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The Key To Long-Term Diesel And Gas Storage

storing diesel and gasWhen fuel such as diesel or gasoline is readily available, most people don’t think of the ramifications of storing it. After all, if you need more, just go to the pump and get it!

But in a survival situation, especially a prolonged one, fuel will be a prime consideration, mainly for two reasons – firstly, it will not be plentiful or available, and secondly, what fuel is left will be degrading. Most people don’t realize that fuel, being a refined product, has a finite lifespan. In fact, keep fuel too long, and at some point, the fuel will degrade to the point that it is no longer able to produce the combustion needed to power our cars, trucks, generators and other such equipment.

Fuel is broken down into two main categories for our purposes. Although there are many types of fuel oils, we care mainly about gasoline and diesel. These are far and away the most common fuels, fuels that we will desperately need during survival situations to power most anything. Let’s look at them both separately:

Number two diesel is a fuel oil that undergoes a relatively low level of refinement. To understand how the refinement process works, imagine a fractional distillation tower such as the kind seen at most refineries – a tall, thin spire. At the base of this spire, crude oil and tar products are added, and then heat is applied. The heat works to unbind the molecules found in the oil. As these molecules unbind, they rise up in the tower until their weight will not permit them to rise any higher – kind of like a helium balloon with a weight attached. Collectors placed at strategic elevations within this tower then collect these molecules, and they are condensed to form the fuels we know. Diesel fuel is harvested at a relatively low elevation in this tower, meaning it is one of the earliest byproducts of burning crude. As such, it is very stable, and its stability means that it will last the longest.

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Even without treating it, diesel fuel will last for a year with no problems at all. It’s just an inherently stable product. When treated with fuel stabilizer, the life of diesel fuel can be extended beyond five years. The main enemies of diesel fuel storage are algae and water. All fuels are somewhat hygroscopic, meaning they attract water molecules. This water not only waters the fuel down, it also provides a home for algae, which lives quite nicely inside of a diesel tank. Consider that both water and algae wreak havoc in diesel fuel filters and regulators, plugging them up to the point where the engine will die. Your main defense against water and algae is two fold:

  • Treat all fuel required for long-term storage with algaecide. Commercially available diesel fuel stabilizer is essentially algaecide which creates a hostile environment for supporting life. Lack of living organisms (like algae) means clean fuel.
  • Keep diesel tanks full. Keeping your diesel tanks full means no airspace to promote condensation within the tank, which adds water to the fuel. Water in turn provides a habitat for algae. Keep your tanks full!


Getting back to our fractional distillation tower example, gasoline is a very refined fuel that exits the collectors towards the top of the tower, and then must be further refined to create what we know as gasoline. Unlike diesel, gasoline is a highly refined substance with complex molecular bonds, which means that over time, these bonds break and the fuel reverts back to an earlier, unusable state. Gasoline comes in three main grades at the gas pump categorized by the octane rating. Octane is the “punch” that provides the energy for internal combustion. The higher the octane rating, the hotter the fuel burns, meaning the more power generated to drive the engine. In the United States, octane generally starts at 87 which is regular, then 89 which is mid grade, and finally 91 which is super or premium. Some individual states may have higher or lower octane ratings available for sale, but those are the averages.

Generally speaking, the problem with gasoline over time is that as the molecular bonds break, the octane rating falls to the point where the gasoline is no longer able to produce the energy required for effective internal combustion. Some devices, like two-stroke generators, don’t need octane rich fuel. Others, like modern car engines, will knock badly with even a slight reduction in fuel quality. What this means to you is that the clock is ticking on gasoline – it’s degrading right now in the fuel tank of your car. It’s not unusual for highly refined premium gasoline to lose significant amounts of octane within even 90 days, and low grade gasoline to lose octane within 6 months. If you are intent on preserving fuel, then use gasoline stabilizer such as Sta-Bil, which slows the rate of chemical bond breakdown, giving you up to a couple of years of life increase on your gasoline.

