New Standards for Highway Diesel Fuel Take Affect: Watch for Disruptions
Refiners were required to begin shipping ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel for highway use on June 1. Calif. refiners and importers must produce/import exclusively ULSD as of June 1 (for other states, refiners must produce 80% ULSD for highway use, no new requirement for nonroad). Industry remains concerned that the transition could create fuel supply disruptions, price increases, and operational challenges.
Although refiners have been scrambling to install the necessary equipment, it is possible that localized shortages and breakdowns will occur. These problems could affect offroad diesel as well. Supply disruptions may occur because ULSD could easily be contaminated in pipelines and fuel terminals that also transport high-sulfur products. Price increases also are predicted: EPA estimates the cost of diesel fuel will increase by at least five cents per gallon. To this end, trucking executives and engine manufacturers claim that ULSD’s lower energy content will force truck operators to buy more fuel to run the same number of miles, which may drive up fuel prices. In addition, engine manufacturers are expecting operational challenges -- mainly a power loss of 1% to 3% -- when the ULSD reaches diesel retail outlets later this year.
Federal regulations also require the labeling of ALL diesel pumps to specify the type of fuel dispensed as of June 1. This requirement applies to contractors who maintain their own pumps to fuel trucks or offroad equipment. In addition, there are separate deadlines for terminals, retailers, and vehicle owners to begin using ULSD. There is a very clear website that shows the various deadlines and requirements for refiners/importers, terminals, retailers, and users of highway and offroad diesel, in Calif. and everywhere else at http://www.clean-diesel.org. You can download pump labels from that site as well.
EPA’s so-called “2007 Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Rule” is responsible for establishing nationwide ULSD requirements, along with the most stringent diesel engine emission standards to date (66 FR 5135, Jan. 18). As of June 1, refiners and importers had to cut the sulfur content of at least 80% of the volume of the highway diesel fuel they produce by 97%, from 500 parts-per-million (ppm) to 15 ppm. Distribution terminals will have until September 1 and retailers will have until October 15 to complete their transitions to ULSD, pursuant to an extension notice published late last year (70 FR 70498, November 22, 2005). The 500 ppm highway diesel will remain available in diminishing quantities until 2010.
EPA has coupled its new standards for highway diesel fuel with new standards for heavy-duty highway engines. That’s because such stringent engine emission standards would not be feasible without a fuel change. Engine manufacturers have until model year 2007 to begin reducing emissions from diesel-powered, heavy-duty highway trucks by 95%. (The rule allows manufacturers to phase-in compliance with the new standards between 2007 and 2010.) To reduce engine emissions, manufacturers will install pollution controls similar to those already mandated for cars. EPA estimates these controls will increase the cost of trucks by $1,200 to $1,900.
Heavy-duty diesel truck and engine makers are “on track” to produce clean-burning diesel trucks in the 2007 model year, according to statements made by many of the big players. Pollution-control equipment being installed on the trucks includes particulate matter traps as well as catalytic converters to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. ULSD is necessary to prevent the pollution controls from being fouled by sulfur deposits. In addition, the cleaner fuel will greatly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, according to EPA.
More information on EPA’s 2007 Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Rule is available on the Internet.
Web site: www.epa.gov/otaq/diesel.htm
In addition, you can click here to read an article written by AGC’s Chief Economist Ken Simonson -- “The Ultimate Low-Down on Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel" -- which covers pricing, performance and reliability issues of interest to diesel truck operators.
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