Types of Diesel Fuels

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Ellie Van Houtte

Before you ever pump diesel fuel into your car, the diesel fuel has changed its chemical structure multiple times. This makes diesel fuel a very complex fuel source.

Therefore, being familiar with the different cetane, sulphur and energy types of diesel fuels will help you to pick the right diesel fuel type that will let your car's engine extract the most possible amount of power per gallon.

Energy Levels

Diesel fuel has more energy per gallon than gasoline. Based on the level of energy that diesel fuel can produce per gallon, diesel fuel is divided into three types. Diesel 1 is a light grade diesel fuel and Diesel 2 is a higher grade of diesel fuel. Because of this, Diesel 2 provides more energy than Diesel 1. Both Diesel 1 and Diesel 2 are used during spring, summer and fall. The combination of Diesel 1 and Diesel 2, called Diesel 4, is used during the winter months. In Diesel 4, Diesel 1 reduces or eliminates the diesel fuel mix to gel in the cold weather.

Cetane Levels

Different cetane levels of diesel fuel measure the ignition quality of the diesel fuel. Higher cetane level makes the diesel fuel burn more easily and evenly and therefore produces more power. The average cetane level of diesel fuel is 40 but large diesel trucks and pickup trucks prefer a cetane level ranging between 45 and 50.

Sulphur Levels

In addition to different energy and cetane types, diesel is also classified based on its sulphur level. Sulphur content creates three different types of diesel: ultra low sulphur diesel, low sulphur diesel and regular sulphur diesel. Ultra low sulphur diesel contains less than 15 parts per million of sulphur while the sulphur content in regular sulphur diesel varies between 500 and 5,000 parts per million.

Refiners remove 97 per cent of the sulphur originally in diesel fuel before the fuel ever gets to market. The process of removing the sulphur helps the exhaust-control devices in diesel engines to work better, the same way removing lead improves the performance of catalytic converters in gasoline cars.

Diesel Fuel Advantages

When compared to other fuels, diesel fuel has several advantages. Diesel fuel is less flammable than other fuel sources and is easily obtainable. In addition, diesel fuel helps your engine last longer and lessens the need for maintenance.

Diesel Fuel Disadvantages

Diesel fuel also comes with some disadvantages. Together with gasoline, diesel fuel has a short self life. The shelf life of diesel fuel is only 18 to 24 months, a lot less than other fuel options. Diesel fuel also needs large storage tanks and the installation of those tanks raises the cost of diesel fuel systems. In addition, diesel fuel might not be available during power outages.