The Importance of Clean Diesel for the Modern Machine
Often these days when we hear the term “clean diesel” we may think of environmentally-friendly innovations that produce fewer noxious engine emissions. But there’s another connotation that is entirely literal and supremely important: if the diesel fuel going into your equipment’s engine isn’t clean, it will create problems for you down the road. Guaranteed.
And the thing is, with today’s modern machine, you have to worry about more than just the fuel itself with it comes to fluids.
To accommodate newer, stricter emissions standards, engineers have re-designed engines and incorporated new technologies. Many Tier 4-Final engines achieve those standards by using Selective Catalytic Reduction technology, and that requires Diesel Exhaust Fluid. That means you have another product to source, store, dispense and filter as part of your fleet operations.
Tolerances for fuel injectors are now miniscule – microscopically small – to enable systems to precisely control combustion. Fuel filtering is nothing short of critical, because tiny particles that would not have posed problems for older engines can now cause catastrophic damage in a modern machine. Industry experts say you can rely on the latest filters to adequately protect fuel and other fluids, but fuel itself remains a potential problem.
Is the clean diesel you’re buying clean enough?
Some in the industry say there should be an all-out push for cleaner fuel. With all the well-publicized changes that have been made to engines in recent years, you might wonder why this is even an issue. But the fact is that fuel cleanliness standards have not kept up emissions-control requirements for new engines.
Fuel that meets the old standards is no longer the right tool for the job. Today’s modern machine requires fuel that is hundreds of times cleaner than fuel that was just fine 10 years ago. Even 10-micron filtration is no longer adequate. Diesel suppliers are not required to filter the product they deliver to you, although some now do.
Adding to the confusion, “clean diesel” can also mean ultra-low sulfur diesel, which has nothing to do with contaminants.
What should you do?
At the very least, if you’re a fleet manager, you must be more vigilant about the fuel you purchase and about how you filter it as it moves to the dispensing pump. That starts with a couple of key questions for your fuel supplier:
- Does your product meet ISO 14/13/11 fuel cleanliness standards?
- If the product you deliver to us cannot easily pass through our filters, what will you do?
It makes sense for fleet managers to hold suppliers responsible for the product they deliver, but it’s also up to you, because failure to understand the importance of increased filtration can allow contaminated fuel to reach your engine. The damage can be expensive in terms of downtime and money, and manufacturers do not consider contaminated fuel to be a factory defect. You’ll pay the price all on your own.
Therefore, it makes sense to implement your own fuel testing program to make sure you really are receiving appropriately clean fuel. You can perform an in-field patch test and compare results to target cleanliness levels using the ISO 4406 Cleanliness Code, or you can have an oil analysis lab perform the tests for you. Beyond testing, it is equally important to add your own precautionary filtration for fuel before it goes into your equipment.
Choosing high-quality filters is an obviously-good idea. If they become plugged too soon, you’ll know there is a problem with your fuel rather than the filters themselves. Experts also warn against “saving money” by purchasing cheaper diesel, as small cost reductions up front could bring you far more costly problems later on.
Recognizing the problem is the first step. Purchasing the cleanest possible fuel and using the highest-quality filtration will guard against costly damage to fuel injectors and pumps.