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We were steaming at Steve's yesterday when he pulled out his Aster Berkshire which he had not run in a couple of months. It ran fine, but when he went to suck the water out of the oil tank it came out GREEN. UGH.
Steve was appalled and we were ready to throw up. It seems that Steve was in the habit of not draining his oiler after each run, waiting instead to do that next time he ran the engine. As a result he was able to grow a nice crop of algae in the tank. He is now trying to clean the thing out and blow out the lines. Steam oil as I understand it contains lard so it was the perfect culture for growing a nice crop. Just posting this in case you are one of those that doesn't blow out your oil tank on a regular basis. Needless to say, we all went home and started to check out all our engines too even though the rest of us always cleaned out the tank after each run. I would think boilers are safe from this because they are filled with distilled water which is sterile, but if you aren't going to be running again for a long time perhaps you should drain it also. Happy Steaming.
 

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John,

When I took apart my cylinders, I found them filled with green gunk from old steam oil. Gross stuff.

Mark
 

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John,
You saw the extract, I didn't, but I wonder if this could be copper oxide? I have left oil in a lubricator for as long as a year with no green growth although I was careful to remove as much water from the system (boiler and all lines and chambers) as possible. I would suspect oxide before an algae, because your oil may have had synthetic rather than organic fats, and then the whole system was subjected to steam which should have killed off any lurking cultures.
 

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Posted By Old Boy on 02/11/2009 7:57 AM
John,
You saw the extract, I didn't, but I wonder if this could be copper oxide? I have left oil in a lubricator for as long as a year with no green growth although I was careful to remove as much water from the system (boiler and all lines and chambers) as possible. I would suspect oxide before an algae, because your oil may have had synthetic rather than organic fats, and then the whole system was subjected to steam which should have killed off any lurking cultures.



It looked to us like algea. It was some nasty looking green gunk. I have never seen any green oxide in any of mine or anyone else's engines and I don't think this was either. It was gross.
 

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John,

If I remember my high school Biology correctly, green plants require sunlight to grow and multiply and make chlorophyll, which causes the green color.
Unless you left your oil tank in the sun with the filler open, I don't think green algae could grow in there.
Call up your county agent and see if he can identify it.
 

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It must have been the "Green Velvet" steam oil he uses!
 
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Posted By k5pat on 02/11/2009 8:43 AM
If I remember my high school Biology correctly, green plants require sunlight to grow and multiply and make chlorophyll, which causes the green color.


There is a type of algee that can live in fuel oil. I have no idea what color it is as the ships used heavy crude oil which is totally black. It has caused fuel oil tanks to be filled with a unusable substance. We put BioBore SP? in the settler and service tanks to prevent unwanted growth and unplaned loss of fuel supply at sea.
Dan
 

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Kind of reminds my of the pink or purple stuff that grows in water tanks onboard ships.
 

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Yep, algae requires light to grow - and so is unlikely.

Unseparated water can form a murky emulsion - if the steam oil uses green dye additives, it could mimic algae.

Many copper salts are green, but not the oxide, which is black.


I personally avoid steam oils with dye additives. The dyes are probably not stable and can leave gunk in the cylinders in time. The old-timers claim that steam oil should be green may be based on the fact that, at the right angle, a pure light yellow-brown steam oil will appear greenish.
 

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I'd be interested to know if users of the Brandbright oil supplied with the Catatonk 14T Heisler, 24T Shay and 18T Climax have had this problem. I have never recommended owners to blow down the lubricator, and I have never done so myself as it seems like throwing away money.

Mike Chaney
 

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Not only would algae have to grow without the required photosynthesis, but it would also need to withstand the temperatures of 400 F for 20 minutes and not die...
The green stuff is not algae.
I bet it is an emulsion of the oil and water left in the tank. Just clean it out and don't worry about it.

Ships don't heat their fuel oil storage containers, and the Navy (IFRC) used additives to kill the bacteria that ate the oil! But if they did heat them, they wouldn't have to mix in the additives.
 
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Posted By John Allman on 02/11/2009 9:32 AM
Not only would algae have to grow without the required photosynthesis, but it would also need to withstand the temperatures of 400 F for 20 minutes and not die...
The green stuff is not algae.
I bet it is an emulsion of the oil and water left in the tank. Just clean it out and don't worry about it.

Ships don't heat their fuel oil storage containers, and the Navy (IFRC) used additives to kill the bacteria that ate the oil! But if they did heat them, they wouldn't have to mix in the additives.


