Rapid Fuel Analysis Using Cutting-Edge FT-IR Technology

Following the production of refined and blended fuel products they tend to pass through several different stakeholders and vendors before reaching the fuel’s end user. The fuel travels from a refinery, through a pipeline and then on the road in tanks before it makes it to the final buyer.

Throughout the distribution chain there is potential for the fuel to be contaminated accidentally, or to be purposefully mixed with other fuels to (illegally) increase profits. On most occasions fuel changes hands in the supply chain it is tested and certified, although this is not always the case. If not certified, fuel at least tends to be tested in terms of quality to ensure it is within the legal quality limits.

Quality Testing of Different Fuels

Quality testing involves measuring several different physical parameters of the fuel, and investigating some chemical properties. Exactly what properties these are depends on the identity of the fuel.

To carry out the quality control (QC) a small volume of fuel is extracted from the pipeline or container to be analyzed. As the fuel is undergoing transportation it is uneconomical to hold onto it for too long. For this reason QC measurements must be fast, and easy to carry out.

Typical examples of the physical and chemical properties, which are measured as part of the QC process, for different fuels are given below;

Gasoline Diesel Jet Fuel
RON, MON Cetane Number, Cetane Index Freezing Point
Evaporation, Distillation Evaporation, Distillation Smoke Point, Flash Point
Benzene, Xylene, Toluene FAME FAME
Oxygenates, Aromatics Aromatics Viscosity
Methanol, Ethanol, MMT Cetane Improver Napthalene


Infrared Spectroscopy for Rapid Fuel QC

To analyze each of these properties one at a time would require a vast amount of time. Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is a solution to this problem as it allows the molecular composition of the fuel to be analyzed and, as the fuels molecular composition and its chemical and physical properties are directly linked, this can serve as a proxy measurement for the quality parameters.

This used to be achieved using a ‘basic’ IR instrument which measured one parameter however, now, richer data can be gathered using the multi-parameter Fourier Transform Infrared Technology (FT-IR) method.

FT-IR is highly advantageous when compared to mono-parameter dispersive spectroscopy as it allows the whole IR spectrum to be measured, meaning more molecular information is gathered. An entire IR spectrum can be gathered using FT-IR in less than 30 seconds. In addition to this universal models can be built which correlates FT-IR data to practical information. For example, FT-IR of lubricants can be used to determine their state of degradation.

For nearly two decades PAC have been thought leaders in the field of fuel analysis with their PetroSpec range. By utilizing the latest in FT-IR technology they are combining the best of their systems into one instrument, with some more additional features. OptiFuel represents more than just the next version of an older product - it is the best FT-IR analysis tool available.


Figure 1. OptiFuel

OptiFuel can determine the chemical and physical properties of a fuel in seconds using just one push of a button. The system is so simple to use that it requires no training to use.

As OptiFuel uses an ATR FT-IR method the measurement cell has no moving parts, meaning it is less prone to breaking, and the user can measure any fuel without having to adjust the system. Additionally the instrument comes with a 10-year warranty on its Michelson interferometer and a 5-year warranty on its IR source. This means users don’t need to worry about any possible instrument downtime.

OptiFuel for Accurate QC Measurements

Due to the OptiFuel’s humidity resistant ZnSe optics and vibration-resistant design the OptiFuel operates at high fidelity for accurate QC measurements. The IR laser is produced using an extreme temperature reference which results in a spectral shift which of almost zero. This high reliability shows that OptiFuel determines fuel properties with such accuracy that it allows confident decisions to be made.

Figures 2 and 3 demonstrate the reliable performance of OptiFuel.

OptiFuel ‘RON’ prediction on ‘global’ summer and winter blend real samples

Figure 2. OptiFuel ‘RON’ prediction on ‘global’ summer and winter blend real samples

OptiFuel ‘Total Aromatics’ prediction on ‘global’ summer and winter blend real sample

Figure 3. OptiFuel ‘Total Aromatics’ prediction on ‘global’ summer and winter blend real sample

Due to its considered design and reliable manufacturing, system calibration can be rapidly carried out via a one step process and the calibration lasts years. In addition, preventive maintenance can be executed on site.

The system is already pre-loaded with state-of-the-art chemometric models, programmed using hundreds of real-world samples provided by leading, global oil and gas distributors and producers.

The inclusion of models from the factory means the instrument can be used for its purpose from day one and you can be confident that the results are correct. Due to the high potential of FT-IR and the easy-to-use graphical user interface the opportunities to build upon this model are countless.


OptiFuel is delivered from the factory with high quality chemometric models, built using hundreds of real samples acquired from top oil & gas producers across the globe. This allows the use of the system from day one and the realization of return on the investment. Thanks to its advanced FT-IR technology and user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface), the opportunities for future expansion of these models are endless.

OptiFuel is in compliance or correlation with most of the standard methods:

Compliance Correlation Specs
ASTM D6277, ASTM D7371, ASTM D5845, ASTM D7777, EN 238, IP 559 ASTM: D1319, D1322, D1840, D2386, D2699, D2700, D323, D3828, D3948, D4053, D4737A, D445, D4815, D5191, D56, D613, D6371, D6378, D6379, D6839, D7153, D7806, D86, D976, EN 116, EN 14078, EN ISO 13016, ISO 22854 , ISO 3104, ISO 3405, ISO 4264, ISO 5163, ISO 5164, ISO 5165, SGS M2533 ASTM D1655, D4806, D4814, D975, EN 228, EN 590, DEFSTAN 91-091


Due to its advanced design with no moving parts, great ease-of-use and long warranty, OptiFuel provides a fast and straightforward solution for the measurement of fuel properties with no need for training.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by PAC L.P.

For more information on this source, please visit PAC L.P.


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