Trucking industry warned against ‘diesel bug’

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 5, 2021

The road haulage industry and commercial forecourts are being warned about microbiological contamination in fuel supplies, otherwise known as the ‘diesel bug’.

David Armitage, from Conidia Bioscience said a reduction in fuel turnover due to the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the threat of the bug.

“As fuel is stored and backed up in the supply chain for longer, road haulage and commercial forecourt operations need to take extra care to keep this contamination in check,” he said.

According to Armitage, microbiological contamination in fuel supplies can have serious consequences on fuel systems and storage tanks.

“As microbes multiply in the fuel, they can form a biomass layer consisting of billions of organisms. This biomass can block filters, increase injector wear, and even corrode tanks with the organic acid it produces,” he said.

“Worst of all, microbiological contamination can be passed along the fuel supply chain, whether from pipeline to storage tank or fueling truck to retail forecourt.

“This means that even if a depot is experiencing high fuel turnover, delivering food, Amazon boxes or other supplies, the overall slump in global fuel consumption across all modes of transport means contamination from the fuel supply chain could still be an issue.”

Armitage said managers need a smart way to make smart decisions to help prevent the potential of significant remedial costs due to damage caused by microbiological contamination, such as antibody fuel test kits.

“While steps can be taken, such as cleaning fuel tanks or dosing them with biocides if the tank is not contaminated, this adds a significant cost to operations,” he said.

“A regular, on-site testing regime using lateral flow devices, however, offers a quick, easy, and low-cost way to ascertain whether action needs to be taken.”

Compared with other testing methods or technology to prevent a build-up of microbes, antibody test kits are one of the lowest cost options, according to Armitage.

“With no initial capital investment required, the cost of a kit provides an almost immediate return on investment if it prevents just one unnecessary storage tank clean or biocide dosing or averts an incident where an engine is damaged by the microbiological contamination. If left unchecked, microbiological contamination can have a serious impact on machinery and drivers,” he said.

“Indeed, the damage it can cause to diesel engines, fuel tanks, pumps and other machinery should not be underestimated. The contamination can be transferred to most middle distillate fuels and will grow if left undetected.”

Amitage said water is fuel’s worst enemy.

“It is good practice to periodically remove as much water as possible from supplies, but testing is the only way to be sure that contamination is not being left unchecked and machinery is not being damaged.”