Previously we discussed “sludge” in fuel oil tanks and the reasons that it occurs. Now we will discuss options to reduce or remove this sludge.
Since we know that the sludge can occur due to the growth of microorganisms at the water fuel interface in the tank, the first thing to do is eliminate the water in the tank. It can be removed by draining off or pumping out the water depending on the quantity involved. One should also determine the source of water ingress, be it from a loose fill cap or leaking tank fitting. A common source of the water in above ground tanks is the natural “breathing” of the tank during temperature changes which allows moisture laden air to enter the tank then condense on the inside walls of the tank. Over time, this water accumulates in the bottom of the tank. Keeping your tank close to full over the non-heating season helps prevent this condensation.
Another option to reduce sludge is the use of a product additive (such as “Sludge Be Gone”) that breaks up this sludge so that it can be dispersed and burned along with the fuel oil. It is a good option if you have addressed the problem of water and want to further address the sludge problem with preventative action.
In cases of serious sludge formation, it may be necessary to have the oil in the tank filtered to remove the sludge and then the oil is returned to the tank in a “cleaned” condition. This is normally a course of last resort when other methods will not address the problem.
In summary, it is likely that one is unable to prevent any sludge from forming in a fuel oil tank but with regular furnace tune-ups and filter changes, preventing water from entering the tank and periodic treatment with a product such as “Sludge Be Gone”, a homeowner can continue to have trouble free heating from the fuel in their tank.