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Engine additives are more than an option

Today's engine additives and treatments address crucial issues

By David Hubbard

Concern for the environment and rising costs have brought trade offs in fuel quality and function. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate for the use of ultra low sulfur fuel (ULSF) has created other problems through its lack of lubricity. Removing the sulfur oxide compounds depletes the needed lubricity compounds, and the drier diesel fuel adversely affects the fuel pump and fuel injectors. Typical problems include difficult starting, engine chatter and shutdowns. loss of power and premature wear on parts.

Because of this the EPA also mandates the use of fuel additives to replace those lubricating agents and offset the dryness.

Peter Guerra, vice president, marketing, FPPF Chemical Company. Inc., Buffalo, NY, says the EPA only mandates a minimum standard, and engine manufacturers believe more is necessary to protect the equipment.

While the chemical makeup of ULSF is drier, excess water condensation in the fuel as part of the refining process also leads to excessive wear, and may require the use of an additive to absorb the moisture.

Guerra says the new fuels also are less stable, due largely from oil refiners trying to get as much usable product as they can from a barrel of heavy crude oil. He says catalytic cracking and chemical treatments break down the basic tars, requiring stabilizer additives to improve the life of the fuel products.

Unrelated to man made issues, diesel fuel thickens in colder climates and lower temperatures. Guerra says in the old days Number 1 diesel with compounds similar to kerosene would solve the problem.

"Because the law now mandates ULSF with only 15 parts sulfur per million, Number 1 diesel is not readily available," says Guerra. "The only option is a fuel additive that will prevent fuel thickening as the temperature drops."

Guerra says cetane level is another area of concern.

"Again the EPA requirement is a minimal standard of 40 cetane," says Guerra. "To keep costs down, refineries just shoot for that level. Anything higher requires further processing at a higher cost, but the higher cetane is a benefit to the end user over the long-term."

Guerra and others in the business of fuel and lubricant additives say their products are no longer an option, but rather a necessity. "

The best part is that the costs of additives have not increased anywhere near the percentage of increased costs of diesel fuel," he says. "Operators can recoup the costs many times over in  long term savings on wear and improved mileage."

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