Precision Fuel Solutions
We clean and repair most fuel tanks up to about 1K gallons on shore also!
Fuel polishing is very good at removing water from a tank and light debris suspended in the fuel. Beyond that, its value is very limited, especially on marine tanks. If the fuel in the tank is polished regularly, once or twice a year, the accumulation of sludge can be slowed down. An on-board polishing system will slow the accumulation even more. At Precision Fuel Solutions fuel polishing is usually just incidental to the actual tank cleaning.
So then, how do you clean a marine tank?
That depends on the situation, but most often it involves removing the fuel, installing access plates, and steam cleaning or pressure washing the interior. Then, after a thorough inspection to make sure the tank is sound, the tank is closed up and the fuel polished back in.
Clean fuel goes back into a clean, sound tank. Top this off with changing and/or rebuilding the fuel filters, adding biocide, and clearing the lines if necessary. The fuel supply system is then clean and ready for a trip to Alaska, or maybe Mexico! No Surprises!
Fuel polishing? That's what you need to have done when your fuel filters are clogging and your engine is shutting down....right?
Well, sorry to break the bad news but, probably not.
Some companies offering fuel polishing in Seattle, and across the country, tout it as "tank cleaning." The problem is, it isn't. It is really just fuel cleaning. By the time most tank problems are noticed it is too late for fuel polishing to be of much benefit. This is especially true of pleasure vessels that often sit idle and are primarily used in calm water. On that occasion that the weather kicks up unexpectantly then the tank rears its ugly head! Months and years of accumulated sludge in the tank makes its way up the supply line, clogs the fuel filters and the engine starves. A mobile generator can have much the same problem after a trip over a bumpy road.
The 36ft commercial gillnet fishing boat I owned in Alaska never had these problems. Why? Because we ran thousands of gallons of fuel through it each summer, often in 10-20ft seas. No sludge had the time or the calm conditions to accumulate and stick to the tank bottom, none of the fuel was ever over 8-9 months old. Another thing that probably helped was that it was a fiberglass tank. Fiberglass and plastic tanks do not condensate as much as metal and seem to discourage biological growth.
Precision Fuel Solutions offers fuel polishing but we don't sell it as tank cleaning. Due to the configuration of most marine tanks enough flow cannot be established to stir up the accumulated sludge and debris so that it can be filtered out. Multiple baffles and small access points make even high volume polishing ineffective and potentially very messy (and expensive!)
This tank is a best case scenario for fuel polishing without access plates. The fill and the sending unit hole are at opposite ends and sides. Even in this case just polishing will not clean many areas of the tank. The sludge in a tank is seldom a runny liquid. It is usually more like packed dirt and requires quite a bit of force to break loose from the tank bottom.
How do you remove it? A fuel polisher could possibly exert a maximum of 50-100 psi out of a spray nozzle, any higher would be very unsafe. A pressure washer safely exerts 1200+psi. Its really no contest.
If you had good enough access into all three chambers you could probably remove a good portion of this crud with a high volume-high pressure fuel polish. If you have that good of access though, or install access plates, why not just remove the fuel and actually clean and inspect it.
By Les Newell Owner of PFS
Fuel Polishing vs Tank Cleaning