Diesel Fuel: Understanding the Different Types

Diesel Fuel: Understanding the Different Types

Affirm CollaboratorFebruary 17, 2020

Diesel engines run on diesel fuel, which is more efficient than gasoline because it has more energy available. When exhaust fumes from conventional diesel engines were found to cause cancer, manufacturers developed clean diesel engines, and they are the predominant form on the roads today. Diesel engines today are cleaner burning, more efficient, and more durable than their predecessors and gasoline engines. Understanding the different types of diesel fuel will give you a better understanding of the engine itself and how it works.

Standard Diesel Fuel

Increased restrictions on diesel fuel has had a huge impact on cleaning up the exhaust. The sulfur content of diesel fuel is now restricted to 15 parts per million (ppm), when previously it was as high as 550 ppm. The ultralow sulfur diesel is derived by extra refining of the fuel. Standard diesel fuel comes in two grades: diesel 1 or 1-D and diesel 2 or 2-D. Just like gasoline is rated by its level of octane, diesel is rated by its cetane. The rating is based on how easy it is to ignite the fuel and how fast it burns, so the higher the cetane number, the more volatile it is. Most vehicles use a fuel that has a rating between 40 to 55. Most manufacturers specify using diesel 2 in their engines for normal driving conditions. Most semi-trucks use 2-D because of its better stability over 1-D and superior fuel economy over long distances. You won’t have to worry about mixing things up at the pump, because most diesel fuels are blends that meet the climate and conditions that it’s being sold in.

Bio Diesel Fuel

The greatest feature of the diesel engine is that it can run on almost anything as a fuel source. When it debuted in the early 20th century, it was powered by peanut oil. Increasing environmental concerns are pushing the diesel engine into the mainstream because of this. People are seeking out diesel-powered vehicles so they can convert their vehicle to a lean mean green machine. Bio diesel fuel is made up of plant, animal, and biological materials like animal fats and used vegetable oils. Those materials can’t be used as is, though. They will coagulate and clog the fuel system if not treated beforehand. They must be refined to remove solids and to help the bio diesel flow like a liquid. In its natural state, the oils and fats in diesel would never make it to the engine, so it must be treated. It is still a recycled product, and the cleanest-burning fuel source available.


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