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Fuel Testing

Emergency Backup Power Fuel Testing Practices:

Most facilities have a program in place to ensure proper emergency backup generator operation with regular engine maintenance and service intervals well established and documented. However, the stored fuel supply often goes untested or is omitted from any formal or accurate maintenance basis. After interviews with service companies, generator manufacturers, facility maintenance and site engineers I have identified the following misnomers and shortcomings for this protocol:

  1. 1. Local personnel believe fuel quality is in the hands of the fuel supplier.
  2. 2. A belief the fuel testing (if tested at all) is being done properly.
  3. 3. If samples for analysis are being taken, most are NOT taken from the correct location of the fuel supply.
  4. 4. Lack of understanding of the importance of high quality fuel for emergency backup power systems.
Past Natural Disasters Tell Us About Backup Power Dependability:

Emergency Power Generators offer many organizations alternate power should the primary source ever experience an interruption in services. When backup systems perform as expected during weekly/monthly tests, assumptions are they will always perform at the necessary levels to maintain critical systems. However, emergency power generator failures repeatedly, and continually, make news with millions of backup power generator failures reported, for which 80%-90% of these failures were attributed to poor fuel quality. The past several years have shown how varied and widespread failures can be, such as during the events of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the August 2003 Northeast Blackout, the East Coast's Hurricane Isabel, California's earthquakes, the California roaming blackouts, wildfires, the 2004 & 2005 Gulf Coast storms and hurricanes Katrina and Rita, all triggered waves of catastrophic generator failures.

Industries Response:

As a result of these events, facilities are increasing their fuel storage capabilities as a part of their emergency management modifications. These decisions are being made out of the necessity to sustain operations for longer periods of time during utility outages. This has caused the issue of fuel aging to become more critical in maintaining a reliable emergency power source. Informational articles and white papers have been written in regard to the reasons behind the diesel engine failures, citing reasons such as water and impurities in the fuel supply due to system condition, maintenance error, fuel stagnation, storage tank corrosion, clogged or fouled fuel filters, storage tank micro-organism contamination, inconsistent fuel quality from the supplier and incorrect diesel additive usage.

All organizations accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) have put generator and fuel testing issues as top ranking in their priority list. Sentinel Event Alert # 37 places the expectation of a clearly documented fuel testing process directly on each accredited agency. Engineering Associations are urging all facilities with an emergency generator to take a closer look at the way their fuel testing is being done.

EMERGENCY BACKUP POWER FUEL STABILITY ANALYSIS:

ASHE (American Society of Healthcare Engineers) White paper "Managing Hospital Emergency Power Programs". P13-14

Concerns about the negative impact of dirty or aged fuel oil on generator set operability have resulted in a tightening of fuel oil criteria in NFPA 110.2 Previous recommendations have now become requirements. Fuel must be consumed within its storage life or stale fuel must be replaced, and NFPA 110 now includes the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) diesel fuel oil aging rating table for reference in Annex A. The inclusion of this informational table now guides owners towards fuel oil testing programs. Fuel system designs must provide for a supply of clean fuel to the engine, but even the best designs should be followed through by appropriate management controls to ensure that engines have an adequate supply of fresh, clean fuel throughout the operating life of the fuel oil system. Hospitals that were not previously monitoring fuel oil condition as a part of the Utility Management Program should consider improving their programs.

Degradation of emergency generator fuel oil systems is not a new concern. There is ample historical literature on the subject, primarily federal publications responding to stringent testing, analysis, and reporting requirements that apply to the civilian nuclear power industry as well as federal facilities.3,4 Concerns and/or diesel engine failures have resulted from water and impurities in fuel oil due to system condition, maintenance error, fuel stagnation, day tank corrosion, clogged or fouled fuel oil filter, excessive fuel oil filter replacement interval, workmanship during fuel oil system renovation, fuel oil truck operator error, day tank micro-organism contamination, inconsistent fuel oil quality from the supplier, incorrect biocide usage, and even inadequate sampling techniques.

Why have the fuel oil condition requirements become more stringent? Fuel contamination has been called the second leading cause of Emergency Power Supply failures.1 Many hospitals are increasing their onsite fuel oil storage capability as a part of their emergency preparedness improvements, so the issue of fuel aging is becoming more critical. The clean fuel criteria apply not only to the large fuel oil storage tanks but also to the local day tanks. Water and other contaminants can occur in both locations, and natural fuel degradation from aging affects fuel oil throughout the storage and piping system. Emergency generator manufacturers have historically published recommended changing intervals for oil and for oil filters. Some manufacturers, suppliers, and service companies have oil analysis trending programs available that are a useful predictive maintenance tool. Some manufacturers may allow regular oil analysis programs to determine oil-changing intervals, whereas others may not.5 This issue is being debated within the industry and bears close watching. Meanwhile, many hospitals may undertake regular fuel oil testing programs and fuel oil tank cleaning6 programs in order to ensure and document that their fuel oil is fresh and clean.

