TMC REPORT: IT’S ALL ABOUT SCR

Rolf Lockwood

February 11, 2009 Vol. 5, No. 3

From deep in the Land of Mouse comes interesting news about a very light flatdeck with all sorts of innovations, about retrofittable roll stability control for trailers, about a brake lining that defeats rust-jacking, and of course more about the ongoing battle of words over approaches to emission control in 2010 engines. I am, of course, in Orlando, Fla. at the annual meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council, better known simply as TMC.

It’s a somewhat subdued affair this year, not surprisingly, and the attached trade show is both smaller and quieter. Fleet attendance numbers are down, naturally, but not as much as some had feared. Some suppliers aren’t there at all while almost all others have taken less space in the show than they might have done in fatter years gone by. On the show floor there’s a lot of head-shaking as folks commiserate with one another, knowing that nobody is immune from the wreckage previously called an economy.

“Ain’t seen anything like this before,” is a standard refrain.

IN TERMS OF NEWS, DETROIT DIESEL gave the press and subsequently the unwashed masses their first detailed public preview of its BlueTec selective catalytic reduction technology for 2010 engines. At the same time, in a press conference prior to the show and meeting, it countered some of the misinformation floating around about SCR and diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF.

Let me clear up one mistake right now, one that I’ve been guilty of making, though certainly not alone. Until some time last year everyone referred to the liquid agent that’s at the heart of the SCR process as urea. Then, quietly, the DEF phrase was coined. Subsequently, folks began using the two terms as if they were equal and interchangeable. Not quite.

Urea is a key raw material component of DEF, but it’s a 32.5% solution of chemically pure urea in deionized water. DEF is not pure urea. It reacts with smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) in an SCR catalyst, turning that NOx into safe nitrogen and water at the tail end of the pipe.

Among the myths that Detroit fought to counter is the notion that DEF is toxic. In fact, they said, it’s not toxic at any temperature.

And while it will freeze at something like 11 degrees F, immersion heaters in the DEF tank will prevent that. It will warm up quickly anyway, and the EPA is not concerned about this short delay.

Nor is DEF as expensive as some have claimed. Mark Lampert, senior sales vice president at DTNA, allowed that “We can’t predict what prices will be for DEF, or even diesel fuel.” But he said there have been wild exaggerations about pricing, including one claim of US$19.05 per gallon uttered by one OE rep during the show. In fact, another told me, DEF can be had for as little as US$2.50 a gallon in bulk. And even if you buy it in a half-gallon jug at a Mercedes-Benz car store’s parts counter, not known for cut-rate pricing, you’ll be short only US$7.50.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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