Diesel Fuel: It’s Critical for Standby Power
October 3rd, 2013 By: Industry Perspectives
Alastair Trower is the President of Puritas Energy, Inc., a green tech company distributing diesel fuel polishing systems.ALASTAIR TROWER
Data center downtime is a familiar topic in the industry; however avoiding down time through proactive fuel management is not common knowledge in the field despite an emerging relevance. A vast majority of data centers use diesel to supply their backup power systems.
Historically diesel could be stored for extended periods at a time and function smoothly when needed. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The environmental burden of diesel has been reduced by government mandates reducing the sulphur content of diesel and introducing biodiesel blends. However, in doing so, the need to manage stored diesel has surfaced.
Changes in Diesel
By 2007, Governments of the US, Canada and the European Union have mandated the reduction of Sulphur content in fuels. The process to remove sulphur in diesel can affect the functionality of the fuel, to compensate, refiners include additives. Some of these additives, such as certain forms of lubricants, de-icers and biodiesel itself increase the ability of the fuel to absorb water.
Effects on Your Generator
Water in diesel causes an array of problems and subsequently can lead to diesel generators either not kicking in, or failing mid-operation, when standby power is needed in emergency backup situations. This has been seen in disaster situations such as Hurricane’s Sandy and Katrina where data centers and other critical facilities, such as hospitals, faced severe down time as a result of backup generators not functioning as expected.
Effects on Your Business
Organizations lose an average of $138,000 for one hour of data center down time, an increase of 38% from 2010 to 2012. Operations spend millions ensuring power reliability and still these systems fail because the fuel is not managed.
Fuel Management: Fuel Testing
A comprehensive fuel management strategy begins with knowing what type of fuel you have, and the state it is being stored in. Research into biodiesel mandates in your area and perform regular onsite and offsite testing to see the biodiesel, water and microbial contamination of your fuel (microbial growth is a sign that troubles lie ahead).
Fuel Management: Fuel Polishing
According to Polaris Laboratories, “in systems prone to water contamination,” (such as fuel storage tanks) “it is imperative that the contaminated oil be able to shed water, or demulsify in order to maintain lubricity, viscosity and prevent the formation of acids.”
To begin creating a fuel management protocol, evaluate the tank, piping and generator set up to highlight areas of weakness; consider the impact of likely site temperature and humidity ranges. The Uptime Institute’s technical paper, titled Biodiesel, suggests finding a fuel polishing system utilizing coalescing filters which have been proven to remove water suspended within the fuel (emulsified water). The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has updated a test to see the ability of a filter to remove emulsified water under its SAE J1488:2010 protocol. An automated fuel polishing system is recommended; continuously remove water and particulates, ensuring emergency ready fuel all the time.
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