The Iowa Department of Agriculture recently reported instances of fuel filters plugging at several diesel fuel retailers in central and northeast Iowa. Some of the diesel fuel in the system clogged the size 30-micron filters required by Iowa law to be used on pumps at retail stations.
The ag department, as well as fuel suppliers, recommends farmers and off-road equipment users install size 30-micron or finer filters on on-farm storage tanks and other private storage tanks — which isn’t required by law — as a precaution.
The department last month worked with pipeline terminal operators, fuel retailers and petroleum marketers following the reports of dispenser fuel filter plugging.
The filters required at retail locations have been effective. The ag department has received no reports of any vehicles having diesel-fuel-related issues. While dispenser filters have been effective in preventing any vehicle issues, retailers are exercising additional caution by replacing filters at shorter intervals to prevent any potential issues.
If farmers or others with private fuel tanks do have issues with their equipment’s fuel system, they may want to first consider checking the impacted equipment’s fuel filter. If any Iowan has an issue, they can report it to the Iowa Ag Department’s Weights and Measures Bureau at 515-725-1492.
Mark Cobb, president of Cobb Oil Co. at Brighton in southeast Iowa, says almost all his farm customers already use 30-micron tank filters. He’s urging the rest to install them. “The filters did what they were supposed to do,” Cobb says. “They are a good insurance policy to prevent engine troubles.”
Cobb, chairman of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa, says the primary problem was identified by the Iowa Department of Ag’s investigation of the issue. An anti-drag agent is often injected into pipelines during cold-weather months to keep diesel fuel flowing fast and efficiently. An injector apparently malfunctioned and pumped in too much.
Use proper filters
Cobb Oil tested its tanks and some customer tanks as a precaution and found no issues. “We feel comfortable and confident there shouldn’t be problems heading into spring planting,” Cobb says. Still, he and other fuel industry specialists say farmers need to use best management practices when it comes to on-farm fuel storage and engine maintenance.
That includes replacing engine and tank fuel filters regularly. Also, you can ask fuel suppliers to test tanks for water. Moisture can cause microbial growth, fuel oxidation and injector problems. If you have a 30-micron filter on your tank, you shouldn’t have any problems, he says. Tank filters are less expensive and easier to change than filters on equipment.
Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, urges farmers to use biodiesel this spring. The fuel is competitively priced and sometimes lower than petroleum diesel, in part due to economic incentives. By using biodiesel, he says farmers help themselves several ways:
• Biodiesel can have a cleansing effect to help keep storage tanks clean. If used the first time, fuel filters will need to be changed more frequently, at least initially.
• Biodiesel is also known for excellent lubricity to help engines run smoothly.
• Soybean oil, along with animal fat and corn oil, is the primary feedstock used in biodiesel. A study prepared for the National Biodiesel Board indicates, on average, soybean prices are nearly 63% higher and soybean meal prices are $21 per ton lower due to the biofuel.
“As farmers get ready for spring fieldwork and planting, it’s good to use best management practices for on-farm fuel storage and use, which includes biodiesel,” Kimberley says. “Do yourself a favor and use a fuel predominantly grown and produced in Iowa.”
The state’s farmers produced 562 million bushels of soybeans in 2017, ranking Iowa second in the nation. Iowa’s 12 biodiesel plants produced more than 300 million gallons of biodiesel, leading the nation.