C magazine

Freeze warning

Rural road during winter

Dec 16, 2019

Decrease the risk of cold-weather downtime with the right diesel.

When temperatures drop, a farmer’s work doesn’t stop. Keeping equipment running at its peak during colder weather requires a watchful eye on what’s in your fuel tank.

Here’s the main problem that comes when temperatures drop: Diesel fuel hits its cloud point — the temperature at which wax crystals begin to appear in the fuel, also known as gelling. Cloud point is reached in #2 diesel fuel when fuel temperatures hit 4 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where you buy your fuel, says Chad Christiansen, manager of product quality and additives for CHS.

Running the wrong fuel past cloud point leads to performance trouble. “Putting fuel with wax crystals through equipment restricts fuel flow and plugs filters and fuel lines,” he says.

Cold Weather Fuel Tips

  • Use a diesel fuel with additives designed for cold weather, such as Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® Seasonally Enhanced premium diesel fuel.
  • Stay ahead of the weather and begin using a blended fuel before temperatures drop.
  • Blend fuel 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above its cloud point to ensure proper blending.
  • Work with your cooperative energy specialist to choose the best fuel blend for your climate and equipment.
  • If you need to add #1 diesel to your tank, use Cenex #1 diesel fuel with premium diesel additives, if it’s available in your area.
  • When the coldest weather hits, switch to Cenex® Wintermaster® premium diesel, which offers operability to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and has a typical cold filter plugging point (CFPP) of minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit.


Cold Protection

Don’t let cloud point surprise you, Christiansen advises. Crystals can quickly accumulate in fuel during a cold snap and, even when equipment seems to run fine, the crystals will remain and may cause damage. That’s why an early season move to winter-grade blended fuel is recommended, he says.

A good rule of thumb is to switch to a seasonal fuel blend when overnight temperatures dip near 30 degrees Fahrenheit, says Jon Woetzel, CHS Energy technical services manager. Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® Seasonally Enhanced premium diesel is one proven option. It’s a blend of Ruby Fieldmaster #2 premium diesel fuel and #1 diesel fuel with the Cenex premium diesel additive package.

Ruby Fieldmaster Seasonally Enhanced diesel fuel prevents downtime by combining the Cenex premium diesel additive package with other additives, including a cold flow improver, specifically formulated to prevent cold-weather problems. The blend and additives are handled at the refined fuels terminal to eliminate risks that come from inconsistent on-site blending.

Additive Advantage

For optimal cold weather protection, Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® Seasonally Enhanced premium diesel fuel and Cenex Wintermaster® premium diesel fuel use an advanced additive package to optimize power and engine performance and minimize downtime.

  • Start fast. Wax crystal modifiers create a porous, pin-like wax structure on the fuel filter to provide continued cold flow until the engine heats up.
  • Protect your engine. Deicers help prevent water from freezing in the fuel system.
  • Minimize filter clogging. Wax anti-settlement agents reduce wax crystal settlement in equipment and storage tanks.
  • Improve cold flow. Cold flow improver lowers fuel CFPP to help prevent gelling.

Kyle Hiltibrand, certified energy specialist at Ag Partners Coop, Seneca, Kan., sees the importance of using Ruby Fieldmaster Seasonally Enhanced. “Blending is constantly monitored and calibrated at the terminal, so it takes out guesswork for producers. Plus, we are the manufacturer and supplier, so we stand by our product.” Most of the hundreds of fuel customers he works with plan for seasonal blending by October. “We look ahead to make sure they have seasonally enhanced diesel in their tanks and it will have time to reach their equipment before cold hits.”

If more protection is needed, Christiansen says producers can blend in additional #1 diesel fuel with the Cenex premium diesel additive package.

“For every 10 percent of #1 diesel added, the fuel cloud point will drop by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Make the decision in partnership with your cooperative energy supplier so you don’t overbuy #1 diesel.”

Prevent Plugging

In addition to cloud point, producers need to consider their cold filter plugging point (CFPP), which helps determine the low temperature performance of diesel fuel. “When temperatures keep dropping, wax crystals continue to collect on the fuel filter, effectively starving the engine of fuel,” Woetzel says.

For most #2 diesel fuels, which don’t have a cold flow improver additive, CFPP is within a few degrees of the cloud point, he says. Using Ruby Fieldmaster Seasonally Enhanced extends cold weather operability.

“As equipment sits out in cold weather, fuel will get colder than if it’s in a tank, even dropping to the air temperature, so using a fuel with a cold flow improver additive can increase your chances of an efficient startup,” says Woetzel. “Using Ruby Fieldmaster Seasonally Enhanced increases operability and decreases downtime, and does it cheaper than just using a #1 diesel fuel,” says Hiltibrand, who works with dairy and cattle farmers throughout the winter to buy fuel. “It’s a no-brainer if you want to keep your operation running through colder weather.”

Preparing for Zero

If multiple below-zero days are in the forecast, it may be best to switch to Cenex Wintermaster® premium diesel, a blend of 70 percent #1 diesel and 30 percent #2 diesel, to help equipment start in air temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

With a typical CFPP of minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit, “Wintermaster is the ultimate protection in the coldest weather,” says Christiansen.

Fuel blending is a scientific process that adjusts to expected temperatures and equipment needs. Your cooperative energy specialist can answer your questions and provide recommendations for fuels throughout the seasons.

Winterizing Fuel by Degrees

Fuel pump nozzle

Choosing a premium diesel fuel with a cold flow improver additive is the first step to fully protecting your diesel against cold-weather gelling and filter plugging. As temperatures continue to drop, you’ll want to replace #2 diesel with increasing proportions of #1 diesel, which is free of paraffin wax and offers the best operability on the coldest days.

While all these fuels are compatible, don’t make the switch all at once, says Jon Woetzel, CHS Energy technical services manager. Gradually transition equipment from #2 to a #1 diesel using these steps:

  • Below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, use a blend of about 70 percent #2 diesel and 30 percent #1 diesel. Cenex® Ruby Fieldmaster® Seasonally Enhanced premium diesel fuels are blended at the terminal with a complete seasonal additive package, including a cold flow improver.
  • As temps near zero Fahrenheit, use a fuel that is 30 percent #2 diesel and 70 percent #1 diesel. For enhanced low-temperature operability up to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, try Cenex Wintermaster® premium diesel fuel.
  • When temperatures fall below minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, use straight #1 diesel. To keep additives at proper levels, use #1 diesel fuel with Cenex premium diesel fuel additive, if available in your area.

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.