Why Treat Your Fuel Oil?

by Paul F. Schmidt,
Chief Chemist, Allied Oil Co.


Publ. 1986 by Industrial Press, Inc
New York, NY USA
Reprinted with permission

comparison of fuel tank with and without Alken Even-Flo

Other petroleum products have additives and treatments, so why not residual fuel oil? Due to a less efficient method of handling this type of oil, type of composition, and more precision in our modern oil burning equipment, treatment has become a necessity.
There is no question that today's heavy fuel oils, like No. 5 and 6 grades, do have and produce more sludge, than these same types did a few years back. This is due to types of refining processes and blending, which change the chemical and physical composition of the oil. These changes produce an oil subject to instability. This instability must be combatted or tolerated. However, toleration does not help your combustion, nor clean your fuel oil system.

Efficient operation needs clean oil, as well as a clean system. This optimum is not reached by cleaning the storage tank when the sludge build-up has reached the suction line. It is obtained by treating the fuel oil constantly with a material that will prevent and retard sludge formation, disperse solids, and eliminate the water.

In your storage tank you have two materials to combat; water and particles of solid chemical compounds, commonly called sludge. Water is due mostly to condensation and leaking manholes, and occasionally from the oil supplier. Regardless, it is always found either on the tank bottom or stratified at different levels throughout the oil.

Modern refining cracking processes produce fuel oils that are subject to sludge formation. The sludge particles are formed principally by blending and mixing fuel oils of different types, either at the refinery or in the consumer's tank. They may also be formed from reactions due to moisture, heat and oxidation, but the amounts from these factors are small.

When the sludge particles are formed, they are quite small and if they remained so, little trouble would occur. Unfortunately, they increase in size as they adhere to each other, becoming so large as to block lines, strainers, pumps and burner nozzles, if drawn into the system. 


diagram showing how Even-Flo improves performance in strainer pump and distribution lines

Many fuel oil treatments on the market today are strictly solvents, which is not the type you want or need. It is extremely difficult to dissolve fuel oil sludge once it has formed, unless excessive quantities of solvent are used, as several times the quantity of sludge present would be necessary. Therefore, a solvent-type treatment is not practical because:

  1. The small amounts of treatment used cannot dissolve all the sludge.
  2. Not all solvents have the ability to dissolve sludge.
  3. A complete treatment should improve atomization and combustion. This cannot be accomplished with small dosages of a solvent-type treatment.

As you cannot readily and economically dissolve fuel oil sludge, a treatment must produce the following reactions :

  1. Stabilize the fuel oil to minimize sludge formation.
  2. Disperse the sludge already present, or formed, as small minute particles. This will permit passage thru your system, and out the burner nozzle for combustion. True sludge is easily combustible if particle size remains small.
  3. Emulsify and disperse the water so that it too will pass through the system without spitting and sputtering caused by occluded water.
illustration of how the flame is affected by Alken Even-Flo

You cannot accomplish these benefits with ordinary solvent-type chemicals. The treatment must contain sufficient quantities of the proper surface active agents to give all these benefits. Some of these surface active materials must not only disperse the sludge, but must be of a definite and specific nature to emulsify the water. The emulsification of water means breaking the surface tensions of both the oil and water, so as to obtain a stable mixture of minute water droplets in the oil globules. The water present in this form will in no way hinder your operation, nor combustion of the oil. Surface active agents must also be present which will act on the surface tension of the fuel to improve atomization and combustion, thus making the treatment complete and giving benefits from the tank through the burner.

Although there are many chemicals that can accomplish the necessary reactions, in many instances the quantity required is prohibitive. You, of course, cannot be expected to purchase and mix a drum of fuel oil treatment into your fuel oil storage tank every time you receive a truck or tank car of oil. Therefore, it is essential that the surface active agents be of such high efficiency from the standpoint of reaction, that only small quantities are required. Accordingly, in selecting a fuel oil treatment, surface activity is a major factor.

Of the better fuel oil treatments that I have tested which meets these necessary requirements is Alken-Murray Corporation's Even Flo®. By treating your fuel oil with a well-formulated treatment like Alken - Murray Even-Flo®, you obtain the benefits needed to secure efficient, economical operation and combustion. The resulting reactions give a "treated oil," which is not obtained by the use of a "tank clean-out solvent."

Remember, you want your fuel oil to flow freely and to "go up in heat, not smoke." This is only accomplished by "keeping the lumps out of your fuel oil system."

Alken Even-Flo burner demo 

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E-mail: evenflo@alken-murray.com

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