections test kits are available that provide results within ten minutes for
Microbial Test kits take 48-72 hours to culture
but cost less than $20. There are
instant result test kits but they are much more expensive, priced over $175.
Particulate Counters are available to test fuel
inline while filtering or portably from sample bottles. Results are instant and ISO certifiable for
those critical applications.
Relative Humidity Sensors are also an option on
the particle counters. They measure
water in fuel.
Octane and Cetane Test Equipment are available
but expensive to own.
Visual sampling is very important. Taking good bottom samples on a weekly basis
can provide valuable information on what is taking place inside the tank.
Lab Testing Fuel
The definitive way to determine fuel quality is through lab
testing. Often, field testing is used first to determine if further lab testing
is necessary. Testing bulk deliveries and periodic testing of stored fuels are central
to confirming fuel is within specification. Testing for oxidation or thermal
stability is essential to consider when premature filter plugging becomes a
problem. If the fuel is stable then Asphaltenes, waxes and gums are less likely
to become problematic. Lab testing should be taken as a common sense two phase
First, lab testing should be performed twice a year at a
minimum. Every six months alternating a
basic test which includes water, sediment and microbial testing with a total
fuel quality test to determine whether the fuel meets specification. This is
most important with diesel fuel due to the stringent engine requirements.
Second, lab testing should be performed when field testing
results indicate fuel quality concerns. Taking composite fuel samples at
different levels in the tank can help provide an improved representation. Once
a sample indicates a problem, be prepared to send it off to a lab for testing.
While testing can be expensive, a diesel fuel total fuel quality test protocol
can be completed for less than $400.