The handling and storage of diesel fuel is typically recognized as safe. For the most part, this is true in its liquid state. Diesel, in its vapor form, is extremely toxic and can readily catch fire (or explode) when exposed to an accelerant such as fan air or oxygen. When diesel vapors come into contact with air, they can ignite and explode.
Is diesel flammable or explosive?
In the United States, diesel fuel accounts for roughly 3% of all automobiles, although it is far more prevalent in other regions of the world, such as Europe. Diesel may be found at many petrol stations and is extremely ubiquitous wherever you go. Most people believe diesel fuel is extremely flammable, but is this true? Is it capable of igniting or perhaps exploding like gasoline (petrol)?
Because it has a flashpoint exceeding 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit, diesel fuel can catch fire and is classed as a flammable liquid by OSHA. Diesel has a flashpoint of about 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius). This means it will not ignite at most ambient temperatures.
Below, we’ll go over the distinctions between flammable and combustible liquids. We’ll also investigate what causes diesel fuel to catch fire…
Your primary concern is the safety of your family. As a firefighter, I strongly advise that everyone installs smoke detectors that do not require battery replacement.
Can diesel spontaneously combust?
Animal and vegetable oils, which are commonly thought of as flammable liquids, contain a hidden danger.
The physical and chemical features of flammable and combustible liquids have been discussed in previous chapters of the Street Chemist. Combustible liquids include animal and vegetable oils. Animal and vegetable oils are big, long-chained hydrocarbons with a high carbon and hydrogen content. They are hydrocarbons that belong to the alkene family.
We see them most frequently at restaurants and food processing plants, as well as in little containers in grocery shops. They are, however, also transported in tanker trucks and rail cars. Animal/vegetable oils, both virgin and recycled, are being used to generate Bio-Diesel fuels, which will increase the number of times they are encountered by emergency responders as alternative fuels continue to develop.
Bio-Diesel fuels are a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative to petroleum diesel fuel. Bio-Diesel reduces net carbon dioxide emissions by 78 percent when compared to petroleum diesel, according to tests. As a result, Bio-Diesel has a lower impact on the ozone layer than petroleum diesel. Bio-Diesel may be used in most diesel engines without requiring any engine modifications. The first diesel engine, created in 1893, was intended to run on peanut oil. Because bio-diesel has a greater flash point than petroleum diesel, it is less flammable. Pure bio-diesel is also considered to be non-toxic.
Animal/vegetable oils, which are commonly considered flammable liquids, have a hidden hazard: they can spontaneously ignite when they come into touch with combustible items with trapped heat. Animal/vegetable oils are non-polar and have high boiling and flash points, narrow flammable ranges, and low ignition temperatures. Linseed oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, soybean oil, lard, butter, and margarine are examples of these liquids.
When rags and other combustible items containing residue are not properly disposed of, or when they come into contact with other combustible objects, these unsaturated hydrocarbon compounds can be deadly. Unsaturated hydrocarbon molecules have a double-bond between two carbon atoms in their chemical structure that reacts with oxygen in the air. While double bonds between carbon atoms are commonly depicted as two dashed lines stacked on top of each other, they are actually arched above and below the carbon atoms, where oxygen in the air may easily attack the bonds.
The double bond is broken in this reaction, resulting in the production of heat. If the heat in a pile of rags is allowed to build up, spontaneous combustion, which is often gradual, will occur over a period of hours. When petroleum-based diesel fuel comes into touch with flammable materials like shop rags, it will not spontaneously ignite. This is because there are no double bonds in the air to react with and break.
Bio-diesel fuel, on the other hand, is created from animal/vegetable oils and spontaneously ignites when it comes into touch with rags or other combustible materials in a manner that allows heat to build up. These oils and bio-diesel fuels have the potential for spontaneous combustion, which firefighters, fire prevention personnel, and fire investigators must be aware of.
A fire broke out in an aircraft hangar at a tiny airport in Verdigris, Oklahoma. The hangar’s second level housed the owner’s living quarters. In the afternoon, workers were polishing wooden pieces on an airplane. The linseed oil rags were stored in a plastic container in the hangar’s storage area, immediately below the living quarters.
The rags soaked in linseed oil spontaneously ignited at 2 a.m., and the fire spread up the wall into the living quarters. Fortunately, the owner possessed smoke detectors, which alerted the family and prompted an immediate contact to the fire service. The fire was immediately put out with the least amount of damage possible. The V-pattern on the wall led directly back to the box containing the linseed oil-soaked rags. There was little mistake about what had happened: the pile’s confinement allowed heat to build up when the double bonds in the linseed oil were broken, which reacted with oxygen in the air and caused spontaneous combustion.
