Water contamination is one of the chief enemies of liquid-fuelled machinery, as well as the surface and underground storage facilities, mobile tanker and dispensing equipment supplying petrol, diesel and aviation fuels.
All such fuels contain some water in suspension, but if the percentage of water exceeds a certain level, it can damage engines and cause wear, bacterial pollution, clogging, corrosion and, in the worst cases, explosions and failure. Diesel fuel is less refined then petrol and will hold a much larger amount of water; while even relatively smaller amounts of water in avgas and jet fuel can be dangerous to life.
“Because of the dangers water presents to all fossil fuels, a whole host of industries are focussed on compliance with safety, handling, storage, dispensing and environmental standards,” says seals and gasket technology specialist Mr Vinh Lam of CSGtech component solutions. Protection against contamination is a process of constant improvement, with global companies involved in fuel handling seeking to continuously advance their standards and offerings to major industries using fossil fuel, including shipping, road and rail transport, aviation, civil engineering, primary production and resource development, including mining, oil and energy production, distribution and dispensing for road, rail, marine and air transport.
CSGtech partners with such companies in this process, bringing to bear its expertise as an organisation dedicated to solving complex challenges involving seals and interfacing surfaces in production, process, storage, reticulation, automation and dispensing technology. The company draws on a network of quality, trusted national and international suppliers of materials used for its custom-engineered products and compliance solutions, which are arrived at in partnership with clients seeking safe, compliant, traceable, time-efficient and cost-efficient outcomes.
One recent sealing challenge involved underground fuel storage protected by a hatch incorporating a seal made from extruded product, a tube, of which a length was used to form a circular seal 500mm in diameter.
The product development objective in this instance was to further optimise protection against water penetration and achieve extended lifespan while withstanding high and variable weights of passing traffic and a wide range of weather conditions.
The challenge with such a seal was to eliminate any issues inherent in jointing the extruded neoprene/chloroprene tube, which, as a result of its manufacturing process, might have irregularities in tube diameter at the jointing point, said Mr Lam. “As a result of the manufacturing process, there may be some small but persistent irregularity in the cross-sectional diameter of the tube. This can result in different size ends, which, in the joining process, have to be trimmed back to correct any irregularity. Not only does such a joint create a potential weak spot, but also the problem can vary from batch to batch, joint to joint.”
We worked with the customer’s engineers to redesign the product using a different manufacturing process in which a seal was moulded without jointing using a high density, durable but flexible material. This was softer and more compressible, while maintaining durability and regular shape. While the initial cost of the individual part was higher, this was more than offset by whole-of-life performance, which was substantially superior. The better product also cut ongoing costs in terms of quality control and rejects, ongoing service and replacement. Risk management issues such as fuel contamination were substantially reduced.
“As a result, there was no need to redesign the hatch involved, which continued to perform even better for longer with the new seal, without the need for any expensive redesign or replacement,” said Mr Lam. “This was a key point of our solution, which involved redesigning a component so there was minimal impact to a legacy design, which could continue to serve the customer well.”
This solution was straightforward to introduce into production once the problem was isolated and tested with a selection of componentry adhering to national and international compliance and materials verification standards required for fuel handling operations.
Correct planning process
“The strengths we brought to the partnership with the manufacturer in this instance included sourcing, understanding and testing compliant materials to deliver an assured result engineered to national and global standards.”
“Even the excellent operations, engineering staff and manufacturing and engineering consultants we deal with appreciate that they cannot be totally knowledgeable in all specialist areas. Rather than use their resources to discover a solution that might already exist – or, worse, engineer a solution that doesn’t work as they wish after investing their time – they streamline the process, by getting the material selection and production processes correct from the beginning. This is the logical and time-efficient way of approaching an issue. It’s the correct planning process to arrive at earliest results and achieving the earliest production opportunity,” says Mr Lam.
CSGtech is expanding its services nationally in response to growing demand from businesses with which it partners, solving issues involving safety, liquid and product purity, system reliability, high speed and aggressive environments, mixing, reticulation, storage and substance compatibility and traceability standards, which can be very high and are increasingly set globally by international markets with which CSGtech has ongoing relationships.