Both fuels should be stored in a cool, dark place, and should be in topped-up containers with as little airspace as possible. Lastly, treat your fuel before you store it – fuel additives are rarely capable of bringing dead fuel back to life, but they will extend the life of new fuel significantly.

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  1. You have got to be kidding me! Adam C. better go back to class on what octane is ion gasoline. He completely missed the boat and worse yet, propagated the common myth that octane is a measurement of energy. Wrong! Octane is nothing more than a measurement of “anti-knock” properties found in the fuel, typically in the form of additives. Fuel with an octane rating of 95 has absolutely no more “punch” than lesser grades. None. You guys should have caught this one. For shame!

    • Octane …when you pressurize gas it explodes at a certain pressure and temperature…higher compresion engines use higher octane..if not the gas explodes early..and “knocks”…very simple…

      • Yes, and higher octane makes it less explosive. Thus at higher compression ratios, high octane gas is less likely to spontaneously combust before the spark plug ignites it.

  2. To Adam C:
    For your info- octane isn’t “punch”. Octane is added to fuel to lower its volatility which slows down the burn. This prevents pre-ignition. 87 octane has more energy than 91 octane gas. An engine with 8.5-1 compression will have more power on the recommended 87 octane than premium 91.
    I believe where most people get confused is because a high output engine requires high octane gas. This is because high output engines have high compression- for example 12:1. With regular gas this motor would have severe knock and engine damage. The high octane slows down the burn, thus no pre-ignition.
    Use of lower volatility fuel [ ie- high octane ] in an 8.5:1 engine will cause hard cold start.
    I hope this clears up a common misconception.

    • Octane …when you pressurize gas it explodes at a certain pressure and temperature…higher compresion engines use higher octane..if not the gas explodes early..and “knocks”…very simple…

    • Hi quick question i have a stock 1996 ford 460 engine with 245000 miles and no mechanical failures other than water pump or starter, when i put 87 octane gas in my truck it backfires and stalls at stop signs and lights, so i only run super from chevron it idles great and never backfires but is tougher than i’d like to start in the mornings, takes about 3 attempts at cranking the engine over, last year my son borrowed my truck and put 87 octane arco gas in it, when i got in the truck it barely accelerated oit of my driveway and jerked and sputtered all the way to the gas station took a few fill ups to start running smooth again with the power i’m used to, why is this happening, the first 5 years i owned the truck i ran 87 octane just fine but as the performance decreased i increased the octane gas used and it seems to work,

      • Sounds like you have too much timing in it. Take some timing out of it.

      • Carbon deposit’s in the combustion chamber can increase the compression ratio.. I believe

        • After a few years the amount of compression in an engine decreases also, since more of it gets past the rings, and down into the crankcase past the piston. This is lost power, and also makes the oil dirty faster. The carbon in the engine gets red-hot on the edges and lights the fuel before TDC, and makes ‘knock’ or ‘ping’. THAT’S why someone may need higher octane in an older engine that used regular when it was new. Get rid of the carbon that causes ping, and you can use regular again. Also, reducing timing advance can sometimes, but not always reduce ping in an engine that has no carbon buildup, if the compression ratio will allow it, but it always means lower power output at higher RPM, since no knock is there because of the decreased time between the spark, and the piston reaching TDC, after which there can be no ping as the piston passes TDC, and does not further compress the air/fuel to detonation. The heat also increases with compression, which is what really gets the fuel/air mix to light off after the spark. That’s why an engine will not start if minimum compression ratios are not achieved. Also of course, if the fuel is bad for the setup.

  3. Dave S. – You sir, are correct. That is why less alcohol, which is less volatile and lower energy than gasoline, is added to fuel to raise its Octane.

    When I read an article such as this, with such glaring technical errors regarding things I do know, I consider the entire article suspect and won’t trust it to be correct regarding things I don’t know.

