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The economics of diesel fuels is not primarily a subject for discussion in ASTM. Nevertheless, it is wise to remember during this discussion that the railroads want the lowest net cost per horsepower hour at the drawbar. All their technical problems revolve around that basic objective. The remainder of the discussion will be confined strictly to technical problems—which are really economic ones—in the hope that necessity will lead to the correct answers. So far as cetane number is concerned, it appears that railroad diesels have no serious objection to numbers down to 40 and have no particular preference for numbers above 50. There was a time a few years ago when practically all railroads specified a minimum of 50 cetane, and some still do. To maintain this minimum appears to be more difficult technically for some refineries than for others. To reduce it increases the technical problems of the user. He must watch his engine maintenance and performance and the fuel in storage much more closely, or take a chance with trouble where lower cetane number fuel is used. This situation probably does not stem directly from lower cetane number, but rather from the fact that most fuels having the lower numbers are not too uniform in other characteristics—stability in storage or at the injector, cleanliness, wax, and water cloud, for example—nor is enough known about their so-called compatibility characteristic. Since it appears easier technically for some refiners to produce lower than 50 cetane fuel, it should logically follow that a portion of this “ease” should be passed on to the user in order to establish some incentive—technical or otherwise—for him to use it. If there is no inducement for him to use the lower cetane fuels, then certainly he should not use them.
Seniff, R. W.
Manager Research, The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co., Baltimore, Md.