  1. 1. Nash, Jr., Hugh O. PE and Chisholm, Dan. Essential Distribution System Disaster Preparedness - Guaranteeing Performance of Your ‘On-site Electric Utility’, slides 5-6. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the American Society of Healthcare Engineering. Chicago: ASHE, 2002.
  2. 2. NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, 2002 Edition, Section 7.9.1. Quincy, MA: NFPA, 2002. (National Fire Protection Association)
  3. 3. Information Notice 91-46, Degradation of Emergency Diesel Generator Fuel Oil Delivery Systems. Washington, DC: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, July 18, 1991.
  4. 4. ONS Safety Notice Issue No. 94-01, DOE/EH-0389, Contamination of Emergency Diesel Generator Fuel Supplies. Washington, DC: US Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear and Facility Safety, July 1994.
  5. 5. Chisholm, Dan. Is It Time to Change the Oil? - or time for us to change?, Healthcare Circuit News. http://www.mgi-hcn.com/members/search/maintenance/oil_change.htm. Winter Park, FL: Motor and Generator Institute, 1998.
  6. 6. Chisholm, Dan. Diesel Tank Cleaning For Emergency Power Systems, Healthcare Circuit News. http://www.mgihcn. com/members/search/fuel/TankCleaning071901.htm. Winter Park, FL: Motor and Generator Institute, May 2002.
Universal Fuel Services Offers a Full Spectrum of on-site and Laboratory Fuel Testing

Utilizing full ASTM methodology:

The following fuel testing packages are offered:
UFS-150 On-site Visual Tests:
Test Methods
Sediment and Water ASTM D2709
Appearance ASTM D4176
UFS-200 On-site Visual and Sample Tests:
Test Methods
Sediment and Water ASTM D4176
Appearance ASTM D4176
Microbial Growth (bacterial and fungal) ASTM 6469
UFS-340 Basic Wellness Test Package:
Test Methods
Micro Imagery Particulate FOB 1124
Microbial Growth ASTM 6469
Flash Point ASTM D93
Water by Karl Fisher ASTM D6304
Sediment and Water ASTM D2709
Appearance ASTM D4176
If your fuel fails the basic wellness test, running Essential Diagnostic tests will verify the indicated problems and will give our technicians the answer to what needs to be done to make sure your fuel will support the generator in a time of emergency.
UFS-440 Essential Diagnostic Package:
Test Methods
Distillation ASTM D86
Microbial Growth ASTM 6469
Flash Point ASTM D93
Water by Karl Fisher ASTM D6304
Appearance ASTM D4176
Stability/Accelerated Aging Du Pont F21-61
Sulfur ASTM D5453
UFS-540 Premium Diagnostic Package:
Test Methods
Distillation ASTM 6469
Microbial Growth ASTM 6469
Flash Point ASTM D93
Water by Karl Fisher ASTM D6304
Appearance ASTM D4176
Stability/Accelerated Aging Du Pont F21-61
Sulfur ASTM D5453
API Gravity ASTM D1298
Copper Strip Corrosion ASTM D130
Cetane Index ASTM D976
Sediment & Water ASTM D2709
The following are al-a-carte lab tests offered. Other Tests and Methods for Diesel Fuels
Test Method
API Gravity ASTM D1298
Appearance ASTM D4176
Ash ASTM D482
Cetane Index ASTM D976
Cloud Point ASTM D2500
Color ASTM D1500
Corrosion Copper Strip @50C ASTM D130
Dissolved Water by K.F. ASTM D6304
Distillation, % Recovery ASTM D86
Distillation, 10% Recovery ASTM D86
Distillation, 50% Recovery ASTM D86
Distillation, 90% Recovery ASTM D86
Distillation, End Point ASTM D86
Distillation, IBP ASTM D86
Flash Point ASTM D93
Microbial Growth Microscopic/Culture Growth
Particulate Contamination ASTM D6217
Pour Point ASTM D97
Sediment & Water ASTM D2709
Stability/Accelerated Aging Du Pont F21-61
Sulfur ASTM D5453
Viscosity @ 40C ASTM D445
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