An extra edge

| April 01, 2006

Fuel additives may solve the problems of new ultra-low-sulfur fuel.

Diesel fuel bought at a quality outlet meets stringent requirements. Yet truckers worry about whether or not the fuel they are buying will be adequate for reliable and fuel-efficient performance.

Diesel fuel is complicated and has to meet complicated requirements because it does more than just provide the energy that keeps you rolling. Those requirements are laid out in ASTM D975, which all fuel refined and marketed for diesel trucks must meet, by law. But these minimum requirements don’t guarantee ideal fuel.

With 15 parts per million ultra-low-sulfur fuel coming onto the market by June, drivers and truck owners need to renew their attention to fuel additives. Every time sulfur standards have gotten tighter, the resulting changes in the fuel have posed new challenges, especially in the areas of lubricity and cold filter plugging. This time around will be no exception.

While marketers will observe standards regarding lubricity and cold plugging and will address these problems by blending in their own additives, the additives manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with products and recommendations that could give you insurance against trouble.

What can additives do to improve any fuel’s performance?

Lubricity agents
Diesel fuel must lubricate your injection system. The fuel the injectors force into the engine slips around the injector plungers – the parts in unit injectors that act like tiny pistons to pump the fuel – and between the needle valve and seat, providing lube just the way the oil from the pan lubes the pistons. Since the engine oil does not reach injector internal parts, running a fuel that won’t act like a high-viscosity engine oil can get you into injector trouble real fast. And engine manufacturers never warrant problems related to deficient fuel.

Especially with injection pressures that are higher than ever – at least 30,000 psi on the latest engines – “lubricity,” or the ability of the fuel to lubricate the injectors, is even more critical than it was a few years ago. Added lubricity agents help.

Even though fuel marketers will be adding a lubricity agent to the ultra-low-sulfur diesel to come, Mark Rossow, president and CEO of Advanced Fluid Solutions, thinks additives will be helpful. He says you should ask yourself, “Does the product have the necessary lubricity agent to offset the low sulfur?” Advanced Fluid Solutions’ product contains such an agent and has also been tested for compatibility with biodiesel, he says.

An additive with a lubricity agent not only lubes injectors and “helps prevent plunger wear,” says Forrest Lucas, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products, Inc., because of the way a tiny bit of the diesel spray works its way over the top of the piston, it will help lube the rings and piston.

Lucas recommends an additive that will put some lubricity into the fuel, while also improving the fuel mileage. His company adds an exotic chemical that helps the fuel combust more rapidly. It has been tested and proven to give positive results at Auburn University, Lucas reports.

If an additive claims to improve lubricity, it should feel slick on your fingers, Lucas says. His company uses a “very expensive additive that makes the fuel very slick.”

Ken Stratton, vice president of retail sales at Power Service Products, recommends a year-round lubricity package, especially when ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuels hit the market.

Stratton says both their Diesel Fuel Supplement + Cetane Boost and Diesel Kleen + Cetane Boost contain Slickdiesel, a “powerful proprietary Power Service lubricator that provides maximum lubrication protection to pumps and injectors.”

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