SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first announced it would be requiring cleaner emissions standards from truck engines by 2007, fuel and oil manufacturers have been wor...
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first announced it would be requiring cleaner emissions standards from truck engines by 2007, fuel and oil manufacturers have been working tirelessly to do their part to meet the upcoming September deadline. East Coast powerhouse Irving Oil sent representative Rob Gardner to speak at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s recent Technology and Maintenance Conference to explain what’s on the road ahead for Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel.
In 2003, Irving first announced it would be investing $100 million to produce ULSD in order to comply with EPA and Environment Canada standards. The low-sulfur fuel is designed to drop the current on-road diesel’s sulfur content from 500 parts per million (PPM) to a drastically reduced 15 PPM. The new 2007 engines are clean-burning machines which require very low sulfur content because, as Gardner says, sulfur “poisons” the catalysts in the aftertreatment equipment.
However, despite promises of a cleaner environment, the fuel poses potential problems for companies like Irving, as well as the customers they service.
“One of the common concerns with ULSD for engines is the lubricity rating,” said Jan Waldschutz, spokesperson for Irving Oil. To combat this problem, a lubricity additive will likely be required at the refinery stage.
Another concern from both fleets and drivers is a potential drop in the energy level of the ultra low-sulfur fuel. Waldschutz says Irving doesn’t expect the energy level of its ULSD to be much different than its current LSD as essentially all the same components (including Cetane, pour point, cloud point and API) will remain in the fuel even after the sulfur has been removed.)
With so many customers involved in a fuel’s life along the supply chain, the threat of contamination is very real. Heating oil has a sulfur content about 200 times greater than traditional on-road diesel, so according to Gardner, preventing contamination between these two fuels is vital.
In the shipping industry, no physical changes to the ships are required, though existing procedures for washing ships will need to be heightened.
“Most of the systems that handle ULSD have to be segregated from systems that handle heating oil or jet fuel to prevent contamination,” Waldschutz said. “Our ULSD investment (has) included a significant amount of work to our diesel blending systems, as well as projects to segregate ULSD from other products in our marine terminals.”
Iriving’s initial investment of $100 million included modifying its Hydrogen Desulphurization unit, hydrocracking unit, blending systems at its refinery (including pipes and storage tanks), and installing a hydrogen extraction unit. The majority of the work is now complete – with current final upgrades to our hydrocracking unit currently underway – but changes to the blending systems but will eventually bring Irving’s total investment to over $150 million.
Waldschutz acknowledges with any new product that requires new and complex technology, you can always expect there will be an additional cost to produce it.
“That being said, the refining industry is very efficient, so we would expect any increases to be small relative to the absolute price of diesel,” she said. “Ultimately, the market will decide based on supply and demand for the product.”
Irving’s ULSD will be available at retail sites Sept. 1.