Any petroleum product is essentially created from remains of once living organisms. They are essentially organic substances and will break down over time. Natural gas, fuel oil, diesel fuel and gasoline will interact with the environment, such as light, metals and water. As an example, intense sunlight could become a catalyst that increases the rate of oxidation. In this case, oxygen will react with the molecules in fuel causing polymers to form. After a period of time, fuel will start to separate and eventually break apart. Some molecules will become heavier than others and they will sink to the bottom.
Fuel that’s partially oxidized already loses some of the ability to combust properly at the optimal level. It means that we will need to deal with partially burned fuel, formation of deposits, incomplete combustion and poor combustion performance in the engine. We will need to deal with the less than optimal fuel economy. In general, stratified fuel won’t provide us with the maximum amount of energy compared to fresh diesel fuel. All in all, we can’t call this an ideal situation for owners of cars with diesel engine. It is important for us to know the common causes of diesel fuel breakdown.
Exposure to air and water could speed up the oxidation process. In general, air and water are excellent donators of oxygen. An oxidation process happens when oxygen reacts with a molecule, because oxygen is a highly reactive element. When diesel fuel is exposed to specific metal elements, such as copper, the oxidation process will become faster. In this case, the copper doesn’t react directly with the diesel fuel, it will become a catalyst to speed up the oxidation process. Oxygen will still be available in abundant quantity inside the fuel tank. Sunlight contributes some amount of energy to allow the oxidation reactions to occur more rapidly.
We could do a small experiment by pouring diesel fuel into the glass jar and leave it exposed to the sunlight. The diesel fuel will start to darken and the color will change due to the oxidation process. The tank could also have microbial contamination and the biological process will produce some amount of acidic substances. The mixture will attack the fresh diesel fuel and the breakdown process will accelerate. Fuel suppliers typically add oxidation inhibitors to stop the harmful reactions from occurring and the diesel fuel can be kept fresh. Consumers who store a large amount of diesel fuel, such as for boats, should also do the same thing.
Among many diesel car owners, water build-up is considered as a universal problem. When we store diesel fuel in a container for specific amount of time, we will eventually find some amount of water staying in the bottom. Water is heavier than diesel fuel and it sinks to the bottom. It is important for car owners to fix this problems and it is important to examine the presence of water in the container.