Water Contamination Impacts on Biodiesel Antioxidants and Storage Stability

Earl Christensen, Robert McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations


Biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters) can oxidize in storage to form acids and gums that negatively impact engine performance and durability. Antioxidant additives are used to increase biodiesel storage stability, and previous studies that evaluated the effectiveness of antioxidants demonstrated that more polar antioxidants tend to be the most effective (provide the largest improvement in stability per unit of antioxidant added). However, polar antioxidants have significant water solubility, and diesel fuel storage tanks are commonly contaminated with water (forming a layer of water under the fuel). This study investigates whether nonpolar antioxidants, which are less effective in dry environments, might be more effective under wet conditions simulating real-world storage. Biodiesel blends treated with polar and nonpolar antioxidants were subjected to accelerated aging using the ASTM D4625 protocol (storage at 43 °C, open to air, for up to 24 weeks) both with and without added water. Fuels treated with polar/higher-effectiveness compounds and stored in contact with water (simulating water in a storage tank) or high humidity showed accelerated loss of stability compared to dry storage. The same fuel treated with a nonpolar antioxidant and stored in the same conditions did not exhibit accelerated stability loss and thus had higher storage stability over the long term despite treatment with an initially less effective additive. Analysis of the fuels during aging showed that this loss of stability was not due to oxidation but rather extraction of the polar antioxidant into the water layer. Antioxidant additives that are incompatible with wet or humid storage conditions were found to cause faster-than-anticipated loss of stability, which was preventable with use of nonpolar additives.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5179-5188
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-4A00-84642


  • biodiesel
  • fatty acids
  • fuel additives
  • fuel storage
  • stability
  • water treatment


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