12/17/2014 | What's the Big Deal About Fuel Polishing and Do You Need to be Doing It?
Depending on the industry, many generator owners or operators may have come across the term “fuel polishing,” a.k.a. “fuel scrubbing,” and wondered what this process is and does. Is it for natural gas or diesel fuel? Is it something operators need to worry about? What is involved with it?
There are two types of fuel cleaning—one relates to natural gas; the other to diesel fuel. One enables poor quality fuel to be burned in natural gas generators; the other promotes engine life and performance. Here’s a short primer to help our customers sort this out.
Natural Gas Fuel Polishing/Scrubbing:
Also referred to as fuel filtration, this is a process by which raw gas—such as by-product gas from well-heads—is cleaned and filtered so it can be burned in natural gas engines including natural gas generators. Only those operators who have access to a source of raw natural gas need to worry about these processes. Fully refined natural gas does not generally require fuel filtration.
This approach has become popular in the oil and gas industry as a means of eliminating flaring. Although flaring is better for the atmosphere than allowing gas to escape unused, it still produces considerable amounts of CO2. The World Bank has estimates that CO2 from flaring by oil and gas operations generates some 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas, globally, each year.
With this process, raw natural gas is cleansed of impurities, water and condensate, often through a two-step system. In the first step, the raw gas is conditioned to remove impurities and provide a dehydrated and consistent BTU for safe, clean utilization in high-speed natural gas and bi-fuel applications. (Raw gas burns very hot and often the BTU must be reduced before a natural gas engine can burn it safely.) Contaminants such as free liquids, heavy hydrocarbons, water vapor and H2S (hydrogen sulfide) are commonly removed during this stage.
The second stage is polishing/scrubbing, which is performed after initial conditioning. (This type of processing is also used for maintenance cleaning of previously processed gas.) The second stage removes water and condensates—undesirable debris and other particles that collect in holding or fuel tanks as a result of condensation.
HIPOWER SYSTEMS offers natural gas filtration products for both stages. They are the Unprocessed Gas Conditioning System models FCS-25, FCS-50 and FCS-100 and the Processed Gas Polishing Fuel Scrubber model FPS-100.
Diesel Fuel Polishing/Scrubbing:
Diesel fuel, like natural gas from a pipeline, is usually ready to burn in its native state. However, when diesel fuel sits in a tank for long periods of time, condensates form.
Additionally, if the engine isn’t firing optimally, unburned particulates from the fuel can recycle back into the fuel tank. This causes sediment that, when stirred up during refueling, can damage an engine’s fuel injectors and potentially shorten the life of a diesel generator engine. These sediments and particulates are similar to the “gunk” that builds up in automobile and truck engines—we’ve all heard gasoline makers talk about it when discussing the value of “detergent” fuel.
Diesel fuel and fuel tank cleaning is an important part of routine maintenance and one that is often neglected. HIPOWER does not offer this service, but we are happy to refer customers with diesel fuel storage issues to expert technicians for further assistance.
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