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Old 08-31-2010, 01:52 AM   #1
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I have an algae/sludge problem in one of my fuel tanks and have been looking into clearing up the problem and preventing it from happening in the future. I have looked into a number of different products that claim they do the job. Most of them are expensive except one. The least expensive one is called Algae X and claims it can do what the expensive ones do for a fraction of the price.

I use my boat sporatically and it sits for long periods without being used. I hold 400 gal. in two tanks and the two main engines and the generator burn approx 5 gph so fuel usage is very low.

The expensive units circulate and filter the fuel while the boat is at the dock as well as while you are underway, assuring clean fuel at all times.

The AlgaeX unit only works while the engines are running but they recommend using their "dealgicide" in conjunction with their unit.

My question is, does anyone out there have similar conditions such as mine that is using the AlgaeX unit, and if so are you satisfied with it?
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Old 08-31-2010, 04:32 AM   #2
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The problem of only using a boat occasionally - with long periods of no use is a contributary cause of bacteria and other 'unwanteds' growing in diesel. When you are using the boat, can you estimate how much fuel you would use between places you could add new fuel? On my Catamaran I had 2x100 gallon tanks and a 30 gallon day tank. so I emptied one 100 gallon tank and the other treated with a biocide- and ran the boat off the 30 day tank which I ensured had good clean fuel. So Sandman, How much fuch do you need to carry in tank storage ? Obviously if one is crossing a ocean with doldrums then having all storage full could be advisable.

Richard
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Old 08-31-2010, 02:35 PM   #3
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To me, magnets to clean fuel is voodoo. I do not believe that there is any validity in its use. However, Algae-X additive, to chemically kill the algae that can grow in your fuel tank, along with a reasonable system of fuel polishing, should keep the tank clean.

There are caveats to this, as well. First, as I've posted here several times, all fuel has a shelf life/storage life of about 1 year, less in very hot climates. Mississippi qualifies as very hot for several months a year. Rather than reproduce all the references, please see the entries for Diesel in my Cruiser's Dictionary: Cruiser's Dictionary on the Wiki

So. There are fuel polishing systems that you can install on the boat that aren't particularly expensive, and working while you are running the engines. I'm not sure, if you use the boat infrequently, that you should have something running on the boat while you're not there. I assume that you have a primary and secondary fuel filters, which you need particularly to remove the water that is accumulating in the tank from condensation as well as bacterial action.

As MMNETSEA pointed out, you also should not be storing so much fuel when it is just sitting in the marina. Empty one tank, clean it out, and let it sit. The other fuel tank should be kept full - the less air in the tank, the less expansion and contraction of the air due to temperature changes, the less moisture-laden air that will be sucked into the tank through the vent. So. Run the boat while running the fuel polishing system, when you get back to your slip fill the tank so it sits with a full tank.

Finally, what problems you now have with your fuel tanks need to be corrected before you install a fuel polishing system. This, in general, means draining out the fuel, discarding the worst of it, cleaning the rest, and having the fuel tanks professionally cleaned to remove all the gunk that is adhering to the tank walls and bottom. It is nasty stuff but if you don't get rid of it, it's just going to come back to haunt you. On a sailboat with a small 40-gallon tank it's not a big job, but 400 gallons of fuel is a huge job.

I probably have missed a few items, so don't worry about asking for more information.

Good luck

Jeanne
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Old 08-31-2010, 02:47 PM   #4
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To me, magnets to clean fuel is voodoo. I do not believe that there is any validity in its use.
I am sure you are 99.999% right in your assessment Jeanne, however, magnets have been used for filtering purposes, particularly filtering of lubricating oil where magnets can be used to extract metal filings from the lubricating system.

Magnets should therefore also be capable of removing ferrous metal filings from fuels systems too. If you happen to know of any fuel station where there are iron filings in the fuel then please let me know so that I can avoid them like the plague!

Aye // Stephen
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Old 08-31-2010, 07:11 PM   #5
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Great comments but speaking with my biologist hat on ( yes, in a former life b4 electronics ) the Algae-X does seem like Voodoo to me too. Particularly the claim that it "removes" stuff. Having opened one up to check on what illegal aliens actually perform this miraculous triage on the algae, all I could find was a shallow channel through which the diesel was routed.

Yes, there is a quite powerful magnet on the other side of the channel and I also seem to recall talk about its magnetic field disrupting the algae sense of navigation

(by flummoxing their moral compass???) or even breaking down some cell walls or preventing algae from multiplying. ( as they are so wont to do! ) However, what would or could it do with severe contamination? Catch ferrous bits, yes. Algae, sludge, crud? No. Since there is no filter, it would all simply pass through. If a magnet was the only big attraction ( terribly punny here) just dropping one into the tank should have the same effect, the fuel getting washed around it after a while. Supposedly the USCG and Navy have bought the Algea-X too but I would just chalk that one up in the same column as the USAF $600 toilet seat and $500 hammer, sorry I meant to say impaction force transmitting tool. By the time the fuel pump has recirculated a full tank of fuel to effectively de-sex or kill off the algae, it would still leave the dead algae around.

