Dirty diesel





Oils ain’t oils”, right? In fact, fuels ain’t fuels, either. I’ve been chatting with a few good diesel mechanics and diesel engineers to learn more about diesel, including what’s right for your modern engine and what’s available in Australia.

Advanced European diesel-engine design has driven the need for a higher standard of fuel than what’s traditionally demanded in Australia. The majority of compression engines sold here today have modern high-pressure common-rail fuel injection systems that originated in Europe. So it’s not surprising that the fuel you once used in old low-revving rockcrushing diesel engines is not suitable for the high-performance diesel engines of today. These days the demand is for cleanburning low-emission diesel fuels, and industry standards have changed to meet this need.

While we’ve moved on from the “dirty diesel” of yesteryear, there’s still room for improvement. Yes, we’ve lowered the sulphur content and have met the standards, but Australian diesel still doesn’t have some of the other additives or controls that are standard in European diesel and its supply systems. So the point is, in Australia, high-quality clean diesel fuels aren’t always available, which is why some manufacturers recommend only using premium fuels.

One problem is the death of Australian oil refineries. Unable to compete with Asian mega-refineries, Australian refineries have been closing at a rapid rate, with only four refineries remaining on Australian soil. This is why we import about 90 per cent of our fuel, most of it from Singapore.

It probably makes good economic sense, and no doubt the Asian refineries conduct appropriate fuel-quality checks, but there’s a real and unquantified risk of contamination every time the precious liquid is transferred to ocean-going tankers, holding tanks, drums and station tanks. This is all before the fuel goes anywhere near your four-wheel drive’s fuel tank.

Typical contamination hazards include water, algae, bacteria, fungus and other microbial contaminates, not to mention debris. The majority of these contaminants can be removed with an aftermarket secondary fuel filter.


ON THE search for better fuel lubrication, I found an Australian-made diesel fuel lubricant and conditioner that uses nanotechnology combined with good oldfashioned common sense.

Engineer David Webster, in consultation with a chemist, developed and manufactured Responsive Diesel Fuel Lubricant and Conditioner to lubricate moving parts and to provide anti-corrosion protection for diesel fuel pumps, injectors and all fuel system components.

It has been engineered for common-rail diesel systems and is formulated for lowsulphur diesel fuel. The product includes an anti-bacterial biocide and does not contain hygroscopic dispersants.

I’ve been running a 2008 Toyota Hilux with the product for the past six months.

After using a tank of fuel treated with the product, I noticed my engine was quieter.

After fi lling the tank three more times, the performance continued to improve, and by the three-month mark the fuel consumption had reduced by about 10 per cent.

Interestingly, the packaging states: “Warning: do not overtreat the fuel.” When I enquired about this, the team told me that the lubricant is a concentrated formula. So they recommend to use the product every second time you refi ll your tank.

This approach makes the product particularly economical. The fi ll ratio is 10ml for every 80 litres of diesel, which means that a 150ml bottle is enough for 15 standard tank fi lls. Using it every second tank, one bottle of lubricant will cover 2400 litres of fuel, or about 20,000km. At $34.50 for a 150ml bottle, that’s value for money in anyone’s language.

The bottle is designed to fi t into door pockets, so it’s handy when you stop at a fuel station. The long applicator means you don’t need a funnel to apply the additive, and it has a measuring bowl allowing you to apply the correct amount every time.


Where: Responsive Engineering Price: $34.50 per 150ml bottle We say: State-of-the-art

The majority of fuels imported from Asia don’t include the additional lubricants and conditioners found in European diesel

The other issue is that the majority of fuels imported from Asia don’t include the additional lubricants and conditioners that you’d commonly find incorporated within European diesel.

The combined effect of these factors may include clogged intake valves, reduced efficiency of fuel air flow and degradation of engine performance. You might not notice it now, but repeated exposure to substandard fuel will reduce your fuel efficiency and leave your 4x4 feeling sluggish, at the very least.

Premature wear and tear on your engine is almost inevitable.

One method to overcome variability in fuel quality is to use diesel fuel additives such as stabilisers, corrosion inhibitors, deposit modifiers, biocides and lubricity agents. These products help protect the fine tolerances of a diesel fuel system’s mechanical components and ensure the integrity of their design and performance.

In Australia, for the majority of fuels, it’s the consumer who has to add these additives and lubricants. Just be careful how you use them, as some contain hygroscopic (water-attracting/retaining) dispersants/detergents and some of these detergents can hold water in suspension.

I’m sure we don’t need to tell you that water plus diesel equals bad juju for highpressure common-rail fuel injection systems. So be aware of this risk.


IN FEBRUARY, 2014, NRMA released a report called Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security Part 2. The report highlighted that Australia has only fi ve days’ crude stocks and two days’ fuel at our refi neries; 10 days’ fuel supply at terminals; three days’ fuel at service stations; and the average commuter has three days’ fuel in their vehicle. That’s a national fuel reserve of less than 23 days, which is a lot less than the 90 days’ supply Australia is supposed to have as a member of the International Energy Agency (IEA) – we’re actually at the bottom of the IEA country-list for stockholder levels.

Diesel prices are strongly linked to global supply and demand. For many years we have seen the steady increase in diesel prices in line with rising demands in Asia, India and parts of South America, where diesel is used more as a fuel source for motor cars.

Fluctuations in diesel prices are also caused when market demand varies for “middle distillates” like diesel (other middle distillates include kerosene, jet fuel and heating oil). So if the demand for kerosene or jet fuel goes up, refi ners will produce less diesel fuel, which will affect supply and, inevitably, the price of diesel.

Because Australian wholesale prices for diesel are so closely linked to the Singapore price, any variation in Singapore diesel prices will be felt by Australians at the bowser within one to two weeks.


THE SINGAPORE price, shipping costs, plus Australian taxes (including excise of 38 cents per litre) and GST represent about 95 per cent of the wholesale price of diesel in this country. The remaining fi ve per cent is accounted for by insurance, local wharfage and terminal costs, and a wholesale marketing margin.

Once the fuel hits Australian soil, freight costs for delivery in country areas are typically around 1.5 to four cents per litre greater than freight costs for delivery in the city. In some country areas, fuel is also subject to depot storage costs.

Retail margins are also added and are typically higher in country areas. With lower fuel volume and shop sales in the regions, there’s simply less retail income over which to spread service station operating costs.

To coin a phrase: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset”.