While temperatures have generally been warmer, we have recently seen that it can get cold in February, too. We’re not out of the woods when it comes to plugged diesel fuel filters. Plugged fuel filters can dramatically reduce horsepower or even stall engines resulting in unexpected downtime. While it’s preferable to catch problems at the storage tank, sometimes it isn’t feasible.

When fuel won’t pump or filter plugging occurs, it’s common to blame the products – either the fuel or the cold flow additives. Yet in many situations, the fuel or additives aren’t the culprits. Research has shown that cold flow additives can be very effective at reducing the occurrence of gelled fuel and icing.

However, for these products to work as intended, they should be blended into the base fuel at 10 to 15 degrees above the fuel’s cloud point. That can be difficult to accomplish this time of year. Under extremely cold conditions, it is best accomplished at the terminal where the fuel is at its warmest temperature. Treating fuel when it’s too cold, for example below the recommend 10 to 15 degrees above cloud point, compromises the additive’s effectiveness and can make the difference between uninterrupted operation or frustrating downtime.

Fuel quality management best practices are valuable year-round, and even more so in winter. In addition to gelled fuel, ice and microbes can plug filters. Petroleum and biobased diesel fuels contain moisture. Even when checked with moisture detecting paste, there may be emulsified moisture that goes undetected. As fuel temperatures drop, the fuel holds less moisture, and as a result, water may settle to the bottom of the tank. If enough water reaches the dip tube, it may be pumped out and cause filters and fuel lines to ice. Ice can plug filters, too, resulting in the same unwanted downtime.

Should all else fail, rescue products, such as Re-Flow G, are available for emergency treatment. Per manufacturer’s instructions, these products can be mixed with diesel fuel and poured directly into the fuel filter assembly after removing all the visible wax. These products can also be used in treating tanks with gelled fuel. Please note that such rescue treatments are not designed for long-term use and should be used only in emergency or temporary situations.

Maintaining fuel quality is crucial for ensuring that tanks and equipment operate properly during cold weather. Your FS Energy Specialist is a knowledgeable source for the information and products you need to keep your operation running smoothly in any season.

Curt Dunafin serves as GROWMARK FS Energy Services manager.