Assessing the impact of FAME and diesel fuel composition on stability and vehicle filter blocking

Kesavan Gopalan, Christopher Chuck, Christopher Roy-Smith, Christopher Bannister

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In recent years, there has been an impetus in the automotive industry to develop newer diesel injection systems with a view to reducing fuel consumption and emissions. This development has led to hardware capable of higher pressures, typically up to 2500 bar. An increase in pressure will result in a corresponding increase in fuel temperature after compression with studies showing changes in fuel temperatures of up to 150 °C in 1000-2500 bar injection systems.
Until recently, the addition of Fatty Acid Methyl Esters, FAME, to diesel had been blamed for a number of fuel system durability issues such as injector deposits and fuel filter blocking. Despite a growing acceptance within the automotive and petrochemical industries that FAME is not solely to blame for diesel instability, there is a lack of published literature in the area, with many studies still focusing on FAME oxidation to explain deposit formation and hardware durability.
The majority of studies into diesel degradation are conducted under non-representative laboratory conditions, or are extrapolated from the deposits found in filters from vehicles with failed injectors. In this study, the cause of this degradation was investigated by using a novel High Pressure Common Rail (HPCR) non-firing rig designed to mimic a diesel common rail system, simulating realistic, albeit accelerated, operating conditions. The degree of deposition on the system fuel filter was monitored, for both petroleum diesel (B0), RF79 (B0), Bx (where x is percentage volume/volume of FAME) and surrogate diesel fuel components.
A systematic study of synthetic surrogates demonstrated that, as well as FAME, any base fuel component, under sufficiently high pressures and temperatures experienced in the HPCR are prone to degradation irrespective of the concentration of the component in the original fuel. The most unstable component acts as the instigator, thus promoting fuel oxidation. The other components in the fuel such as FAME, aromatic and cycloalkane portions will also oxidise and eventually polymerise to form solids blocking the filter. This also demonstrates that while a large body of work on the oxidative instability of biodiesel in the chemical laboratory is indicative of instability this does not mimic what is seen under more realistic vehicle conditions and the focus on FAME instability is misleading.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019
EventInternational Powertrains, Fuels & Lubricants Meeting - San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk, San Antonio, USA United States
Duration: 22 Jan 201924 Jan 2019


ConferenceInternational Powertrains, Fuels & Lubricants Meeting
Abbreviated titleSAE PFL
Country/TerritoryUSA United States
CitySan Antonio
Internet address


  • diesel fuel
  • stability
  • oxidation
  • Biodiesel


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