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American Clean FuelBy John Mullen
September 6, 2017 - Orange Beach, AL (OBA) - Now, more than ever, your generator needs to be running on clean fuel that is stored in a clean tank. Same for boats and other watercraft.
And chances are if it’s been sitting idle for months or years, the inside of the tank probably needs a good cleaning.
As Hurricane Irma churns in the Atlantic and has coastal residents anxious, a healthy fuel system is vital to keeping a generator running in emergencies.
“This is one of those things people don’t want to think about and they don’t want to spend the money, but now’s the time to really start looking at it,” Jeramie Bentley of Fuel Pro said. “Especially with this storm coming in and all those condos.”
Bentley’s is one of two businesses operating on Alabama’s Gulf Coast that cleans fuel tanks on generators and boats and just about anything else that burns diesel. Chase Cooper of American Clean Fuel cleans both diesel and gas tanks from 30 to 25,000 gallons. Both have offices in Baldwin County and work all over the Southeast and Midwest.
Many of their customers are boat owners and boats sitting idle tend to have fuel system problems.
“People who have boats generally don’t use them a lot and they only take them two, three, four maybe five times a year,” Cooper said. “The fuel’s sitting and the o-rings for your fuel caps get overlooked, they tanks aren’t kept full and it stays untreated. It sits in there and gets stale. There’s all sorts of stuff that grows in the fuel, the byproduct of all the stuff in the air.”
The main culprit is water developed inside from condensation. A full load of fuel full can help combat that problem, Cooper said.
“Just keeping the fuel tanks full helps a lot because that doesn’t allow condensation to get down inside the tank,” he said. “If you don’t have moisture from water in the tank, nothing can really grow in there.”
Boaters trying an additive or quick fix can sometimes find themselves broken down a long way from the dock.
“It’s a maintenance deal,” Bentley said. “I’ve seen guys try to add chemicals, the stuff times out. Months go
by, he goes offshore, gets into rough seas and it stirs all that stuff up. Even the dead matter they killed is still in the tank, and they’re shut down in the water. It’s best to hire somebody that knows what they’re doing.”
Both businesses also “polish” the fuel, removing impurities from the fuel and the tank.
“We do this by removing microbial growth, water, inorganic growth, and metallic debris from your fuel and fuel tank,” Cooper said. “Some of our services include fuel sampling and testing, fuel polishing, system repairs, and preventative maintenance on equipment.”
Cooper said critical facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and prisons have a required maintenance schedule. But private individuals are more lax and it can cause problems at critical moments.
“People need to be treating their fuel,” Cooper said. “Nobody really treats any of their diesel, gasoline or anything. Your sulfur is a natural biocide and they’ve taken all of that out of the fuel and people don’t realize that. Keep it treated, because that really help prevent a lot of problems.”
But, Bentley cautions, make sure you’re using the right additives.
“Biocide is one thing, but some of it only lasts two weeks,” Bentley said. “The best thing is to have the tanks cleaned every so often, which is really the best preventative.
“If a professional comes in and sterilizes it and really cleans the tank, it’s good for a couple of years. If you’re not getting it cleaned and you’re just adding chemicals trying to slow it down, stuff’s just going to build up anyway.”
Constantly changing filters won’t help either, Bentley said, one of the reasons so many pumps failed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2004.
“When all the levee pumps ran out of fuel filters, that’s when it breached the levee,” he said.
Many local homeowners with generators have a plan to run them monthly or maybe once a week. But if it hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned in a long time, it’s likely to fail if it’s needed for extended periods.
“If you’ve got to run that thing for two days, everybody is shut down and you run out of fuel filters,” Bentley said. “They’ll run it, and in two or three hours it’ll shut off and they run out there and put in a new fuel filter. Unless you’ve got a case of fuel filters, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to run out of fuel filters and that generator’s not coming back on.”
Just adding clean fuel to a dirty tank isn’t the answer either, Cooper said.
“I tell them to think about a dirty fish tank that’s got green algae on the wall,” he said. “If you take the water out and put fresh water in there, the water’s going to be clean for a little bit, but it’s just going to cloud back up.
“We actually go into the tank with our hose and scrub all the tank walls inside there.”