On February 23, 1991, a fire broke out on the 22nd level of Philadelphia’s One Meridian Plaza high-rise skyscraper, which burned for 19 hours. With nearly 300 firefighters on the site, 51 engine companies, 15 ladder companies, and 11 speciald units battled the 12-alarm fire.
It was the largest high-rise office building fire in modern American history, completely engulfing eight stories of the structure, and it was only brought under control when it reached a floor with automatic sprinklers. Unfortunately, three firefighters died in the fire, and another 24 were injured.
The fire was ignited by spontaneous combustion in linseed oil-soaked rags that had been discarded inappropriately after usage. The building was rendered unusable due to PCB contamination caused by the fire, and it is gradually being demolished. This fire would not have occurred if the contractor refinishing panels on the 22nd floor had not recklessly left oil-soaked cleaning rags unsupervised and unprotected in an unoccupied office. The hazard of linseed oil-soaked rag waste spontaneously heating is well known.
The spontaneous combustion of grill cloths that had just been laundered and heaped up on a storage shelf in a rear room off the kitchen caused a fire in a Jacksonville, FL sports bar on May 19, 2006. Grease-stained cloths are not completely grease-free after being washed. The heat from drying the remaining oil increases the breaking of bonds, causing them to spontaneously combust. The internal heat created within the rag pile by spontaneous combustion of the animal and vegetable fats still in the rags resulted in brown patterns when the layers of rags were peeled apart.
Ordinary petroleum compounds, such as motor oil, grease, diesel fuel, and gasoline, to name a few, are saturated because they lack a double bond in their chemical make-up (there is no place for oxygen to attack the structure and break bonds that create heat). They are hydrocarbons that belong to the alkane family. These materials are not combustible on their own!
This truth may surprise some readers, as the author is well aware of numerous fires blamed on soiled rags containing such products. The truth is that those flammable liquids do not spontaneously ignite and cannot begin to burn without the assistance of an ignition source. Animal/vegetable oils, on the other hand, will burn slowly and spontaneously, resulting in flames that may appear to be suspicious due to their lack of natural source. A thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the fire is required before a proper cause can be determined.
Precautions are required by each model fire prevention code to avoid the ignition of components such as animal/vegetable oils.
Rags used with these materials should be removed from buildings and properly disposed of as soon as feasible after usage.
Waste containing animal/vegetable oils must be stored in metal containers with tight-fitting, self-closing lids at a minimum until it is removed from a building and properly disposed of.
It’s a recipe for disaster if you leave these things unsupervised. For fire prevention officials, this is a matter of both education and enforcement.
What would cause a diesel engine to explode?
Flammable gases in the atmosphere, as well as air for combustion, can be brought in through the air intake. This can cause flashbacks through the inlet and exhaust backfires. Engine overspeed can occur if combustible gases, coupled with air and diesel fuel, are consumed, causing the engine to lose control and eventually collapse catastrophically. As a result, unprotected ignition sources would emerge.
Furthermore, as gas is used, there is a chance of an engine misfiring, resulting in an unburned fuel mixture entering the exhaust system. The heat of the exhaust can cause this to detonate, igniting a flammable environment.
Is diesel more explosive than gas?
This is due to the fact that diesel is far less combustible than gasoline. It needs a lot of pressure or a long flame to ignite diesel in an automobile. When you throw a match into a pool of gasoline, however, it doesn’t even contact the surface; instead, it ignites the vapors above the surface.
What temperature will diesel ignite?
Any liquid’s flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which it produces enough vapor to create a flammable combination in the air. If an ignition source is present, the lower the flashpoint temperature, the easier it is to ignite the air. The higher the flashpoint, the safer it is to handle the substance.
The flashpoint of diesel fuel varies depending on the kind of fuel. #2 diesel is the most common type of diesel on the road today. The flashpoint of diesel fuel is between 125 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a ConocoPhillips Material Safety Data Sheet (52 to 82 degrees Celsius). Any liquid’s flashpoint can shift when the pressure in the air around it shifts.
Does diesel freeze in cars?
Fuel efficiency is roughly 10% worse at -5°C than it is at 20°C, according to official fuel testing. Furthermore, when temperatures drop below 0°C, fuel economy can drop by as much as 20% for vehicles travelling less than 4 miles – so what’s going on?
Given that petrol’s freezing point is a cold -60°C, a petrol tank will almost certainly not freeze during even the harshest British winter. Diesel, on the other hand, has a much lower freezing point and is more likely to gel in cold temperatures. To tackle this, fuel firms have developed a summer and winter diesel blend that can withstand temperatures as low as -5°C and as high as -15°C.
Given that neither fuel is significantly affected by cold weather, it’s evident that the problem isn’t with the liquid itself, but rather with the effect of the cold on the car’s mechanics.
