FuelGuru’s Russo: With more fuel training, mariners and fleet operators can influence diesel suppliers, save money


The modern diesel engines that power the professional marine trades are highly calibrated marvels of engineering, while at the same time the diesel fuel that feeds them varies considerably from fuel to fuel. A diet of the best possible diesel fuel is critical to the performance and efficiency of these modern, high performance engines. A high performance, petroleum based, ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel is the best ‘alternative diesel fuel’ that’s available to the market right now, and can be easily implemented on a wide scale. 

I understand that the critical nature of marine operations demand the absolute best in performance from all systems to ensure the utmost in safety and reliability. There is no walking home from a breakdown at sea. 

Fleet purchasers of diesel fuel, shore captains, engineers, military, educational institutions and service technicians in the professional marine industry have the ability to educate themselves on how diesel fuel properties vary from fuel to fuel. Different crude oils, and different refining techniques, all produce different fuels. Knowing this can save big money for the fleet purchaser because of the sheer volume of the fuel involved. Engineers and service technicians who are trained on diesel fuel performance specifications better understand the critical link between diesel fuel and engine performance.

For example, the International Energy Agency’s Advanced Motor Fuels project says diesel fuel can vary 15 percent on fuel density alone, while Chevron’s tech review says it’s up to a 30 percent difference.

Understanding how to keep modern diesel fuel injection systems clean and free from corrosion will be key to increased engine reliability and production, and reduced cost of operation. This is where service technician training is important, and where the topic of diesel fuel additives and fuel system cleaners needs to be understood and demystified.

A big part of my message on fuels has always been about the need to integrate service provider and engineer observations and feedback on the actual ‘in field’ performance of specialty diesel fuels and additives. This information needs to be vertically integrated and brought to the top decision makers in the oil and refining industries in order to harmonize the performance of the fuels with the engines.

Much of the research and development (R&D) that is done in the fuel industry relies on limited laboratory or field testing, which often does not correlate to the conditions and results seen in the field within widespread and very diverse markets. Hence, the need for service technician and end-user feedback on how specialty ULSD fuels and additives effect engine performance and reliability.   

The most up-to-date and widely acknowledged information about modern ULSD fuel is the consensus that additives are going to play a big part in bridging the gap between the fuel and engine performance. Once again, understanding how to keep modern diesel fuel injection systems clean and free from corrosion will be key to increased reliability and production, along with reduced cost of operation. This is where the topic of ULSD fuel additives and fuel system cleaners is most important.

Ultimate engine performance is a recipe for the ultimate in reliability and production, as well as being very green and environmentally savvy for using less fuel and producing fewer emissions.

I can tell you that the latest news in the diesel fuel additive industry seems to be the need for additives designed to reduce or eliminate Internal Diesel Injector Deposits (IDID),  fuel system corrosion and fungus growth problems with diesel fuel. Diesel fuel lubricity is also very important.

Another very important aspect of ULSD is that it is subject to thermal decomposition by the heat and pressure of modern HPCR and HPFI injection systems. Additives that stabilize the fuel from the pressure and heat of modern injection systems reduce or prevent filter plugging and injector fouling. All these problems rob engine performance and reliability, and increase fuel consumption and emissions, and can be reduced or eliminated with additives.

Interestingly, some of the first fuel additives were diesel additives and were developed by Chevron to extend the range of diesel submarines before World War II. It appears that diesel fuel additives are once again going to be a very important piece in the performance and reliability puzzle for modern diesel engines well into the future.

The oil and refining industries will provide better fuels that increase performance and reliability when spurred on by an educated professional consumer that demands the best for their critical application. The professional mariner is in a great position to make that positive change happen now with the right training and education.

The professional mariner community has several options that will fill their needs for training and information on diesel fuel at all levels. The training is constantly updated with the latest available information, and is especially geared towards the fleet operator/manager, onboard and shore engineers, onboard and shore captains, diesel service technicians, educational and training institutions, and military and government agencies.

Level 1 training is an introductory training designed as a basic overview of diesel fuel, and contains all the must-have information for all levels involved in the professional marine trades. This is a 90-minute nontechnical online training course that covers all the important topics of diesel fuel for the professional mariner.

Topics covered are:

– Basic understanding of crude oil production and crude oil refining.

– Basic diesel fuel parameters and specifications, which includes information on how to buy and save money on diesel fuel.  

– How variations in diesel fuel affect engine performance and reliability.

– Basic diesel fuel housekeeping and hygiene —  how to keep fuel delivery and storage systems clean and free from contaminants, corrosion and fungal and microbial growth.

– Basic overview on diesel fuel additives, including detergents, fuel stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, cetane improvers, biocides and lubricity improvers. 

Level 2 training is a more technical and in-depth three-hour online training that is designed to supplement the basic Level 1 training. This training provides the most bang for the buck, and squeezes a lot of technical information and understanding into a neat and digestible package for the professional mariner. This training follows the basic format of topics outlined in the Level 1 training.

Level 3 training is an extensive on-site day-long course, and like the other levels of training, is unique and unmatched in the industry. This training gives the participants a full spectrum knowledge of diesel fuel directed to the user/purchaser, and includes extensive technical information to satisfy the needs of the most demanding professional mariner and marine service provider/educator.

All this information is vital to understanding diesel fuel and related engine performance that will save money and increase performance and reliability.

Jim Russo is founder of FuelGuru, a third-party consultancy advocating for higher-quality transportation fuels and promoting fuel education, training and information exchange. Russo has 25-plus years experience with fuel and lubrication solutions. His marine experience began in 1978 with Peabody Coastal Services in Rhode Island. To learn more or to contact Russo, visit FuelGuru.com.

By Professional Mariner Staff