So, save your money. Rather, siphon or pump off and/or circulate the lowest stratum of diesel through a real filter... even if it is only wadded up handi-wipes in a coffee can with punched holes. You can even come up with the Mk2 modification to this yourself. Now this will quickly show you what you are dealing with. Is it submicroscopic, sludge, goo or even regular water? If it all looks OK then your regular 10 micron filter should handle the rest quite handily. ( You do have one of those, right? Preferably with a clear bowl and water separator to see if there is any water as well)

As to the storage age of fuel: My 200gals are about 6 to 8 years old and run just fine in both the Perkins engine and Westerbeke AC generator. The fuel oil shelf-life below ground is I believe some tens of million of years, so I would not sweat about a few more years above ground. Keeping your tank sealed and water out is of far more importance in preventing algae. A magnet might deal with submicroscopic rust particles, but so will a good filter as well. As I have done, adding a good biocide during a refill can also help.

Vroom! Many happy start-ups.

Ivo
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Old 09-01-2010, 04:37 AM   #6
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A small correction:- the cause of problems in stored diesel is Bacteria: Click Bacteria

Algae requires light to thrive - deprive it of light and it will not: Click Algae

For example:- if diesel is stored in a glass tank with an opening and exposed to sunlight for say 8 hours every day, bacteria will invade the Diesel, some will die excreting nitrates which will allow algae to increase the amount of nutrients that the algae requires to thrive.

Deny the algae light and it will die.

The use of a biocide in Diesel fuel is to kill bacteria - Because Diesel is probably stored in light proof tanks in 99% of sail boats Algae is not a problem.
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Old 09-01-2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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Yeah, I think we've all gotten distracted by the "Algae-X" - BP says bacteria and fungus are the problems, no mention of algae.

As far as shelf life, just because crude oil is millions of years old doesn't mean that the refined products from that will survive in its refined form for long periods of time. For that matter, all oil pulled from the ground is not equal. One doesn't wisely burn lubricating oil in place of diesel, for example.

Regardless, it's pretty clear that degradation of diesel is a significant problem considering the many systems on the market for filtering and cleaning the fuel. And in my experience, most sailboat owners report at least one instance of engines failing due to contaminated fuel. And I will bet that 90% of first-time owners of used boats find, within a year of buying the boat, that their engine fails from bad fuel. Because it had been sitting so long in the tank before the boat was bought, and the new owner wasn't aware of the potential problems.

Ironically, we've had several (at least 5) instances of engine problems due to foul diesel, yet I still forget to warn new owners of this very common problem. Why I seem to have this blind spot I can't explain, so I hope this serves as a reminder to me, and to all others who read this thread.

Doh!
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:21 PM   #8
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Yes, both JeanneP and Mmnetsea are both correct. However, I've given up trying to change the common wisdom of algae causing the fuel problem. After all, the device was not named Bacteria-X but was called Algae-X for a good reason. Yes, it more likely are bacteria like those that are supposedly munching up the undersea oil plumes off the LA coastline in the Gulf. My surmise tells me there may well be a species of non-photosynthesizing algae that evolved to just live off of oil while in complete darkness. Stranger things have evolved but I confess to not having researched these "algae". Anyway, who'd think you can still believe any studies that were put out by British Propaganda for digestion by Joe Citizen? You did notice they also sell you a product to cure just these problems, be it bacteria, fungi or having copper in contact with diesel, supposedly another no-no. Yes, BP would have made Joe Goebbels real proud!

There are lots of products advertised with little known benefit, like bottled water. Just because something sells it's not necessarily cost effective, unless you are the seller. The refining and catalytic cracking of crude oil does change it's structure and diesel will oxidise/degrade to some degree over time. Yet again, will it still work or should you just discard it? If so, where to? Another biohazard or added CO2 to the carbon footprint? . It's best to simply just use it IMHO. Some extra exhaust deposits perhaps but again what is the cost/benefit of it all?

Speaking to a knowledgeable power cruiser who ran and serviced diesel equipment ashore for most of his life, he pretty much 'bah-humbug'd the "old diesel" story unless

the fuel actually HAS been contaminated by water. That I think is the key, as water is essential for all life. At least on this orb.

Ivo
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Old 09-01-2010, 10:54 PM   #9
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your responses to my question.

