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Biological contamination can effect most fuel types (boat diesel, automotive diesel, diesel for marine engines, domestic gas, kerosene, automobile fuel, biofuel, etc.), but occurs more frequently and is more problematic for fuels that:
• have been de-sulfurized to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions (which is required by environmental regulations). The lower levels of sulfur compounds (sulfides and sulfates) promote the growth of yeast and mold;
• contain biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol) or certain organic additives (anti-emulsifiers, anti-mold agents, detergents, etc.). These organic compounds can serve as a source of nutrition for micro-organisms.
• contain undesirable elements: silt, sludge, water, sediment, etc., which can be found in poor quality fuels or at the bottom of fuel vats.
• as biofilms on the interior walls of vats, cisterns, reservoirs, pipes, etc.
• at the interface between the lower aqueous phase (comprised of water, which is essential for cellular metabolism) and the upper organic phase (comprised of hydrocarbons, which serve as a nutrient source).
• the biotransformation or metabolism of hydrocarbons;
• the production of undesirable compounds (sulfides, sulfates, tensioactive molecules);
• catalysis of undesirable chemical reactions due to bio-corrosion (or Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion - MIC);
• cellular residues or excretions leading to blockages (sludge, bacterial biofilms, fungal thalli, etc.).
These changes can lead to the technical failure of entire systems or facilities used to store, transport or transfer fuel. Learn more
The following issues can lead to loss of fuel quality and even to non-compliance with regulations due to the many problems they can cause for the user and the environment:
• Blockage of filters, feeding tubes or injectors by microbial residue (silt, sludge) or biofilms. Silt or sludge in fuel causes motor failures, decreased performance and excessive wear;
• Bio-corrosion of reservoirs and feeding tubes by bacteria that produce acid or induce electrochemical reactions (which create rust spots and holes in sheet metal - also known as “pitting”), such as sulfur-reducing bacteria (bactéries sulfato-réductrices, BSR) and other species (Geobacter sp.). Sludge storage tanks are a preferred environment for the growth of anaerobic sulfur-reducing bacteria;
• The presence of sulfur due to the production of sulfides and sulfates by micro-organisms. Sulfur is monitored by the authorities because of the risk of sulfur dioxide pollution.
• The presence of water due to microbial biomolecules with emulsifying properties that solubilize water, allowing it to enter into suspension in the fuel, thereby affecting the clarity and performance of the fuel (more smoke, less power, difficult start-up);
• Loss of additive activity (biofuels, de-emulsifiers, anti-mold agents, detergents, etc.) due to the biodegradation of these compounds by micro-organisms.
Biofuels are produced from a primary biomass, which is typically a vegetable oil (beet, wheat, corn, soy, canola, sunflower, palm, etc.) but can also come from an animal or organic source (used oil, fermented waste).
• bio-ethanol and its derivative: ethyl tert-butyl ether;
• pure vegetable oils (huiles végétales pures, HVP) and their derivatives: methyl esters of vegetable oils (esters méthyliques d’huiles végétales, EMHV), which are used to generate biodiesel (sometimes referred to as diester).
To decrease the ecological impact of fossil fuels, up to 5-10% biofuel (or up to 30% for urban public transit) can be incorporated, in keeping with current legislation. Ethanol and ethyl tert-butyl ether are used in gas (SP95, SP98, SP95-E10 or E85), and vegetable oil methyl esters are used in diesel (for automobiles or other forms of transport). The use of vegetable oil is only permitted for certain applications (farming equipment or local government vehicles, fishing boats, etc.).
Water is much more soluble in these “green fuels” than in fossil fuels because methyl esters of vegetable oils act as emulsifiers (also, ethanol is hygroscopic). Vegetable oil methyl esters are also metabolized more easily by micro-organisms compared to fossil hydrocarbons. Fuels generated from biodiesel or bioethanol therefore provide a more favorable environment for the growth of bacteria, mold, yeast, etc. There is therefore an increased risk of bio-corrosion, blockages or loss of quality. Preventing microbial risks therefore plays an integral role in quality management in the biofuel industry (elimination of water, preventive biocidal treatment, tracking microbiological contamination, etc.).
ATP 2G rapid microbiological analysis is an effective, low cost diagnostic tool that is easy to implement on site and allows storage center managers to:
• use a reliable indicator to track biological contamination of fuel and fuel storage facilities in real time;
• quickly identify biological shifts, thereby increasing responsiveness in decision-making, the effectiveness of corrective measures and the economical and ecological optimization of treatments;
• prevent bio-corrosion without having to specifically monitor sulfur-reducing bacteria (using complicated or expensive analyses);
• prevent blockages by biofilms and microbial sludge;
• measure the effect of biocidal agents used as disinfectants or additives.
aqua-tools I&E recommends the QGO-M™ rapid microbiological analysis kit for:
• Measuring the total biomass of fuels and biofuels and analyzing samples taken from the aqueous phase, biofilms or sediment;
• Optimizing disinfection of supply lines or reservoirs to verify treatment effectiveness or to reduce the required dose of biocidal agents/bio-dispersants.
• The downstream sector of the petroleum industry: storage centers, refineries, petrochemistry, etc.
• Agro-industry: biofuels, agro-fuels, bio-additives, etc.
• Fuel distribution: storage centers, service stations, airports, ocean transport, river transport, road transport, rail transport, etc.