Sticky fuel—a problem for boaters

Published: Thursday, 05 January 2023

IT WAS last summer that River Canal Rescue highlighted the problem of sticky fuel and how this was causing an uncharacteristic peak in fuel-related component breakdowns not linked to diesel bug.

Managing Director, Stephanie Horton, comments:

Stopped working within a week

“We first became aware of the issue when we had two identical jobs where fuel injectors were diagnosed as needing an overhaul, yet their replacements stopped working within a week, and the injection pumps were found to have failed even though the diesel was clear and bright.

“Our engineers found in both cases, the injector pump racks had seized solid and the nozzles were blocked, and when replacing the plunger filter head, they found the fuel had a sticky, syrup-like substance. Alongside stuck injection pump racks, injectors and filter head plunger failures, we also had cases of fuel filters blocking with wax inside them.

“Initially we suspected sugar in the fuel, but sugar stays crystalline instead of dissolving. We’re now considering it may be related to a change in fuel and fuel treatment additives. This is not contamination in the traditional sense (all the samples sent away for analysis are clear); it’s only the smell of turps that alerts us to a problem.

“Following discussions with several leading fuel analysis companies, we’re now working with a university lab to use IR spectrum analysers and range of samples/treatments to see if we can identify what is causing sticky fuel.”

Cases increasing

River Canal Rescue is taking these steps as cases are increasing to two-three per week, and although there are some trends and patterns developing in the more cases it sees, it tells it is important to have scientific evidence to back-up the theories, with Stephanie concluding:

As an industry we must work together to find a solution.”