The difference between Fuel Polishing and Fuel Filtration

We get a lot of calls from companies and individuals that have had an engine fail because the filters are full of sediment or the tip blew off an injector because the engine took a shot of water.  “Dead in the water.”  “Refridgeration unit failed.”  “Had to get a tow.”  “Unscheduled downtime is killing us.  Maintenance costs are through the roof.” 

Yuk.  These are all things that I’ve heard before we get to “We can help make sure that never happens again.”

“You gonna filter the fuel?”  Well, no.  Actually we’re going to polish it!  And now is time to explain to you what that is – and what the difference between polishing and filtration is.

Filtration is generally defined as the process of separating suspended particles from a fluid by flowing both through a porous material in which the fluid can pass while the suspended particles are retained.

Ok, so how do you remove a fluid from a fluid (like WATER from DIESEL)?  Well, some filter media (the stuff the filter is actually made from) will absorb water – like paper, for instance.  Not always, though, so keep an eye on what kind of filters you buy!  Water blocking filters are more expensive than particulate only filters, but to Diesel Fuel Doctor’s eyes almost always worth it.

So, to recap, fuel filters basically remove anything from a fuel that won’t fit through a certain size hole (the micron size rating of the filter).  And, the water absorbing tendency of the filter media may or may not grab water in the fuel.

Fuel Polishing is defined as the removal of water, sediment, non-combustible particulate matter and microbial contamination below levels stated in ASTM D975 (Standard Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils) while resuspending combustible particulate matter to maintain ASTM standards for BTU value, lubricity, and cetane. 

Fuel polishing uses centrifuges, coalescers, and – yes – filters to remove non-combustible particulate matter (sand, dust, cigarette wrappers, lady bugs, and – our personal record – a dead rat) from fuel.  In short, everything that wasn’t really supposed to be there in the first place.

Because water is heavier than fuel, the centrifuges and coalescers do a good job of removing that, too.  We then use water blocking filters to pick up the last little bit of suspended – or “entrained” – water available.

The primary difference between fuel polishing and fuel filtration is that fuel polishing acknowledges that fuel itself can degrade and cause solids.  Fuel filters will simply pull the solids out because they plug up filters whereas fuel polishers break down the combustible solids so that the fuel stays within the industry specifications.

“Well, why is that such a big deal?” you might ask… (Go ahead!)

Because, the solids that fuel – particularly diesel, kerosene, home heating oil, and some of the JP (jet propulsion) fuel, creates are exactly the aspects of fuel that add lubricity and BTU value to it.  If you cycle the fuel through filters time after time after time after time to remove all of those solids, you’ll eventually knock the fuel out of spec!  It simply won’t have the power or lubricity that your diesel engine will require!  

Keep that in mind especially if you have a newer diesel engine.  If your powerplant says “Tier” anything (1,2,3,4), then it is going to be VERY finicky about the fuel it consumes.  If there is some sort of failure – catastrophic or not – and the manufacturer discovers that the fuel is out of spec, then there is a strong possibility that the warranty may not be available, either!

We have LOTS of different ways to make sure your fuel meets spec and that your tanks stay clean.  Fuel polishing as a service, dedicated equipment to bulk tanks, and in-line equipment for mobile equipment are all here if you need it!

Please contact us with any questions or comments you have!

This entry was posted in Diesel Fuel Cleaning, Do it Yourself Fuel Cleaning, Fuel For Thought. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The difference between Fuel Polishing and Fuel Filtration

  1. VedaFlewtew says:

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  2. Julie Florival says:

    So how vialbe is fuel polishing services as a small business ?
    what would be the cost of such a service?
    How can i obtain the required trainging in this area?

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