C magazine

Fueling up

Woman checking fuel tank for contaminants

Certified Energy Specialist Abbey Heenan from CoMark Energy Coop helps producers maintain their fuel tanks.

Aug 22, 2019

When Kansas farmer Kip Smith learned the fuel injectors in his trusty 2005 Versatile four-wheel articulated tractor were bad, he immediately knew the culprit: water in the fuel.

To find the source, he turned to Certified Energy Specialist Abbey Heenan from CoMark Energy Coop, which serves Two Rivers Cooperative based in Geuda Springs, Kan.

“Abbey pulled samples from our fuel tank and discovered water in the tank. She made sure the tank was cleaned and we knew how to prevent water from getting in again,” says Smith. “Our entire operation runs on diesel engines. We have to make sure the fuel we’re using is the best and that it’s stored correctly.”

Producers talking with a certified energy specialist 
Kansas producers Kyle, left, and Kip Smith talk with Abbey Heenan about fuel tank options for their 4,000-acre operation.

Is Your Tank Working for You?

Make sure your fuel tank is working efficiently and you have enough fuel to power your operation with help from two programs.

Remembering to fill your bulk tank doesn’t need to be stressful with the Cenex Automated Fuel Delivery (AFD) system. An electronic fuel sensor on your tank signals when fuel drops below a predetermined level, automatically alerting your distribution center it’s time for a refill.

A variety of fuels can be delivered through the program, including Cenex® premium diesel fuel. Tank levels, fuel usage and deliveries can all be monitored online. With the monthly pricing option, cost is set at the 30-day average price of fuel over the billing cycle, helping to protect you from market swings. The monitoring system calculates the amount of fuel used and only bills you for that amount.

If more on-farm storage makes sense for your operation, upgrade tank size through Storage for Pennies, a lease-to- own bulk fuel storage program CHS officers to local cooperatives. The price of the tank is figured into your fuel costs, translating into full tank ownership in three to five years.

LEARN MORE by contacting your local cooperative

Storage Decisions

In addition to cleaning the tank, it was a good opportunity to evaluate storage on Smith Family Farms, the 4,000-acre operation Kip owns with his brother, Kyle.

Working with Heenan, Smith determined their wheat, corn, soybean and sorghum operation uses 18,000 gallons of Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® premium diesel fuel every year to power farm equipment. That volume meant their 1,000-gallon tank was being filled multiple times a week during planting and harvest seasons. Right-sizing to a 2,000-gallon tank allowed the brothers to have more fuel at their disposal. “When we need to get to the field, we need to do it as soon as possible. We can’t be sitting around waiting on fuel,” says Smith.

To decrease fuel wait times even more, the brothers used their smaller 1,000-gallon fuel tank to hold Cenex Roadmaster XL® premium diesel fuel for their three semis and pickup trucks. Having the tank on-site saves hours of downtime by avoiding inconvenient trips to town.

“Before, we’d take a 30-minute trip to town to fill up our semis, which had to be done before the trucks were loaded,” says Smith. Rather than face a major burden during harvest, now the Smiths can fill up semis and trucks as needed with much less advance planning.

Supply Confidence

The brothers also ensure they have the fuel they need when they need it with the Cenex Automated Fuel Delivery (AFD) system. A tank sensor lets AFD systems know when the Ruby Fieldmaster tank is low and schedules a fuel delivery. “AFD gives us peace of mind, knowing we’ll have the fuel we need on hand, even during our busy seasons,” says Smith.

Now that the brothers have two tanks, they keep them as healthy as possible by changing the fuel filters every year and testing regularly for water in the tank. They also worked with Heenan to upgrade to faster pumps on both tanks. “We were pumping 5 gallons per minute; now it’s so much faster.”

The formula used in Cenex premium diesel fuels also helps manage the water in fuel. The demulsifier additive found in Ruby Fieldmaster and Roadmaster XL helps keep moisture from entering the fuel system by separating water from fuel and dropping the water to the bottom. This keeps moisture out of the combustion chamber and reduces filter plugging.

“Engine repair can cost upward of $50,000, plus downtime,” says Smith. “We can’t have that happen, so we use a fuel with a complete additive package to protect our equipment.”

Keep Your Fuel Tank Healthy

Poor bulk fuel tank maintenance can result in fuel that is polluted with dirt, water and other contaminants. That can hurt equipment performance and lead to costly repairs. Here’s how to keep your tank healthy so your fuel performs at its best.

Bulk fuel tank