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Amber colored gel in fuel oil

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koocoojoe
koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
Hi everyone. Been in trades for long time and new to forum looking for some thoughts. I have ran into this twice this year so far with fuel oil. Found a ambered colored gel and fluid in pump strainer. Almost looked like a bunch of amber colored snot. Burner having sputtering and not happy. Oil filter changed a year ago and when I went to change now as I thought it may be plugging up, the filter was actually pure white. I expected some dirty black filter but it was white. Not much of even a red tint. This is from an indoor tank too. Found a bunch of clear to amber looking jelly like stuff in the strainer and on the nozzle. Customer does not typically get a winter mix. Was quite weird. During bleeding pump there was more of this amber looking fluid that came out and got almost half gallon until I finally got the nice red tint fuel. Has been firing fine since. Today ran into the same situation but was on mobile home thermopride. Outdoor oil tank with winter mix blend. Again found the amber looking jelly in strainer and nozzle but this time was nice red tint during pump bleeding. At first thought water but not so sure. It’s like this stuff filled the chamber and soaked in but did not burn. Almost smelled like citronella. Soaked up into front plate gasket and burner gasket along with combustion chamber and didn’t seam to burn. Did more like smolder. Smelled aweful. Any one seen this at all this year or in past? This wasn’t too thick like typical gelling. Not cold enough. Also thought old or bad additives and heard about tank bacteria. Any thoughts would be great. A little stumped.

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  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 393
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    Bio sludge maybe ? Organisms grow is diesel... and jet fuel. There’s bio inhibitors to prevent it.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    Water. Is this a 2 pipe system? Treat the tank with additives.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    SuperTechHVACNUT
  • koocoojoe
    koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
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    Single pipe. I have used the hot 4 in 1 on a regular basis at other homes and it seams to work good. My problem is am I facing a wax problem? Or something else. Outdoor temp here in New Hampshire has not been at a consistent below 20 or so and I would not think that we would already be facing a waxing or gelling problem this year. It is also listed on the delivery slip to be a winter mix. It seams that with both situations that oil delivery was about 2 weeks prior to this issue.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    I’m still going with water. Drain it off the bottom of the tank. Put in additives, don’t rely on the oil company ticket to know if you’re getting winter blend. The oil only 'gels' at that temperature if there is water in the tank, or the bio portion of bio heat. What’s the bio content, if any?

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  • koocoojoe
    koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
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    Water was the original thought. Not sure on bio content. Agreed though don’t always trust what you see on the ticket. I will run some test on the samples I have and recap findings.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    When you bled the half gallon out you should keep it and let it settle for a day or so in a clear jug

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  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 930
    edited January 2020
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    Many years ago, probably 35 or so, at a school in Shanksville, Pa., yes, the same place where Flight 93 (SALUTE) went down with a plane load of the greatest heros and the worst offenders, I was having trouble with an oil burner that would not fire. Long story short, I found that the about 80% of the 10,000 gallon tank was full or a substance that you are describing. I called the biggest oil delivery company I knew to ask what the stuff might be. They said that it was probably an organism that grows in the diesel fuel and that the fix was to have the tank pumped out, clean and treat the oil and the tank and to replace the oil. AS @Motoguy said the problem I had was an organism that lives and grows in the oil. I would take a sample to be tested . By the way, to keep the school warm since it was winter the maintenance dept and I filled a 55 gallon drum and fed the burner from that tank for a number of days until the problem could be rectified. Your problem may be similar.Good luck
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,795
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    The skeptical side of me thinks that oil companies love this “mystery oil-eating organism” story every time they deliver some nasty bottom of their tank slop to a customer.

    NJ Steam Homeowner.
    Free NJ and remote steam advice: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/new-jersey-steam-help/
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    STEVEusaPA
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,205
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    I'm with Steve. Tank is contaminated with water and needs fuel oil treatment. I'd think about running a better filter, like a Garber. I'd probably recommend a Tiger Loop ultra as well as fuel oil treatment.
  • koocoojoe
    koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
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    Thanks guys. This certainly causes havoc on burners and us as technicians as it usually results in multiple trips before it’s all cleared out. I will add some treatment and monitor. Love the name ethicalpaul and yes agreed with the delivery companies.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    The skeptical side of me thinks that oil companies love this “mystery oil-eating organism” story every time they deliver some nasty bottom of their tank slop to a customer.