Ships that burn bunker-c have to heat the fuel for several days before it can be pumped. This makes no difference what color the stack is (ie navy gray or the standard Sealand color I am used to)
This stuff well may be bacteria not alge I am an engineer and that does not qaulify me to say, but it is real and it will grow and it is a serious problem on ships. Heating WILL not kill this stuff as where it is mainly found is in the service tank which is heated at all times so the fuel can be used. The service tank is the daily tank where the main engines or boilers get the fuel from.

I have a Chief Engineers ticket for steam and diesel engines unlimited horsepower, so I do not post stuff on engineering that ain't so.

Regards
Dan Rowe C.E.
 

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Im not disagreeing Dan. I pointed out it may be a bacteria like what gets in fuel oil bunkers. But it isn't remotely likely that it is algae. I dont have masters license, and no ship I was on used fuel oil. An unlimited chief engineer ticket is a big deal to me. I know what it takes to get one. My father in law was first mate on the NS Savannah, and had an unlimited masters license for all ships - conventional or nuke. I think he told me he was the last civilian to ever get that. (certainlly now, since there are zero non naval nukes)
I just dont remember them heating the storage facilities. (what I should have said was heat to 400 F) I do remember they heat the transfer tanks. I just figured that made the bunker oil less viscous, easier to pump and has nothing to do with the nasty bacteria in there.

In any event, none of that is likely to be material to a discussion on crap in a steam oil tank in a model locomotive. Congratulations on your ticket. Few people could do that nowadays.

John
 
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John, Not many folks ever got a nuke engineering ticket, and I have only personally met one. He was an instructor at the Merchant Marine Acedemy when I was there he must have retired by now. The NS Savannah was the very worst place to be a cadet when it was running because all the engineers and most likely the mates were Kings Pointers not good for a cadet from the same school.

I agree that this has little to do with the subject at this point but things do live and grow in fuel oil tanks and that is not a lot different from lube oil. Which now that I think of it we never added any biocide in the lube oil tanks maybe the additives already found in lube oil did the trick.
Dan
 

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When I was in the national guard, we got some M-60 tanks shipped up from down south. Had real bad problems with algae(or something growing) in the fuel tanks, were always changing the filters! On to steam, I always drain my lubricators after running, while warm and refill them, so next time that chore is done before I start.
 

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Algae does grow in diesel fuel tanks without sunlight - just ask my dad, who's boat ran aground after the algae killed the fuel pumps. It could grow in a lubricator I guess, but since most model engines are not in a marine environment, I'm not sure how it would get there in the first place - unless you wiped down your engine with saltwater!
 

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Never a dull moment steaming at my track!
My guess on what happened:

The last time I ran the engine (about 4 months ago) I put it up with out suctioning out the lubricator. It is a tank under the running board. It was at this point mostly full of water. Then it sat for all that time with just enough oil still in it too to start a strange growth to occur. When I went to run yesterday, I suctioned out the water noticing it was green. Did not think much about it, thinking that it was just the water reacting with the brass tank. Filled it with oil and had one of the best runs my Berk has ever given me. After the run is when the "GREEN BLOB" appeared. I think that the heat during the run loosened the stuff up in the tank. Now, when I suctioned out after the run it was like the Return of THE BLOB movie!! It was dark GREEN, and slimy. You could rub it between your fingers and it would just kind'a melt away. I realize that no sunlight could get in there, but it sure looked and felt like algae to me.
I flushed it all out with vinegar, then today steamed her up and let steam blow back through lubricator with top off to clean out the line. Hardly any came out. I think that this is because the lubricator pipe picks up off the very top of the tank. When I filled her with oil and ran, the Green Stuff must have settled back down to the bottom of tank during the run. Anyway, if any got through to the cylinders it sure did not affect the run. I think that the stuff would have just dissolved from the heat and passed through.

Why does this weird stuff always happen at my track???????
 

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Steam oil do not contain lard. Lard is rendered from pig fat and not suitable for compound lubricating oils. Steam oils contains tallow, 4% by volume. Tallow is rendered from other animal fat. Tallow used in compound steam oil today is acid-less. Early steam oils using pure animal tallow (unfiltered) would go rancid.



"Notes from the Unit Shop"
Kevin O'Connor's advice for the beginning small scale live steamer
STEAM OIL SELECTION

" COMPOUNDED STEAM OIL
Water will displace most oils, with the exception of animal based oils, and consequently special compounded oils which will lubricate in the presence of water are needed for successful steam engine operation.
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These problems were overcome by the petroleum industry by blending a base mineral oil that would meet the requirements of viscosity, lubricity, and film strength , and then adding a small percentage of animal oil in the form of tallow. Modern steam oils contain 4% tallow oil by volume. It is this tallow oil that makes steam oil work in the hostile internal environment of the steam engine. In practice the petroleum producers place several compounds in steam oil to help stabilize viscosity and lubricity; hence the name compounded steam oil. "
 
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