Bulk fuel stored for long periods can become unstable the asphaltene content can precipitate out of solution causing the formation of sludge. This has the potential to block filters and pipes, leaving tanks with an unpumpable residue.
The ‘break up’ is dependent on the nature of the liquid hydrocarbons in which the asphaltenes are suspended. If the medium is aromatic (hydrocarbons in ring formation) then they will remain in suspension but if it is paraffinic (linear hydrocarbon formation) the asphaltenes may have a propensity to coalesce into sludge. Once fuel has chemically broken down there is no way to satisfactorily reverse the process. Precipitated asphaltene cannot be re-dissolved.
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