Companies spend time touring data centers when considering colocation for mission critical systems and disaster recovery. During these tours, they always ask how much fuel is kept onsite and how much run-time that capacity will provide for backup power. But they often forget to ask about fuel testing and quality control.
While time is certainly critical in a disaster event, the quality and condition of the fuel is paramount to the successful operation of the generator. Here are the three most common problems and how to solve them.
Fueling a Failure: 3 Common Fuel Problems
1. When diesel tanks are located outside, the fuel is exposed to environmental changes in temperature, which can result in condensation forming inside the tank. The condensation drops into the fuel and begins to promote the growth of algae and bacteria in the bottom of the tank. When generators activate, these contaminates can be pulled into the filters and injectors, causing poor combustion.
2. If fresh fuel is delivered during the time that the generators are providing backup power, the bottom contaminates get stirred up as the fresh fuel is added. They are pulled into the engine filters and injectors and cause the generator to fail due to fuel starvation.
3. Temperature, humidity and condensation are very important factors in managing fuel integrity. The presence of free water provides a medium for microbiological growth that result in the formation of slime and acids. These cause corrosion of metal surfaces such as storage tanks, pumps and injectors. Therefore, good housekeeping and purchasing clean, dry fuel from a reputable supplier are requirements.
How to Maintain Generator Fuel for Optimum Performance
It’s recommended to start protecting stored fuel with a chemical conditioner to stabilize the fuel. This chemical conditioner is a fuel catalyst that also contains corrosion inhibitors and lubricity enhancers. These preserve fuel integrity and protect your engine equipment. Periodically, additional chemical conditioner is added to keep the fuel stabilized.
You also need to remove water from storage tanks on a regular interval. This can be done with a mobile tank cleaning system. It’s used to remove water from the tank bottom and works as a fuel polishing system.
Storage tanks can also use a water eliminator. A “water eliminator” is a small nylon or larger stainless steel cylinder, containing a special polymer. The polymer will absorb the water, not the fuel, for easy removal.
The use of an adequate fuel quality management program and service, along with regular fuel testing to monitor fuel integrity, are an absolute necessity for optimal data center operation and will save money in the long run. In situations such as emergency power generation, installing a fully automated fuel recirculation and fuel filtration system is strongly recommended.