Fuel additives – is there a Marmite factor?

Neil Ryding, managing director of Fuel Additive Science Technologies Ltd., shares his opinions with Oil Installer readers…

Amongst the boiler servicing and boiler manufacturing fraternity, our experience is that the very mention of the word ‘additive’ can elicit extremes of reaction. These reactions vary from the downright hostile and dismissive to the all-embracing, born-again convert. This is very frustrating.

Those of us currently in the business of fuel additives must admit that history is not in our favour. Even additives bearing reputable oil company brands from 25 years ago were found wanting and came a cropper, which has left a nasty taste for those old enough to remember, and a legacy for the rest of us to overcome.

The problems then were due to a poor understanding of the unique needs of domestic equipment at a time when fuel technology centres were devoting all their efforts to petrol, diesel and even heavy oil. Regrettably, one or two opportunists remain, content to bottle ‘me-too’ or ‘catch-all’ products, having scant chemical or application knowledge. In this regard, we can understand a certain reticence. But rest assured, there exist those within the industry who have taken the time to understand the ground-level issues, to assess what is required and to provide dedicated products.

Many fuel suppliers now use additives

We estimate that approximately 20+% of the UK’s domestic kerosene supply currently contains additive, either sold as a constituent of a premium fuel or as a discrete bottle. Interestingly, a similar percentage of people buys premium petrol and diesel from a forecourt. This percentage increases year-on-year and the number of litres of additised kerosene burned in the UK now runs into the many billions.

The reputable suppliers of domestic fuel additives are all industry stalwarts and additives are formulated on a ‘no-harms’ basis. That is, they are blended and tested to ensure no chemical or mechanical damage to equipment or the combustion process will ensue as a result of their use. We challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Many fuel suppliers now use additives as part of their technical and commercial offering, seeking both to eliminate or address operational problems and to ‘future proof’ their businesses as we move towards decarbonisation, something with which OFTEC is intimately involved. Additives have a key role here too.

Good emissions are dependent on good quality fuel and the best possible combustion – both are enhanced by the correct use of additives. Always assuming that tank housekeeping and filter maintenance are up to scratch (see Oil Installer Spring 2015, p35), then a good kerosene additive will maintain the fuel quality in storage whilst at the same time optimise fuel atomisation leading to more complete combustion.

Additives will play an increasingly important part

The importance of fuel quality in storage was highlighted during last summer, which was hotter than normal. Many domestic fuel tanks, filled during the early spring, did not require top up until October. Consequently, the fuel was over six months in storage, for much of that time being ‘baked’, leading to rapid ageing and micro-deposit formation – and operational problems from September onwards.

There is much current talk too about bio-kerosene. Let’s be very clear on this, domestic kerosene supplied as BS2869:C2 does not and cannot contain fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) – the bio-component used in diesel. Other alternative paraffinic-type hydrocarbons can be used, however, provided that they don’t alter the overall fuel standard.

There is still much work to do here. Like it or not, additives will play an increasingly important part of a fuel blend as the introduction of a bio-component is likely to alter the cold flow characteristics, the rate of fuel ageing (storage stability), atomisation characteristics, fouling tendencies (especially in vaporising burners) and water pick-up issues.

This is not to be a prophet of doom, but just to fix the position of additives as an inherent part of the industry as they now are in the automotive world. Indeed, the latest edition of the fuel standard (2017) recommends the use of appropriate fuel additives to maintain equipment operability, ameliorate emissions and improve equipment durability.

Endorsements for Exocet fuel additive
“Around the time of 2009/10, our normally quiet aftersales phone lit up like a beacon and we fielded calls from long-standing ESSE oil burning customers who were complaining their appliances were sooting up and smoking out.
We spoke to contacts in the trade and found out there had been changes to the composition of the fuel delivered from the refinery. One customer reported he only ever cleaned his cooker and chimney out once a year, normally before the start of every heating season. Since the fuel had changed, he was now cleaning his cooker out every six weeks!
We contacted Fuel Additive Science Technologies (Exocet) who quickly arranged a meeting here on site to discuss their oil additive products. We listened to their very knowledgeable conversation regarding the changes to the fuel and how their additive performed to combat the new problems.
We tried a sample of their product in a local customer’s cooker and witnessed the effectiveness first hand.Since this experience, ESSE has always recommended using Exocet oil additive and now the aftersales phone is again sat happily gathering dust again!”
David Randlesome, technical and after sales manager, Esse Engineering

“We have used Exocet products in oil appliances for a few years now and have really noticed the difference in reduced combustion deposits when returning to service the same appliance a year later. Especially good on AGA wick burning cookers.”
Rob Barton, Barton Oil Burner Services