HANDLE WITH CARE
Because biodiesel absorbs and retains more water than #2 diesel, and quickly become less stable, one should continuously desiccate the fuel—especially if it is not going to be used within a few weeks. The easiest way to do this is with a silica gel system mounted on fuel tank vent lines, like Rich Pindell’s H2Out, which Practical Sailor tested and awarded an Editor’s Choice award back in 2013.
In our 15 years of using B99.9, and in the similar time period of NOAA’s research and use, neither Superintendent Donahue nor I have experienced physical engine damage or performance problems caused by water in the fuel. Part of that surely results from using only commercial, ASTM-tested and certified fuel, and neat B99.9 or even B100 biodiesel fuel. In fact, Donahue says that NOAA’s experience has been that water problems are much more prevalent with blends, like B20, rather than straight B99.9. He attributes much of this to the old age and neglected maintenance of the nation’s petroleum infrastructure, as some of it is nearly a century old. This kind of useful knowledge is to acquire through NOAA. I hope that NOAA will increaseingly publicize share its extensive multiyear B100 research and work with all of the marine diesel engine manufacturers, government agencies, and commercial shippers to benefit average boaters.
Beyond fuel, motor oil, and transmission fluid, I have found that I can easily replace all of the other petroleum-based liquids that Ama might need with equally good or better petroleumfree alternatives, such as naturally high-lubricity canola oil, and farmers’ favorite carbohydrate-based hydraulic steering fluid. One rare caution, after 5 years of using canola oil as the lubricant for our Norscot shaft seal, I found some softening and had to replace the enclosing bellow and shift to a synthetic automatic transmission fluid.
Overall, we continue to have a fun, interesting, troublefree experience employing B99.9 and biolubricants. This will continue to be our approach until hydrogen propulsion becomes easier and much more affordable.