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Tips for Storing Fuel and Fluids in Cold Weather

Winter brings many challenges for maintaining your operations. Depending on where your business is situated, shorter days can limit the time your team can work on outdoor projects, cold weather can impair worker mobility, and ice and snow can make transportation hazardous. The cold weather also brings with it a number of challenges specific to your storage of diesel and other fluids.

COLD WEATHER AND DIESEL

Diesel fuel naturally contains paraffin, a type of wax. In cold weather, around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), the wax begins to solidify, giving the diesel a cloudy consistency. If the diesel reaches 10–15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to -12 degrees Celsius), the wax will solidify further, at which point it can begin to clog filters and pipes (both in your fuel storage tanks and your vehicles or equipment). This process is called “gelling.”

To prevent the gelling of diesel fuel, you’ve got a few options. The simplest way to prevent this is by keeping your vehicles and your fuel storage tanks indoors in an environment heated to at least 32 degrees.

Beyond moving to heated storage, you can also purchase fuel with an additive specifically designed to prevent gelling, or you can add the additive on your own if you purchased fuel earlier in the year, when the temperatures were higher.

Winter also means that there are more opportunities for water and other contaminants to enter your fuel. Whether it is in the form of condensation, snow, or ice, if ice enters your fuel storage tank it can freeze and wreak havoc on your systems. Be sure you are regularly checking your tanks for contamination and cleaning according to your maintenance schedule, even in the winter.

WATER, LUBRICANTS, AND OTHER FLUIDS

If your operations include the use of standing water which you store on-site, then of course you know that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). The only way to prevent this is by moving your water storage tanks into a heated environment.

Other fluids, like lubricants and DEF, can also be negatively impacted by cold temperatures. Though lubricants may not freeze, in lower temperatures they will become more viscous, making it difficult to dispense. Additionally, extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) can cause chemicals and lubricants to degrade, lowering their shelf life and effectiveness.

Moving your lubricant storage tanks into a heated environment will prevent degradation and will also inhibit water contamination through condensation or leakage. If your tanks are too large to store indoors, a temporary shelter, lean-to, or water-proof tarp will at least provide protection against ice, snow, and other sources of water, even if they will not protect against the cold.

THE BOTTOM LINE OF STORING FUEL AND FLUIDS DURING THE WINTER

Though it may not be feasible for larger tanks, bringing smaller fuel and other fluid storage tanks into a heated indoor environment is the surest way to prevent damage caused by extreme temperatures. Even if you can’t do this, regularly maintaining your tanks will ensure that the snow and ice of winter do not lead to contamination of your diesel and fluids

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