BLOCKED diesel filters are causing severe problems for machine operators across the country, as a result of fuel problems.

The FCA has received numerous reports of machines suffering breakdowns due to filter and fuel-line blockages.

However, there were no apparent patterns with regards to make, model, or type of machinery affected and nor were there links with specific end suppliers, although geographically the issue is being seen from central Scotland down to the Borders.

Operators have reported filters becoming unusable after less than 100 hours and having to be changed twice a week, with the problem appearing to be exacerbated by recent cold weather.

Investigations are still being carried out, but suspicions persist that increased fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) inclusion in red diesel is to blame, causing a thick substance to form which clogs the filter.

A meeting hosted by crude oil refinery Petroineos at Grangemouth late last month was attended by fuel suppliers, distributors, hauliers and NFU Scotland, and aimed to address the issue.

While Petroineos pledged to work to find a solution, it stressed that it is producing fuel within the required specification, including that for biofuel content.

NFU Scotland and others are of the view that there is an issue with the specification itself, outlined in the EU’s standards relating to biofuel inclusion.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick described the situation as “unprecedented”, adding: “We recognise that the inclusion of biofuel is to help reduce emissions and has an important role in industry working to mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, the industry cannot function without reliable machinery and continue to bear the associated costs, so a solution must be found as soon as possible.

“That is why I am calling on Scottish and UK government, as a matter of urgency, to implement a derogation from the inclusion of biofuel until this issue can be resolved.”

In the meantime, anyone experiencing issues is advised to consult their fuel supplier for individual advice, thoroughly clean their storage tanks and, if necessary, invest in additives to treat the fuel.

Operators have shared dozens of pictures on the Forest Machine Operators Blog illustrating the problems they are facing.

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