  4. I had 180 gallons of 89 octane gas stored for my 2 generators. I only bought the gas on days it was delivered to my local station. I promptly added Stabil, then poured it into my holding containers. These containers are hard black plastic, made for storing gasoline. I bought the gas 10 gal. at a time, added the Stabil to each 10 gal., then poured it into my containers. Six months later, we had to make a trip . We live a few miles out of town, but my wife as usual did not fill the tank. I did not think I would make it too town, so I used 5 gal of my stored gas. It did not smell like gas at all. It smelled like parts cleaner, with the lid left off a while.My wifes car, a Ford Focus, bucked and snorted all the way to town. On a hill, it barely made it up it, then it was a downhill racer. The gas they produce now is not storable for very long. I have used Stabil, and other high dollar products, they don`t do much better. The dirty little secret is: All the stuff that made gasoline storable, they have removed it all. All the good storable gas is sold to over seas countries, and we keep the crappy stuff for our citizens. That is the sorry truth. The police and military have the good stuff, but John Q. Citizen gets whats left. I`m a ham radio operator, and I have discussed this with many people on air. People over seas do not have this problem. Just my 2 cents worth.

    • Robert, you said you buy your gas on the days it is delivered to your local station. How soon after delivery? If you didn’t wait for the “crud” to settle out in the in-ground tanks first, you pumped that “crud” along with your gas.
      It seems that the new “gas” we have doesn’t last as long as real gas. (ethanol the cause?)
      The small engine people I have talked to recommend the marine grade Stabil, rather than the regular stuff. They said it works better.
      FWIW:Some also recommend SeaFoam. Others say stay away from it.

      • I use marine Sta-bil in my boat that has a 1973 Johnson 85 HP motor, I put it in every tank of fuel and I have left it for 10 months and it cranked and ran fine. I have been doing this for at least 4 years.

    • My personal experience does not indicate a need to add stabilizers. Several times I have had car parked for months or even a couple years, repaired, started up and drove without filling the gas tank or anything special other than making sure a cap was on the fill. Of course that was mostly before ethanol invaded our fuel supply.

    • It’s the ethanol they put in our gasoline ,these days !! You can’t leave it in small engines very long it messes up the carburetors .

  5. If I had the money I would get a lot more propane tanks and a propane fueled truck, but that’s just me…

  6. I don’t store huge amounts of either diesel or gasoline, due to space limitations, but have a workable method for insuring that my fuel is fresh. I use my diesel to fuel my 2 tractors, refilling my cans as needed and making sure that I go through the cans in order. I use the gasoline to fuel my wife’s car. With this method my fuel is never more than a few months old.

  7. When I was a mechanic they told me petrol was deliberately doctored so you couldn’t store it and ride out the fluctuating price cycles. Diesel used to have a fungal problem but they have fixed that now, but a little treatment never hurts. Don’t know all about the octane business but it was the sludging that caused all the problems.

  8. What I get from reading all this is, you can’t store gasoline at all. When TSHTF, I guess we’re screwed!

  9. I have been storing fuel for a couple of years now with good success. I have to use the Sta bil for ethanol. If you read the container closely you will see that the mix is double for storage than it is for use. On the front of the bottle it will say treats 50 gallons but it fails to tell you that it’s for use, small print on the back tells you the storage mix. I will only store 91 to 93 octane as it burns so much better. I use it in all my small engines and dual fuel lanterns and stoves with no problems. Hope this helps someone with this issue. Sea foam just stay away from it, it is note suited for storage.


    • Go to an airport or marina and buy your gasoline ,it cost more there but it does not contain Ethanol which is what the problem is with storing gas .The good gas is for big expensive yachts and planes. Also you could ask at the local motorcycle shop where to find gasoline without Ethanol.

      • Don’t do this! Aviation fuel contains lead.

        • Yes, it contains lead. ALL gasoline used to contain lead. In an emergency situation, it’s not going to kill you or anyone else. Just don’t drink it!

