For many diesel equipment owners, cetane may be a familiar term, but its full meaning remains a mystery. And though cetane may not always be top of mind, ignoring it can prove costly. Running equipment on diesel without a sufficient cetane number can result in rough operation, lost efficiency, excessive wear and more.
Understanding how your equipment works is key to running a successful operation. Read on to learn the fundamentals of cetane and how it can impact your business.
What is cetane?
Simply put, cetane is a chemical compound found naturally in diesel, and it ignites easily under pressure. Because of its high flammability, it serves as the industry-standard measure for evaluating fuel combustion quality.
Specifically, this measure is referred to as cetane number. Think of it like octane ratings on gasoline. The difference is that, while a good octane rating means a fuel doesn’t ignite too soon, a good cetane number means a fuel ignites as soon as possible.
This is because of a fundamental difference in the way gasoline- and diesel-powered engines operate. In a gas engine, fuel is compressed then ignited with a spark plug. A diesel engine, however, doesn’t have a spark plug — combustion occurs through compression alone.
LEARN MORE: GAS VS. DIESEL ENGINES: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Why do cetane numbers matter?
The higher a fuel’s cetane number, the quicker it ignites — and that carries a variety of benefits for diesel equipment. From increased fuel economy to fewer emissions to better power output, fast, clean combustion is key to a diesel engine’s performance.
The scale for measuring cetane ranges from 0 to 100, and the higher the number, the better. Modern highway diesel engines tend to require fuel with a cetane number ranging from 45 to 55. Typically, regular no. 2 diesel has a cetane number of 40 to 42, while Cenex® Premium Diesel has a cetane number of 46 to 52.
How to boost a fuel’s cetane number
that claim to increase the cetane number of the fuel. The trouble with these aftermarket products, though, is the amount of guesswork they involve — and that makes them inherently risky. There’s no shortage of options on the market, each with their own compelling claims. And often, it can be difficult to tell between a legitimate product and harmful snake oil.
A safer approach to protecting your equipment investment is to use a premium diesel that offers a high cetane number already built in. CENEX ROADMASTER XL® and CENEX RUBY FIELDMASTER® are both terminally injected to offer a high cetane value as part of their multifunctional additive package. As a result, they provide a quicker, more complete burn.
When it comes to maintaining equipment, fuel doesn’t need to be a mystery. For enhanced engine performance, the secret is in a comprehensive additive package that offers a high cetane number. To learn more, contact your LOCAL CENEX DEALER.