Dirty fuel causes the world’s largest pump station to fail in test

As New Orleans prepared itself for hurricane season in 2014, a readiness test was carried out on the West Bank Pumping Station. Initially all went well and the pumps were working as expected. But after just a few hours a primary generator failed and 5 of the 11 pumps stopped. The cause? Dirty Fuel.

The West Bank Pump Station was opened in 2012 to block storm surge rushing up the Harvey and Algiers canals with the aim of protecting thousands of buildings and structures. The $1 billion West Closure Complex was built with a pumping capacity of up to 19,140 cubic feet of water per second, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in less than five seconds.

Despite opening just 2 years earlier, an analysis of the failure found 3 of its 6 fuel storage tanks to be contaminated. Fortunately, as it happened during a test, this incident was just an inconvenience. But it raised questions about the reliability of the custom-engineered structure. If it had occurred during an emergency situation it could have spelt disaster.

Fuel is a problem that’s easy to overlook. It can sit in the tank for weeks, months or years at a time. This situation allows fuel to become contaminated. It is universally accepted by engine manufacturers and fuel suppliers that under normal conditions, fuel can stay in a usable condition for just 6-12 months. As it gets older it begins to suffer from 3 main types of contamination:
Microbial growth (a.k.a. the ‘diesel bug’)
Water contamination
Solid particulate contamination

Depending on the severity of the contamination this can clog filters, damage engine injectors or cause total engine failure.

The New Orleans complex could have avoided this issue by implementing a fuel conditioning programme that includes a polishing unit, such as IPU’s Diesel Defence.

The on-tank fuel polishing system ensures fuel surpasses the ISO 4406’s 18/16/13 standard of cleanliness and EN590’s 200ppm level of water content. Diesel Defence simply provides long-term protection for stored diesel.

Most filtration systems clean fuel as it passes from your storage tanks to your generators. They are quite capable of removing the debris but they do little to clear the underlying problems that created the debris in the first place. For example, they may be able to remove microbial growth but they can’t remove the water that allowed the diesel bug to grow. Unless the problem is treated at the tank, filtration systems will be under a constant threat and can become overwhelmed.

IPU’s Diesel Defence fuel polishing systems attack contamination at its root cause by removing the microbial growth, water and particulate contaminants.

By circulating the fuel multiple times before it passes to the day tank or generator, Diesel Defence prevents pockets of dirty fuel or water collecting in stagnant parts of the tank. It also stops your fuel from separating and the biodiesel sinking to the bottom.

Call our team on +44 (0) 121 511 0400 to find out how Diesel Defence can protect your business or use this link for more information.