          • Avgas is aka 100LL (low lead). It has 3ml of tetra ethyl lead per gallon. It is died blue for identification purposes.
            The lead will screw up catalytic converters and coat oxygen sensors in modern cars. DO NOT USE AVGAS IN MODERN CARS.
            The lead will also foul spark plugs. I used to have to clean spark plugs out of aircraft engines. Basically had to sandblast the lead to get it out.
            The lead in this form is readily absorbed through skin so avoid getting it on your skin, a fact I learned too late. I figure that alone cost me 20 IQ points, beer another 10.
            100LL has great storage properties though. I once sold 500 gallons to a guy with a barn full of antique tractors. He explained he was tired of rebuilding carbs so it was worth th premium price to buy AVGAS for his tractors. I never heard of aircraft carbs getting fouled or building up varnish. Though to be fair, most aircraft are shut down by pulling the mixture to full lean starving the engine of fuel, sucking the carb dry not leaving much to varnish.
            Long term storage of AVGAS was never discussed. Guys who didn’t fly their planes much just filled the tanks to limit the air in the tank to help prevent condensation. Stabil and sea foam were never ever used and I never heard of AVGAS going bad.
            It will set you back quite a bit though. Probably more than double the cost of gas from the filling station.

          • Be careful. I used helicopter gas in my car just 75% mix with 25% regular after about 200 miles blew 2 pistons

  11. Have been storing 87 or 91 gasoline with stabilizer for 20years, 1 year at a time. Always pump down to intake or 100 gals and refresh. Never a problem. Tank is above ground in shade. Try to keep full. Once a year cycle through cars and trucks. Always use stabilizer. Have several plastic 5gal as well. Use in mowers.
    Over winter use stabilizer. Have boat, use stabilizer have not a problem for over 10 years. Use ethanol filter on boat that is changed ever other year.

    • i stored gas for years as well using stabilzer and cycle if through every year or two. never had any issues in any of my vehicles, mowers, or boat. in a real situation, if a disaster were to occur , i would have some to get me buy for a few months. hoping we were able to recover by then or have enough to escape to the edge of the us.

  12. Octane …when you pressurize gas it explodes at a certain pressure and temperature…higher compresion engines use higher octane..if not the gas explodes early..and “knocks”…very simple…

  13. I use marine grade stabil. Rotation is the key. Keep using your gas. Keep using stabil. Snake oil? I’d rather take my chances with it than without it.

  14. I appreciate your tips on storing gasoline. I do think it is a good idea to do what you can to make it last longer. However, I try to cycle through my diesel fuel as often as I can. At least every six months. Then I always know that the gas will be good. I’ll probably get the algaecide just in case I can’t get more diesel. If we were not able to get gas for more than a year, it is probably time to find another energy source.

  15. For all the so-called expert commenters on this site, everybody seems to be missing the boat!

    But first… Hey Tray??? Gasoline when pressurized will explode? Maybe youre thinking of a diesel engine? Diesel engines inject diesel into hot air flowing more concurrent with your statement. Yes gas explodes when pressurized but that’s NOT how a car engine works. The gasoline is ignited, not pressurized to cause an explosion. That’s why they have spark plugs…

    For someone so intent on posting the same reply 50 times, especially when it has no bearing on gasoline STORAGE, since it is ignited, makes you 10 times as foolish!

    The reason you all are having problems is a couple of reasons, because I have been storing gasoline for years and I’ve had no problems as well as thousands of other people.

    So if people can successfully store gasoline for years and yet as the one commentor said storage for six months and car went pop pop pop what does that tell you? Maybe he’s doing something wrong…

    2 thing to ALWAYS remember and you can store forever.

    1) Always non-ethanol gasoline
    2) Number one biggest mistake? Leaving too much room / air for expansion! DONT. Leave a little bit of room and I mean just a little, like a couple few inches below the top of the barrel. Keep it full full full and moisture wont be able to build up!

    That’s all you really need to know but possibly one extra, buy your fuel in the winter time as the companies put special additives in it to prevent bad things from happening

  16. Honest Abe is cracker on da whacky

  17. The human race has been dependent on weapons and firearms for far longer than automobiles and electric generators. Light a candle and walk if you can’t figure it out.

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