Protecting sophisticated engines from suspended water

SOUTH African filtration technology is helping companies to save significantly in engine repair and replacement costs. This is achieved by successfully addressing both free and suspended water in fuel, which pose a risk to high-pressure injectors in Tier 3 and more sophisticated engines. Water mixes in with the fuel making it appear cloudy. This free and suspended water instantly turns into steam inside high-pressure injectors in these advanced engines. In severe instances, their tips “shoot” into the cylinders as a result of the high pressure or over-fuelling causing significant heat damage to engines.

Most modern filters are mainly designed to address particle contamination, with very few of these technologies able to attend to suspended water in a sustainable manner. This is despite suspended or free water posing an even greater risk to these engines than particle contamination. So says Andre Steyn, Director of iCerMax, a local manufacturer of solutions for primary, secondary and final filtration for bulk tanks and on-board applications that are helping to address the challenges associated with the poor quality of Africa’s fuel.

“Modern engines are failing in the field simply as a result of a few drops of suspended water, while severely contaminated diesel can result in a significant catastrophe, leading to unwanted downtime and costs. We have seen a marked increase in interest in our technology due to the failure of many sophisticated engines, especially Tier 4 technologies, in a variety of applications, due to water-contaminated fuel. They include essential generators that help supply uninterrupted energy to datacentres through to the agricultural sector that is increasingly relying on tractors that are powered by sophisticated engine technology,” Steyn tells Cape Business News.

The company has also supplied its solutions to a well-known South African original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and they are now permanent features of these construction, mining and agricultural machines. ICerMax has also assisted transporters, mines and the construction industry to overcome the limitations of conventional filtration technology that do not adequately protect these advanced engines from highly contaminated fuels across Africa.

Static cone centrifugal filtration systems, for example, only remove free water and not suspended water. Meanwhile, most standard on-board water filters are manufactured from a rough yellow cellulose filtration medium that cannot remove suspended water. While premium market filters use a white ultra-smooth treated medium to enable water coalescing, they also have their limitations. Water only coalesces on the ultra-smooth filtration media surfaces which then becomes caked with particles. It is, therefore, only effective in removing suspended water in the initial filtration stages.

Further exacerbating this challenge is the inability of spin-off filters to indicate the presence of water. It also only provides limited storage capacity for water away from the filtration medium. As Steyn explains, if not displaced from the filtration medium, water will simply be forced through via differential pressure.

Fulfilling a dual-functional role by coalescing and purifying according to the specific needs of clients, iCerMax’s proprietary technology can be deployed at various stages of the fuel-supply chain, including at bulk fuel receiving, transfer and dispensing stations. It is also being used for storage kidney circulation and tank cleaning to sustainably remove suspended water from very contaminated fuel and bio-diesel blends.

Manufactured from durable materials, the filters are able to withstand multiple surges and the effects of hammering, as well as operating and variances in pressure. They also provide sound capture and micron efficiency under these conditions. The proprietary steel filtration mediums are also not affected by particle caking and by free water contact.

Due to their structural integrity, the iSo-SpecSure filters also eliminate dirt seepages that compromise fuel cleanliness levels.

All of the company’s solutions also allow for real-time monitoring of the filtration process to enable accurate estimation of replacement intervals and maintenance. They also enable the easy draining of water.

“Unfortunately, many companies are still taking a reactive approach to managing the risk of contaminated diesel. They approach us when they suspect that their fuel has been contaminated with water, by which time they have incurred downtime and major costs. With the advancement into Tier 4 engines into the country, this is going to become a very costly practice,” Steyn concludes.

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