I have looked into this diesel fuel problem and have found that after a short period of time certain molecules in diesel start to seperate. One of the first results is asphalt being extracted and settling to the bottom of the tank. This is obviously the sludge that I see in my Racor filter bowls and the filter elements?

My understanding is that the magnet in the AlgaeX device is supposed to "realign positive and negative electrons in these molecules". That is all well and good but if this device only works while your engines are running, what has happened to the asphalt that has accumulated while your engines are not running? ( I will have to seriously consider dropping that magnet into the bottom of the tanks to keep those molocules together while the boat is tied to the dock for long periods.)

Anyway, the organism problem, I have to assume, still exists but can probably be controlled with an additive. Here is a stupid question, if I put an additive in my fuel and it does work to kill the organisms will sedement be produced that could clog a filter?

I do not ever remember this being as big a problem in the past as it is today. In the old days you could almost throw anything into your tank and the diesel engines would burn it just fine. I have the old type diesels (Ford Lehmans) but have to keep an eye on my filters more often. I understand that with the new TIER II and TIER III diesel engines all these problems are much more serious to them. I wonder if the change in the sulphur content the EPA requires in diesel fuel has anything to do with the asphalt problem? I,m sure it must.

As a side note I have also learned that the shelf life of gasoline with ethanol added is from 15 to 20 days approximately. I learned of this when my Honda outboard developed carburator problems and would not run. After a $600.00 repair bill, from my Honda dealer, to rebuild all three carburators, I was told about the ethanol problem. The carburator jets are so small in the Honda engines they will not pass any foreign objects and are so small they cannot be cleaned out chemically or otherwise. For those who might say that the dealer put one over on me, well I hope not, he is my son and is an authorized dealer for Honda and Yamaha outboard motors and has a number of other customers with the same problem. (He also took quite a bit off of the bill. Who says kids are that bad nowadays?)

Have enjoyed the discussion and if anyone can further enlighten me fell free to reply.

Sandman
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:21 AM   #10
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Sandman

Wow, jets so tiny that even chemicals can't clean them??? But those tiny jets can sure clean your wallet! I thought ethanol is a pretty small molecule, much smaller than the rather corpulent benzene type rings and carbon chains I'd expect to find in gas and diesel. Perhaps some more Houdini Voodoo at work here too?

But I digress. However, I now did google some AlgaeX test reports showing glowing results but... but... they usually seem to come from a SYSTEM test, not JUST an uppity magnet gizmo. Nothing showed a simple single pass comparison result between a magnetized versus a regular fuel line. It seemed to me the 10-micron filter and water separator ( in the #500 system ) did all the work. The sales literature spin however seems to suggest their magnets magically remove water and bugs and carcasses, and yeah, verily also realign the magnetic psychopath molecules back into becoming prim and proper members of the diesel clan. You are right, without continued fuel circulation the magnet is not much use until at least most of the tank has been recirculated. The sales blurb does not dwell on that fact, nor on the ghastly remains of deceased bacterial brethren, kilt daid as a doorknob by magnetic force alone.

The asphalt, wax and any other impurities will not vaporize into thin air so you better rely on filters. Just like a magnetic oil sump plug, a magnet is good for the real fine ferrous stuff, rust particles being the most common in any old iron tank. Under those conditions the AlgaeX may actually work, the other benefits I'm very sceptical of, all testimonials withstanding.

Ivo
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Old 09-02-2010, 06:55 PM   #11
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Sandman

Wow, jets so tiny that even chemicals can't clean them??? But those tiny jets can sure clean your wallet! I thought ethanol is a pretty small molecule, much smaller than the rather corpulent benzene type rings and carbon chains I'd expect to find in gas and diesel. Perhaps some more Houdini Voodoo at work here too?

But I digress. However, I now did google some AlgaeX test reports showing glowing results but... but... they usually seem to come from a SYSTEM test, not JUST an uppity magnet gizmo. Nothing showed a simple single pass comparison result between a magnetized versus a regular fuel line. It seemed to me the 10-micron filter and water separator ( in the #500 system ) did all the work. The sales literature spin however seems to suggest their magnets magically remove water and bugs and carcasses, and yeah, verily also realign the magnetic psychopath molecules back into becoming prim and proper members of the diesel clan. You are right, without continued fuel circulation the magnet is not much use until at least most of the tank has been recirculated. The sales blurb does not dwell on that fact, nor on the ghastly remains of deceased bacterial brethren, kilt daid as a doorknob by magnetic force alone.

The asphalt, wax and any other impurities will not vaporize into thin air so you better rely on filters. Just like a magnetic oil sump plug, a magnet is good for the real fine ferrous stuff, rust particles being the most common in any old iron tank. Under those conditions the AlgaeX may actually work, the other benefits I'm very sceptical of, all testimonials withstanding.

