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BITA issues winter fuel warning

07 January 2015

With the worst of the winter weather for the UK probably still to come, forklift trade association BITA is urging companies to ensure correct storage of fuel – and to check the specific fuel requirements in light of changing emissions legislation and the requirements of modern engines – particularly around the use of biodiesel and ultra low sulphur diesel.


BITA’s technical consultant, Bob Hine explains: "Incorrect storage of fuel, potentially leading to contamination, can create real problems for forklift truck operators, particularly over winter with cold weather operation. Add into this the need to ensure that the correct grade of fuel is being used for trucks, means a winter of potential risks to operational effectiveness and efficiency.”


Key causes of contamination include:

•  Water in fuel

•  Particle contamination/poor filtration

•  Extended storage periods

•  Diesel microbial contamination

•  Irregular tank maintenance


Up to 7% of biodiesel can now be included in UK gas oil/red diesel and as biodiesel blends can absorb more water this can precipitate out of solution when the temperature changes. This in turn can create the conditions for microbial contamination, the ‘diesel bug’, leading to sludge problems. BITA comments that biodiesel also oxidises and breaks down more easily in the presence of oxygen, creating peroxides that eventually form acids, leading to formation of gums and resins which can block fuel filters.


Fuel can also be contaminated with dirt, rust, sand etc which can result from simple bad fuel handling practices and cause real damage to an engine or machine and its fuel system.


BITA suggests:

•  Buy from reputable sources: This will prevent the likelihood of microbe, water or particulate contaminant problems. A reputable fuel distributor turning over high volumes is more likely to be on top of preventing these problems.

•  Maintain your tanks: Tanks need maintenance. There are treatments available to prevent water accumulation, but no additive can overcome a rusty tank that allows rain water in.

•  Keep tanks full: This minimises development of condensation.

•  Limit storage time: Ideally diesel should not be stored in excess of 12 months.

•  Temperature control: Fuel should not be exposed to temperatures in excess of 35°C. 

•  When moving fuel: Run through a filtration system. 

•  Regular testing for microbes and water: This will help you stay on top of stored fuel problems. Tanks should be dipped monthly to monitor water phase levels.

•  Biocides should be used every 90 days to prevent the establishment of microbial contamination, especially with ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD).