Fuel Wars: Environment Canada Looking at Regs for Off-Road Diesel

by Ingrid Phaneuf

TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Trucking Alliance is once again lobbying the Canadian government to ensure all freight modes, rail, marine shipping and trucking, use the same ultra-low sulphur fuel (ULSF).

Environment Canada released a discussion paper in August 2003 titled “Reducing the Level of Sulphur in Canadian Off-Road Diesel Fuel,” which refers specifically to fuel used by the marine and rail sector.

The paper considers options for the approach and design of a Canadian regulation aligning requirements for sulphur in off-road diesel fuel with those proposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Currently Canada’s sulphur level for off-road fuel is governed under the conditions of an MOU (not a regulation) which states the sulphur level must not exceed 5,000 parts per million (ppm).

(It’s typically closer to 2,500 ppm, according to Transport Canada.)

In the U.S., the EPA is considering lowering locomotive and marine fuel to 500 ppm but not to the 15 ppm that all other on-road and off-road sources in the U.S. will be lowered to by 2010.

Meanwhile, ultra low sulphur fuel is already mandated for use by the Canadian trucking industry by 2006.

As of June 1, 2006, the sulphur content of on-road diesel in Canada will be lowered from its current level of 500 ppm to 15 ppm (ULSF).

The introduction of ULSF will have a positive impact on the amount of particulate matter released on a per truck basis as well as being a match for 2007 truck engine technology.

However, the introduction of it into the market place is expected to increase the cost of fuel between one and three cents per litre.

Needless to say, the cost discrepancy between fuel for on-road and off-road shipping gives off-road a distinct advantage, at least in the short term, say Canadian Trucking Alliance officials.

“There’s certainly an inequality from our point of view, in terms of pure cost, at least at first,” says Stephen Laskowski, CTA associate vice-president.

“And if dirtier fuel remains cheaper, why should rail and marine shipping still get to use it when the trucking industry can’t?”

Laskowski points out that while EPA-approved truck engines won’t be able to function using dirtier fuel, non-regulated rail and shipping engines could easily burn fuel that’s cleaner than required.

“There’s no reason why a locomotive engine couldn’t use the 15 ppm fuel, if that’s all that’s available. The only issue is lubricity, which could be taken care of with an additive,” says Laskowski.

“But a 2007 EPA-certified engine won’t run on 500 ppm. It will break down.”

The inability of 2007 EPA certified engines to run on higher sulphur content fuels could become an issue at the pumps, if there’s access to both lower and higher sulphur fuels.

In the United States, where 15 ppm on-road diesel is only mandated as of 2010 (three years later than in Canada) it’s a definite possibility.

“There will be a huge issue in the trucking industry regarding proper fueling practices,” Laskowski says.

In other words, if it’s 3 a.m. and you’re a driver with a new 2007 EPA-certified truck filling up in Jersey, you’d better make sure you know what’s going into your tank.

But Laskowski says it’s not likely truck stops will deliberately change the nozzles on their pumps so drivers don’t get their fuels mixed up.

“The EPA considered having the nozzles made differently so there wouldn’t be any confusion, but they found it was cost prohibitive.

“In their most recent discussion paper on the issue they called on the American Trucking Associations for other solutions,” he says.

Meanwhile, Environment Canada has requested stakeholder input as to whether rail and marine should be required to utilize ULSF like all other sectors.

In its submission, CTA stated that based on operational and environmental data there appears to be no reason why the marine and rail sector should be exempt from having to utilize 15 ppm fuel.

In its discussion paper, Environment Canada also asked for opinions on using the tax system to influence the market regarding the use of varying sulphur fuels in the off-road market.

CTA cited how countries like Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark used policy to discourage the use of higher grade sulphur fuels.

CTA’s submission to Environment Canada is available at www.cantruck.com

Environment Canada’s Discussion Paper is available at www.ec.gc.ca/energ/fuels/reports/OffRoadDiesel/SulphurOffRoadDiesel_e.cfm

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.