Cold weather can impact a variety of components in your car, resulting in a significant reduction in fuel efficiency. We’ve compiled a summary of some of the negative affects that cold weather can have on your car’s fuel economy.
- It takes much longer for your engine to achieve its ideal operating temperature on a cold day. This is especially problematic for short excursions, as the automobile will spend the majority of its time operating at a lower-than-optimal temperature, resulting in poor fuel economy.
- In cold weather, engine oil thickens. This can cause friction between moving parts in the engine and transmission system, resulting in unnecessary fuel use.
- Fans, defrosters, wipers, and heated seats are all electrical components that place additional demand on the battery. As a result, the alternator has a harder time keeping the battery charged, resulting in a decrease in fuel economy.
- It’s common to have to warm up your automobile to defrost and demist the windscreen on bitterly cold mornings. This type of idling has a significant impact on fuel efficiency, with your automobile obtaining zero MPG for the duration.
- Cold air is thicker and denser than warm air, which increases your car’s aerodynamic drag. This requires the engine to work harder, especially at highway speeds.
- In extremely low temperatures, tyre pressures drop somewhat, increasing the vehicle’s rolling resistance.
How is diesel fuel corrosive?
After only 6 months of storage, the corrosion rate of lead samples exposed to diesel fuel containing up to 7% FAME was extremely high (Figure 11).
The rate of corrosion for lead was more than 33 times that of brass. According to the information in Table 1, lead is a substance with a corrosion resistance grade of 7. (out of 10 grades). The corrosion resistance of the other test metals and steels was better: copper and brass were categorized as corrosion resistance grade 4 materials, while aluminum, C45 steel, and S235JR steel were classified as corrosion resistance grade 2.
Figure 12 illustrates the test results for the test materials, with the exclusion of lead, for a better illustration of their corrosion rates.
Brass had the highest corrosion rate of these test materials, whereas S235JR steel had the lowest corrosion rate.
Figure 13 depicts the appearance of the samples after they were subjected to the corrosive effect tests. Following direct contact to diesel fuel, significant changes in lead were detected (Figure 13 d), as corroborated by predicted corrosion rates. Corrosion inhibitors are applied on the lead plate. After being exposed to the fuel fumes, no alterations in the lead plate were observed. After being exposed to the test fuel, the copper and brass plates discolored.
Lead revealed to be the material with the most vulnerability to corrosion in corrosive impact testing after keeping diesel fuel for 12 months. The calculated linear corrosion rate for lead was 0.450 mm/year, which is slightly lower than the result obtained after 6 months of storage in diesel fuel. The rate of corrosion in copper and brass was significantly lowered (Figure 14).
Aluminum, C45 steel, and S235JR steel all had similar and low corrosion rates, indicating that they were resistant to the effects of diesel fuel even in the early stages of storage.
Figure 15 depicts the appearance of copper, brass, and aluminum plates after 12 months of storage after exposure to commercial diesel fuel. The plates have no corrosion changes on their surface, according to a microscopic study.
Does diesel go bad?
There are two issues here. First, because diesel fuel is a carbon-based petrochemical, it begins to oxidize as soon as it leaves the refinery, forming the sediments and gums that choke fuel. So, how long will a gallon of diesel fuel last? Without diesel fuel additives, diesel can go bad in as little as 30 days, causing deposits that can harm fuel injectors, fuel lines, and other system components, reducing fuel economy and performance.
Water is a significant issue in diesel fuel for several reasons. One is that new diesel mixes frequently include biodiesel, which has a higher water content by nature. If the water isn’t separated from the fuel, it can make its way into the fuel injectors. Pressures of up to (40,000) PSI are used in newer common rail fuel systems. If even a single droplet of water makes its way to the fuel injector through one of the new high-pressure systems, it can blow the tip-off, which is an expensive repair. This slime, like oxidation, can clog the fuel and cause long-term damage.
You can reduce the amount of water in your tank by keeping it full, which reduces the amount of condensation area in the tank and thus the amount of water. Second, diesel fuel treatments that demulsify or separate water from the fuel are available. A Fuel Water Separator (FWS) filter is found in almost all diesel engines. The performance of the body is improved by demulsification (FWS). All OEM manufacturers recommend demulsifying diesel fuel to ensure that water may be properly removed without causing damage to your engine. For fuel storage tanks, standard good fuel maintenance standards must be followed. These procedures entail the removal of water that has accumulated at the tank’s bottom on a regular basis. Because water is heavier than fuel, it will sink to the bottom, where it will be safer than in your fuel system. To avoid microbial growth, maintenance dosages of a dual phased (works in both water and fuel phases) biocide should be applied twice a year.