Equipment Maintenance

Equipment Maintenance Services

Phase Separation & Water Removal FAQ

What is phase separation?

Phase separation is what happens when too much water gets absorbed by the ethanol in fuel. When ethanol molecules attach to water molecules, the mixture becomes heavier than gasoline and drops to the bottom of the tank, resulting in phase separation. What’s left are two layers in the tank — gasoline on top and the ethanol-water mixture at the bottom.

What causes phase separation?

Even small amounts of water getting into the fuel system can cause phase separation. In a 10,000-gallon tank of E10, it only takes 40 gallons of water to cause big problems. Aside from rain and surface water runoff during fuel transfers, water can also contaminate the fuel just from humidity in the area, as well as through pipes, vents, spill buckets, and gaskets or loose fittings.

Why is phase separation a problem?

If it goes undetected, phase separation can be pumped straight into customers’ vehicles, leading to stall-outs at your site. Its corrosive nature can mean expensive tank repairs and remediation, costs for which you will be liable. And that’s on top of the cost to purge your system, replace dispenser filters, and dispose of the contaminated fuel, which can easily top $10,000.

How can I prevent phase separation?

The easiest defense against phase separation is to keep your fuel tanks almost full at all times because this limits the space for the fuel to expand in warmer weather. If you reduce the amount of air that can enter your tanks, you reduce the amount of water that can get in there with it. This is not something you can “set and forget” — it takes rigorous monitoring and housekeeping of your tank and its access points to effectively prevent phase separation.

How do I get water out of my fuel system?

Water interacts differently with different types of fuel, and Retif is here to assist with handling water contamination in ethanol blends, non-ethanol gasoline, and diesel. Onsite testing will determine how much water is in your fuel system and what the treatment ratio should be. From there, the proper solution is added to prevent further phase separation and premature filter changes, returning the fuel to its safe, marketable condition.