ULSD: Year in review

WASHINGTON — Next week marks the one-year anniversary of ultra-low sulfur diesel’s (ULSD) arrival at North American fueling stations nationwide.

Initial concerns about fuel availability and the performance of heavy-duty trucks designed specifically for ULSD have waned, thanks to an absence of problems transitioning to the clean diesel system, according to the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF).

ULSD now accounts for over 75 percent of all distillate fuel production in the U.S., and EPA estimates that over 90 percent of all retail service stations that have diesel fuel are now carrying ULSD — exceeding the required 80 percent minimum level.

In Canada, which did not permit smaller refiners to delay implementation of the ULSD standard as in the U.S, 100 percent of fuel marketed was ULSD.

The most significant benefits of ULSD will be realized
when new trucks have largely replaced the existing fleet.

ULSD is required for all new 2007 clean diesel heavy-duty commercial truck engines. Its use also allows for the modernizing of some existing engines and equipment with emissions control technology such as particulate filters.

“The transition to ULSD fuel has been nearly seamless, with virtually no supply interruptions nor technical glitches. Like the switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline, this transition to clean diesel fuel is fundamentally transforming diesel technology to be a leading solution for reducing energy consumption, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and meeting aggressive clean air standards,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director.

The most significant benefits of clean diesel will be realized when new trucks have largely replaced the existing fleet in 2020. At that time, EPA predicts two million fewer tons of nitrogen oxides and 83,000 fewer tons of fine particulate matter (soot), thanks to the cleaner diesel.

“Diesel truck drivers depend on their trucks for superior fuel economy and power. Early reports indicate that the cleaner fuel and engines still deliver both. Alongside the smooth fuel transition, equally encouraging is the tremendous satisfaction among users of new 2007 commercial vehicles,” continued Schaeffer.

A 2007 diesel truck is said to emit just one-sixtieth the soot exhaust of one produced in 1988.

Congress is currently considering appropriations for the national clean diesel retrofit program and could provide up to $200 million this year to modernize existing vehicles and equipment, reports DTF.

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