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Why the price difference on diesel when we get into the colder months?

Great question with a complicated answer.  First, a little background on diesel itself.  According to Wikipedia, “Diesel fuel is prone to waxing or gelling in cold weather; both are terms for the solidification of diesel oil into a partially crystalline state. Below the Cloud Point the fuel begins to develop solid wax particles giving it a cloudy appearance. The presence of solidified waxes thickens the oil and clogs fuel filters and injectors in engines. The crystals build up in the fuel line (especially in fuel filters) until a point that the engine gets starved of fuel causing it to stop running.

The Cold Filter Plugging Point (CFPP) is based on a standardized test that indicates the lowest temperature of diesel fuel to still pass through a standardized filtration device in a specified time when cooled under certain condition. Similarly the "Low Temperature Flow Test" (ASTM D4539[1]) indicates the winter performance of diesel with improver additives. Note that both the CFPP and LTFT temperature is some degrees above the Pour Point temperature when diesel fuel loses its fluid characteristics so that pumps would stop operating.” (retrieved Nov. 1, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_diesel_fuel)

The important temperature is the CFPP since that is when your engine will become starved for fuel and stop.  Generally in our area, this is approximately 5° F with a gel point of about 0 to -5° F.

Historically, there are two methods to try to avoid this eventuality. The oldest method is to blend #1 diesel with the #2 diesel.  We purchase #2 diesel year round since it is the better fuel to operate in your vehicle.  All diesel has paraffin wax crystals in it that aide in the lubrication of your engine.  #2 diesel burns at a higher BTU rate than #1 diesel but #1 diesel has less paraffin wax in it so when you blend these fuels, your mileage will be reduced but the chance of gelling is reduced.  Generally, you can gain 5° F for each 10% of #1 diesel you blend, meaning an 80/20 blend (which is what we are selling right now) is good to a -10° F gel point or -5° F CFPP.

The second method to avoid gelling is to add a winter additive.  These are generally added at the refinery but they can also be added at the bulk plant or your own tank.  This is the lower cost method for treatment of fuel but it is trickier to ensure that the additive is correctly applied or else it will not work properly.  Additive must be added at the ‘pour point’ of diesel which is approximately 48° F.  If the diesel isn’t warm enough, the additive will not mix and will do no good.  This is critical if you are adding your own winter additive.  It’s also a great question to ask your fuel dealer.

Uravan Supply is blending their fuel at a rate of 80% #2 diesel with 20% #1 diesel.  Sometimes the fuel also contains an additive.  We purchase this higher priced product since our main clientele are trucks that are heading into the high country.  This higher priced, lower temperature product may not be for you if you are not traveling out of the area and don’t anticipate the temperature to drop below 0° F. 

Please be aware, there are no guarantees on fuel to prevent gelling.  We do our best to anticipate the needs of our customers and provide them with the highest quality product at the lowest price.  There is absolutely no way that gelling can always be avoided but rest assured that we are doing our best to provide you with fuel that will perform at maximum value.  We do test our fuels periodically to ensure that we are getting what we need and that the refineries are doing their part.  You are welcome to look at them whenever you stop in.

There are two things you can do with your own fuel tanks to ensure optimum fuel performance out of your own tank:  1) Look for water in your tank by strapping it or shine a flashlight in to see if you can detect a difference in the fluid. 2) Don’t let your fuel set for too long.  Two months is about the maximum.  Diesel will mold over time since it naturally creates condensation.  You can purchase additives to clean this up and avoid it in the future.

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