How to Manage Fuel Issues in Winter

Prevent Winter Fuel Problems to Ensure Business Continuity

As we enter the cold and wet winter months, the challenges of fuel storage are unfortunately heightened. It’s imperative that you’re aware of any fuel related issues to ensure your sites remain operational. Our experts have provided some simple steps to help identify any environmental risks and safeguard your sites over the winter months.

Invest in regular fuel tests and tank inspections

Stored fuel is at an increased risk of contamination during the cold months from increased rainfall and lower temperatures. Testing fuel from the tank and conducting a full lab analysis can flag up any potential gremlins that could be hiding in your fuel stock. High water content in damp wintery conditions are commonplace in a fuel tank but spotting this early stops the potential growth of bugs and algae which can then cause engine failure by filter blocking.

Regular fuel and tank maintenance has never been more important in ensuring business continuity. Professional fuel testing and tank inspections will detect any areas of your fuel system that pose a risk to your business, giving you complete peace of mind that this area of your business is protected.

Protect tanks and pipes from corrosion and physical damage

The winter months can bring an increased risk as tanks and pipes are liable to becoming damaged from freezing temperatures. As the temperature drops, burst pipework is a common problem for tank owners, so it’s important to protect them against corrosion and physical damage.

Regular housekeeping of fuel tanks and pipes by cleaning is the best way to keep your fuel clean but what about the integrity of the steel holding your asset? Keep in mind that metal tanks should be examined by NDT (None Destructive Testing) at least every 5 years in some cases, rising to a maximum of 10 years in all other cases.

By investing in NDT testing, carrying out basic repairs and addressing any issues even if its rust treatment and painting you can prevent leaks, reduce the risks of environmental damage and eliminate the loss of valuable fuel.

Check bund integrity ahead of the winter

Inspecting the integrity of your bunds is paramount at the start of winter. Temperature fluctuations can cause the bund lining to crack which can result in harmful materials entering the environment and leading to huge environmental costs.

It’s also best to check the pump or valve drains as there’s an increased risk of flooding in winter.

Inspect your separators

Separators are vital for avoiding pollution. However, they can become blocked and their filters saturated, creating a flood risk or causing polluted water to contaminate the local environment.

It’s always best to check your separators at the start of winter as dust can accumulate after long dry spells during summer, turning into silt when it rains which can cause blockages.

Ensure draining is running freely

During the autumn, it’s a good time to check that all drainage on your sites is free and running clear. If your gully pots are blocked with leaves and debris, a high level of water can cause them to become overwhelmed.

We recommend getting a specialist to check your site drainage to reduce the risk and hassle of having to arrange for water to be pumped out and causing disruptions in your operations.

Keep an emergency fuel supplier on hand

Many unplanned events such as the so called, ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018 and then the pandemic from 2020 onwards, brought large fluctuations in demand which unfortunately made it harder to monitor fuel levels and increased the risk of running your tanks dry. Having an emergency fuel supplier like Crown Oil who is on hand 24/7 will help prevent the costly inconvenience of site downtime for your business or organisation.

Stock up on winter grade diesel

With freezing temperatures looming, it’s important to know the potential problems that can arise during the colder months. Diesel-powered engines can experience operative problems such as difficulty starting and even engine failure if summer grade of diesel is used.

While replenishing fuel stocks may not be a priority, it’s important to remember that diesel differs in seasonal specification. Its fuel properties are adjusted to maintain good low-temperature performance and operability.

Winter diesel can be used all year round as it’s more resistant to the cold (-12oC CFPP min). Summer diesel is only certified for use during warm weather as it has limited resistance to the cold (-4oC CFPP min), which means it’s more prone to diesel waxing in cold temperatures. Crown Oil Environmental can test this fuel and advise on what you have in your tanks.

Choose HVO fuel, a long-life diesel alternative

An even better move to take is to swap your diesel for Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), an advanced renewable fuel.

HVO has a paraffinic petrochemical structure, and although similar with regards to energy content, viscosity and flash point, the lack of aromatic and naphthenic compounds in HVO mean it doesn’t have the same detrimental effects as fossil diesel, such as high emissions, deposit formation, storage stability problems and poor low temperature properties.

HVO’s production process removes unsaturation and contaminants, leaving a pure hydrocarbon fuel with a shelf life of up to 10 years, compared to just 1 for diesel. This makes it perfect for use in backup generators, where the fuel is likely to stand unused for extended periods of time.

Invest in tank telemetry

Traditional methods of monitoring fuel required staff to be trained and onsite to continually monitor usage and the quality of fuel stored. But with many staff now working from home and a reduced number of personnel allowed onsite, businesses must seek alternative methods to keep on top of your fuel.

Advancements in fuel technology now allow for remote monitoring at just the click of a button. Through the instalment of sensors inside tanks, telemetry systems provide confidence that not only will you never run out of fuel but the fuel is also of good enough quality to be relied on in a time critical situation.

Consider a tank recirculation system

When fuel is left dormant for extended periods, microbial growth (diesel bug) develops, which can wreak havoc on your stored fuel and machinery. With many sites temporarily closed or consuming fuel at a reduced rate, this could be a huge problem for your business.

A tank recirculation system helps prevent stored fuel from becoming stagnant. It’s particularly useful for generator back up tanks, which while not consistently used, are of critical importance.

Tank recirculation systems keep the fuel moving and therefore help to prevent contaminant build-up and avoid expensive equipment damage and downtime.

The clean fuel is then circulated back into the fuel tank before any bugs have been able to accumulate and form sludge on the bottom of the tank.

Get in touch with Crown Oil Environmental

The winter months in the UK bring unpredictability to all of us, never quite knowing if we’re due a mild winter or another potential ‘Beast from the East’ that not only wreaked havoc on our lives and our businesses. But also our critical infrastructure, machinery and fuels which all suffered as a consequence of the extremely cold weather we were all subjected to.

Even though we know those extreme weather events are rare at best, it’s still important to learn how to manage fuel-related risk during the winter months to ensure business continuity and avoid the high-cost implications of unplanned downtime.

Get in touch with Crown Oil Environmental today, we are available 24/7, 7 days a week to ensure your business isn’t affected by fuel-related issues.

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