Ivo
linnupesea

I appreciate the knowledge you share and the wit with which it is presented. I bow to your knowledge of molecular structures for mine is extremely limited.

I agree with your assessment of the AlgaeX hype however, do I detect doubt regarding clogged jets?

My sons experience with this problem speaks volumes. According to the national Honda service rep, the ethanol causes moisture to form which causes corrosion inside the carbuerator which in turn clogs up the jets with minute debris from the corrosion (see also www.fuel-testers.com). My son has tried through chemical baths, sona baking and physically trying to dislodge the clogs with tiny wire all to no avail. It seems that the problems caused by ethanol to internal combustion engines is serious and wide spread throughout the engine (according to fuel-testers).

With confirmation from you and the others on the AlgaeX, and I am of the same opinion, I have decided to build a fuel polishing system that I have read about on another forum. It employs a Racor 1000ma filter using a 2 micron element, a 12vdc 3gpm continous duty pump, various shut-off valves , fittings and hose along with a timer. This is to be plumbed into the two seperate fuel systems. It allows the fuel to be run through this new bigger filter and back to the tank without passing through either my 500 filter or the two on the engines. Of course the flow will be diverted back to its normal path while running the engines. This system should filter 180 gph, run for 3 hours per tank once a week and keep the fuel healthy and my engines happy.

Again, feel free to comment.

Sandman
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:01 AM   #12
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Sandman

Your filter system sounds like a great idea, perhaps a bit of an over-kill though. Once your fuel is water-free and reasonably clean a normal filter change should take care of any ongoing minor problems. A 10 micron filter should be adequate for the job. After all, you are not running a wafer lab in a clean room with air locks, it's only a diesel. The 2 micron one delivers of course better filtration but also will clog up much faster, at around $6-10 a pop. Personally, I'd consider a day-tank arrangement with a clear sight window to monitor the fuel. That way you could also add known-to-be-good clean emergency fuel anywhere in the podunks to get you through a critical stretch, where any sputtering or dying of the engine would be a big no-no. Plus, you'd use no power and could even filter or decant off from a "bad" tank by using the Armstrong method. I do not have one yet but would like to hear other opinions on one.

As to the Honda corrosion issues, it sounds as if they are saying the ethanol essentially "combusts" or oxidizes, yielding carbon and water in the process??? (as you lernt in sKooL

Now why the manufacturers cannot come up with a superior non-corroding jet material is beyond me. We pay boat-bucks for the stuff so why not a little gold plating in the right places? Try corroding that then.

I think the 20/80 rule is great for all boat projects. We tend to focus on small things and overlook bigger issues. On my last trip the the owner changed Racors three times, while the real "low-revs" issue was an incorrectly and only partially deployed folding prop. Later that "fuel starvation" turned out to be clean but bare stainless steel at the bottom of an empty fuel tank which was "impossible" to be empty yet.

Playing the devil's advocate sometimes makes a teensy tiny tad of scepticism and doubt shine through so much better.

.

linnupesea
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Old 09-03-2010, 04:55 AM   #13
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I've had similar problems with carburetted petrol engines on land with ethanol based fuels, to the extent where one I was driving caught fire. Ethanol is fine in modern injected engines but in carburetted engines ethanol should probably be avoided. This is especially the case where the fuel is allowed to stand because ethanol, as noted, will tend to absorb moisture from the atmosphere over time, and it is this moisture that presents the biggest problem rather than ethanol itself.

OTOH I drove a Hyundai for some time with a standard fuel injected engine almost entirely on fuel with 10% ethanol and had no problems.
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Old 09-03-2010, 05:02 AM   #14
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linnupesea

I agree with your assessment of the AlgaeX hype however, do I detect doubt regarding clogged jets?

My sons experience with this problem speaks volumes. According to the national Honda service rep, the ethanol causes moisture to form which causes corrosion inside the carbuerator which in turn clogs up the jets with minute debris from the corrosion (see also www.fuel-testers.com). My son has tried through chemical baths, sona baking and physically trying to dislodge the clogs with tiny wire all to no avail. It seems that the problems caused by ethanol to internal combustion engines is serious and wide spread throughout the engine (according to fuel-testers).

W

Again, feel free to comment.

Sandman
I have experienced same problem with ethanol added gasoline ( called gasohol here) when left it in a carburetor for a long period eg a month. The motor started OK but would not idle. Reason the idling jet was blocked - only ONE remedy that works is a VERY fine steel wire to clear the tiny hole in the tube of the jet.

Next time I service the carb I will photograph the jet under a microscope or good magnifyer.
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