Sunday, May 5, 2013

New methods for detecting fuel adulteration

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Fuel adulteration is a big problem that is caused by both greed and high fuel taxes. It works this way: Disreputable fuel stations often mix higher-priced diesel and gasoline products with cheap hydrocarbons or even solvents. These “dirty fuels” not only affect the drivability of automobiles but also harm the environment with increased tailpipe emissions. Thus, detecting adulterated fuel is important, especially at the distribution point.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International developed some methods to improve the detection of adulterated fuels and fuel quality. These include the following:

- Density test. This involves the use of hydrometers and digital densitometers to measure the density of the fuel sample. As fuel products and hydrocarbons have different densities, it is easy to find out whether the fuel sample is adulterated or not.

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- Distillation test. This utilizes the different boiling points of different liquids in the fuel sample to determine whether the fuel is pure or not.

- Evaporation test. This makes use of evaporation techniques to detect fuel adulteration.

However, as most of these methods are not suitable for field use and have poor sensitivity when used to detect the extent of adulteration, a new technique was developed: adulteration detection by ultrasound. As the viscosity and density properties of fuel change during adulteration, the speed of sound in the adulterated fuel will be different when compared to that in the unadulterated fuel.

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Since millions of people use automobiles every day, detecting fuel adulteration is very important to decrease the degradation of a vehicle’s drivability and reduce harmful emissions.

Dr. Ali Ghalambor has written countless books on natural gas and petroleum engineering. Visit this Facebook page for more industry-related news and articles.

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