    Sorry @ethicalpaul, have to disagree. Microbes, sludge, all created by water are real, as you can see in the pictures.
    Can you describe where this "nasty bottom of their tank slop" oil comes from?
    There are basically a few types of oil companies.
    --Most buy their heating oil directly from the refinery or its tank farm. They deliver one or two load per truck per day. There is no bottom of the tank.
    Refineries hardly store any bio mix. 100% Bio is heated & stored and injection mixed when loaded.
    --Some have their own storage. This is very rare in any but the more rural areas. When both ultra low sulfur diesel & bio-diesel came out, storage of pre-mixed bio for resale was a huge problem, and this was the result. It just doesn't store well in large quantities, for long periods of time.
    -And then there are some companies who will pump out a tank when someone converts to gas, and resells what is basically waste oil to unsuspecting customers.

    The best thing a consumer can do is buy their heating oil from a reputable company who buys and loads at the refinery and doesn't have their own storage (if possible). Getting the cheapest oil advertised from an unethical oil company leads to these kinds of problems.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,919
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    The skeptical side of me thinks that oil companies love this “mystery oil-eating organism” story every time they deliver some nasty bottom of their tank slop to a customer.

    Sorry @ethicalpaul, have to disagree. Microbes, sludge, all created by water are real, as you can see in the pictures.
    Can you describe where this "nasty bottom of their tank slop" oil comes from?
    There are basically a few types of oil companies.
    --Most buy their heating oil directly from the refinery or its tank farm. They deliver one or two load per truck per day. There is no bottom of the tank.
    Refineries hardly store any bio mix. 100% Bio is heated & stored and injection mixed when loaded.
    --Some have their own storage. This is very rare in any but the more rural areas. When both ultra low sulfur diesel & bio-diesel came out, storage of pre-mixed bio for resale was a huge problem, and this was the result. It just doesn't store well in large quantities, for long periods of time.
    -And then there are some companies who will pump out a tank when someone converts to gas, and resells what is basically waste oil to unsuspecting customers.

    The best thing a consumer can do is buy their heating oil from a reputable company who buys and loads at the refinery and doesn't have their own storage (if possible). Getting the cheapest oil advertised from an unethical oil company leads to these kinds of problems.
    How does a consumer determine this?

    I'd assume the more oil a company buys the cheaper they get it from the refinery. If that's the case, the cheapest companies should be the ones selling the most product, no?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    @ChrisJ usually the oil company will tell you if you ask. They unwittingly think it's a plus for them..."Hey we have our own storage. If something happens at the refinery, we'll be able to deliver your heating oil..."
    There is no retail buying discount for quantity. I'm paying the same rack price as the largest company around.
    The way (mostly larger) oil companies can buy oil cheaper is to buy wet barrels, futures contracts, hedging contracts, puts/calls,etc. I can really get into it if you wanted me to start another thread.
    You're logic doesn't account for the size of the company and it's overhead. A company doing the most volume, has the most trucks, employees, layers of management, highest expenses and overhead. They have to sell at a higher margin to make a profit, in some cases $00.50/00.60 more per gallon than a smaller company that doesn't have that overhead.
    They are also the companies who offer lock-ins, free 50 gallons of oil. I think I've beaten lock in prices 8 out of the last 10 years (meaning the customer loses), and I'll give every customer 50 gallons free if I'm marking it up .50 extra cents per gallon.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    ChrisJ
  • koocoojoe
    koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
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    Just talked with some reps and one had thought that it almost looked like paraffin wax?
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 930
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    IF you buy your fuel oil from a very reputable dealer and buy all your oil from them most will guarantee that the oil you get is the best quality that you can buy. I just mentioned the Shanksville job because it did happen a could possibly be a problem. In the 40+ years that I was in the boiler business I only saw the organism 2 times. There are also a few creeps and cheats that will sell you cheap and dirty junk oil. I have seen that also. I am not trying to scare anyone but these stories can happen.
  • koocoojoe
    koocoojoe Member Posts: 7
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    Let some samples sit overnight. About half gallon oil. Nice red tint and nothing noted floating on bottom. No signs of water but still doesn’t mean that tank doesn’t have water. After letting this gel type stuff sit for a while it went from amber color to a dark waxy sticky clump. Tested to see how long would take to ignite and was very instant. Burned for a while.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,205
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    #2 fuel oil doesn't burn when hit with an open flame. It needs to be atomized by a burner nozzle and mixed with air to ignite. I've never tried burning oil tank sludge
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,919
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    SuperTech said:

    #2 fuel oil doesn't burn when hit with an open flame. It needs to be atomized by a burner nozzle and mixed with air to ignite. I've never tried burning oil tank sludge

    A wick should burn #2 fine, no?
    I'd assume even a tiki torch could do it. Not sure on the smell........ :)
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment