Biodiesel fuel has been receiving a good amount of attention lately. Some potential users are still uncertain about its use. Though many wonder whether it is indeed a reliable fuel for diesel engines, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. As such, questions have arisen about storing biodiesel fuel…and rightfully so. It’s something new in the industry. Novice users want to be sure that they’re doing the right thing as far as storage is concerned.

What is biodiesel fuel?

But before we talk about storage, let’s learn a little about the fuel itself.

Biodiesel fuel is renewable and biodegradable. That’s why it’s growing in popularity. It’s made from animal fats, vegetable oils, and recycled restaurant greases. As such, it produces far fewer pollutants than any petroleum-based diesel fuels.

Biodiesel fuel can be used in most diesel engines, especially ones that were manufactured in the last several years. It’s also non-toxic and much safer to handle than traditional diesel fuel. Though it’s currently more expensive, prices are coming down and should continue to decrease in years to come.

Currently, some forms of biodiesel fuel are not suitable for low-temperature locations. However, this could change in the future as different blends are produced.

Storing biodiesel fuel

Biodiesel and petroleum diesel fuels possess different chemical structure. Specifically, the molecules in biodiesel contain unsaturated components. Petroleum diesel contains saturated hydrocarbons. This makes the physical properties of the two kinds of fuel very different.

For example, biodiesel has a higher oxygen content, more lubricity, and can thicken up more quickly at low temperatures. As a result of these and other properties, the storage of biodiesel must differ from storage parameters for traditional petroleum diesel.

Choose the right material

The material your storage container is made of is a major concern. Experts maintain that biodiesel should not be stored or transported in copper, brass, bronze, lead, tin, or zinc. Any of these materials can cause quick degradation of the fuel. Instead, storage containers should be made from steel, aluminum, Teflon®, fiberglass, or fluoridated polyethylene or polypropylene.

Beware of exposure to certain elements

Exposure to certain conditions can also affect the stability of biodiesel fuels. Heat and sunlight are major concerns. So is exposure to oxygen, so those installing a biodiesel storage tank should carefully consider location.

Contact with water/moisture is a huge concern as well. Any water present in the tank or in the pipes of the distribution system can wreak havoc with this fuel. When storage tanks rust due to the presence of moisture, microbes grow in the biodiesel. As a result, it becomes contaminated. Dissolved water in the fuel can also cause acids to form and, eventually, holes can develop in the tank.

To prevent problems with water, tanks should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before the fuel is placed inside. Also, only a very small amount of air space should be present above the fuel. Excess air space allows water from the air to accumulate. In addition, water should be drained off the bottom of the storage tanks as part of regular maintenance checks.

Closely monitor temperature

Storing biodiesel safely and efficiently also means keeping track of the temperature at which it is stored.

The “gel point” of biodiesel can differ depending on the type of fat or oil from which it was made. Biodiesel made from saturated fats tends to gel at higher temperatures than biodiesel from unsaturated fats. As such, it’s important to know the minimum temperature at which it can be stored. If you’re in a cold climate, you may need to make sure that takes are insulated or able to be heated. Another way to combat this problem is to consider an underground storage tank, which can prevent gelling.

Consult an expert

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities of using biodiesel fuel and are considering building a tank or facility for storage, the professionals at Western Oil Services can help you explore your options. We are experts in fuel and fuel storage as well as fuel inspections and maintenance. We can advise you about the parameters of storing biodiesel fuel safely and efficiently.

We’ve worked with a number of commercial, industrial, and institutional clients and can help you draft a plan that fits your needs as well as your budget. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 604-514-4781.