How to keep water out of your fuel storage tank

Chances are you rely on a continuous supply of fuel, but the presence of water in your fuel storage tank can lead to compromised availability, with further issues expected down the line. These issues can look like corrosion and rust as well as microbial contamination, which will cause havoc when it comes to availability and keeping your day-to-day life and travel running smoothly. If water has become trapped inside your fuel storage tank, then there are places you can turn to in order to restore good working order. 

How do I know if I got water in my fuel tank?

If you’re concerned you may have water in your fuel tank, then your best option is to act fast in order to eliminate the threat. There are a few signs to look out for when it comes to water in fuel tank symptoms, and one of the most common is a change in the performance of a vehicle using the affected fuel. Keep an eye out for car hesitation and sputtering as these are good indicators that water has entered your fuel storage tank. 

Diesel with diesel bug contamination at the bottom of a diesel fuel tank.
Image source

If you’re able to peer inside your fuel storage tank, then it can be possible to see an accumulation of black or brown sludge in diesel fuel. The space between the layers of oil and water creates the perfect environment for bacteria, which is aptly referred to as “diesel bug”. This growth is often accompanied by a foul-smelling odour. Removing this sludge from your fuel storage tank can be done with the use of bug killers and aid of fuel additives to name but a few methods.

What is the best fuel treatment for water in fuel?

Prevention is always better than cure, and you should endeavour to do your utmost to prevent water from getting into your fuel storage tank. This can be done by ensuring regular dispenser samples are routinely taken – you should be looking at doing this every thirty days or so, immediately after a fuel delivery as well as when the tank has been otherwise disturbed. Carrying out these diagnostic tests is one of the most important tasks you can take in order to maintain the reliable and sound functioning of your fuel storage tank. 

Pulling samples from the dead bottom of the tank is instrumental in inspecting for free water and what’s known as ‘hazy fuel’ – which means that water has been absorbed into it. If you’re experiencing poor performance with your diesel engine, it’s worth considering that the fuel you’re using is contaminated with water. 

An automatic tank-gauging system is strongly advised for all those with a fuel storage tank. Sensors can be incorporated to monitor water levels, which would then attach to a water float and trigger an alert if the water were to rise. From this, data can be accessed in real-time. 

What happens if water gets in the fuel tank?

Allowing water into your fuel storage water tank is best avoided, as a myriad of problems can arise. Matters worsen if the problem is not soon rectified, and the much-needed fixes can be costly. 

Water and oil simply do not mix together and over time the substances will form two layers within your fuel tank. After a short time, water will sink to the bottom of the tank while the oil will float on the surface. Having water pool at the bottom of the tank for a long time will result in rust. Rust can be the culprit for the severe loss of structural integrity among metals since it causes brittleness; likely to create cracks and holes in the storage tank.  

As well as rust, water in your fuel storage water tank comes with other risks such as microbial contamination. Microbes in the air, soil and rainwater can interact with the contents of your fuel tank, and although not always an issue, when these microbes are able to flourish and reproduce, their population continues to rise to more harmful levels. 

The quality of the fuel you’re storing will degrade if water gets in your fuel storage tank, leading to failed exhaust emissions as well as significant engine damage. Although filters can assist in the prevention of water building up inside the tank, they can become clogged.    

How does water get in your fuel tank?

Water can get into a fuel storage tank if it has not been properly sealed and efficiently maintained, and rainwater can be one of the most infamous culprits for doing just this. 

When outside temperatures drop, condensation becomes more of a prominent problem for fuel storage tanks. This is because lower ambient temperatures cause water accumulation inside the tank, which then can swill around and contaminate the petrol, diesel, or oil. When it comes to biofuels, be aware that water can still access the tank, as these types of fuels are more hydro-scopic – meaning that they can be viewed underwater. 

Can you remove water from the fuel?

Water can be removed from a fuel storage tank. Removing water can be done via a bilge pump, but bear in mind that this process does not tend to remove all water sources. For a large water intrusion, an emulsifying water additive can be used for some of the best results. These additives effectively burn off the water, which means that damage to the bulk of your fuel is avoided. Fuel polishing is also an option, especially with biofuel content. The process of elimination begins as fuel is passed through a series of filters into a holding tank and then back to the bulk tank.

To eliminate moisture from your fuel reserves, you should consider steering clear of many common water-separating additives on the market as these don’t really do a lot to actually remove the water, and instead only encourage the two substances (water and oil) to separate without tackling the larger issue. 

With this said, it’s vital to always conduct your own research when figuring out how best to solve a problem with your fuel storage tank, or get in touch with a professional who can review your unique set of challenges and provide you with specific solutions. This is because fuel storage tanks differ, just as individual commercial and residential needs do. 

How do you get water out of a fuel storage tank?

The water has to be pumped out and disposed of as contaminated waste (Regulations forbid drain points on commercial fuel tanks). If there is an oil interceptor on site the water can be disposed of there. Otherwise, it should be taken away by a registered waste carrier.

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