To meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emission standards, most diesel engine manufacturers have adopted something called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology. The EPA mandate went into effect last year requiring all new diesel-engine vehicles sold in the U.S. to include SCR equipment and fluids to treat the exhaust emitted by these cars and trucks, which will lower the amount of potentially harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) released into the atmosphere.
This technology works by injecting small quantities of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) into the exhaust upstream of a catalyst, which then converts to ammonia in the exhaust stream and reacts with NOx over the catalyst to form harmless nitrogen gas and water. In short, the process converts NOx into two components found naturally in the air we breathe.
DEF specifically is a 32.5 percent solution of chemically pure Urea and 67.5 percent demineralized or deionized water. It is a stable, non-toxic solution and is not considered by the Department of Transportation to be a hazardous substance.
DEF is stored in a tank located on the car or truck; the size of these tanks vary, beginning at 4 gallon capacity going up to 28 gallons for on-road vehicles. Initial estimates have DEF consumption rates ranging from 2 to 3 percent, but this will be affected by engine make and model.
Since DEF has to be on the vehicle, it creates a new challenge and new market for the mobile fueling industry. DEF will eventually be made available in bulk at all truck stops in the U.S., but for those with fleets, it opens up another need to be serviced.
Mobile fueling is still an attractive option for those with fleets. The process eliminates the time wasted in having individual drivers either visit retail or cardlock sites and it offers a way to efficiently control theft. For those operators without a backyard tank or convenient places to fuel up, it’s almost a necessity. Now with the SCR technology, if marketers haven’t already figured out how to provide DEF in mobile fueling, they need to very soon.
"Our customers have identified DEF as a logistical challenge going forward,” said Faris, marketing manager for Oilmen’s Truck Tanks. “However, many see it as a great opportunity to solidify relationships with fleet owners by providing them with one supplier for multiple products. Refuelers that have the ability to supply DEF will position themselves to gain market share over time. Our forward-looking customers have embraced this new product and are working with us to get the equipment they need before the demand outpaces their capacity."
To offer a mobile fueling solution for DEF delivery, Oilmen’s Truck Tanks, Inc. has introduced a stand-alone, dedicated DEF pumping system with tank.
“We first started developing DEF equipment solutions over two years ago,” he said. “We were very fortunate to be able to access the experience and equipment lines of our sister company OEC Fluid Handling, which is our industrial equipment division.”
The system is perfect for retrofitting to existing equipment and gives the operator the ability to top-off DEF tanks along with the other fuels that are being dispensed. DEF tanks from 75 to 100 gallons (space permitting) can be installed inside or outside of the cabinet.
The DEF pumping system is equipped with a Weights-and-Measures-approved meter with digital display and ticket printer. “Oilmen's Truck Tanks formally debuted the nation's first Weights and Measures approved DEF truck tank at the 2010 Mid-America Truck Show,” he said. “We now have Weights and Measures approved warehouse pumping systems, mobile skid units, cabinet mounted systems for trailers or truck tanks, and complete DEF compatible truck tanks."
Jubitz Mobile Refueling now offers DEF, available in bulk, for delivery in 2.5 gallon jugs, 55 gallon drums, 275 or 330 gallon totes, and for servicing fleets, truck-to-truck. The company works in the Portland/Salem area of Oregon.
“We’ve been offering the service about six to nine months,” said Cori Johnson, co-general manager for Jubitz Fleet Fueling. “DEF is still in its early stages, so it’s not a huge need right now. But we do have a handful of customers that we either fill up their trucks for them or fill their drums.”
Johnson said mobile fueling is a great option for those operators who have their fleet in one location. “We can provide wet hosing 24-7,” she said. Plus, it saves the money of paying a driver $15-25 an hour to fuel up his or her own vehicle.
With the economy still trying to pick up steam following the recession, many businesses have been slow to buy new trucks with SCR technology, but the demand is likely to grow and Jubitz is preparing to expand its DEF offerings.
"Right now we are looking to offer DEF at our Pacific Pride locations," said Johnson. "Also, we are looking into designating a specific DEF truck to accommodate the growing need. Because of the sensitivity for contamination, DEF requires its own designated containment, which can be stainless steel or polycarbonate that has not been previously used for another type of fuel. That's a big investment, so we have a lot to consider."
The sensitivity of DEF is, in fact, one of the special characteristics for those working with the fluid need to consider.
"Proper training for operators that will be handling and delivering DEF is very important to prevent contamination,” Faris said. “Purity of DEF is defined by the ISO 22241 spec. Miniscule amounts of trace materials (contamination) can throw an entire tanker load of DEF out of spec and render it useless as Diesel Exhaust Fluid. Ruining a load of DEF can be very costly, but pales in comparison to the cost of replacing damaged SCR systems of chassis that use off-spec DEF.
Faris recommended finding a supplier of DEF that is API certified to ensure the purity of the product you are purchasing and visiting www.apidef.org or www.api.org for more info. Another great resource in learning more about DEF is Oilmen’s website – www.defequipment.com – which the company created in response to their customers’ increasing questions about the product.
In the meantime, Oilmen’s is planning for the spike in DEF demand. “We are currently building a new fleet fueling truck with a dedicated system for DEF,” said Faris. The company will be introducing the truck at the Midwest Petroleum and Convenience Tradeshow (also known as the M-Pact Show) on March 15-17, 2011 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind.
Other companies in the industry are also working on their DEF solutions. Recently, Atlas Oil Co., a premier national petroleum products distributor and services provider, has also announced it is now offering DEF via jugs, drums, totes and bulk tank systems. Atlas has signed an agreement with Old World Industries to be the exclusive master distributor of their Blue DEF product and dispensing equipment with open access to marketing in all geographic areas within the Atlas footprint. Headquartered in Taylor, Mich. with operational centers in Michigan, Indiana, Texas and Ohio, Atlas said it will be able to supply all of its customers’ infrastructure needs in addition to the actual fluid.
Additionally, SKS has Blue DEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid and dispensing equipment available throughout Southern California through distribution centers located in San Diego, Escondido and Anaheim. SKS, headquartered in Escondido, Calif., said it is also committed to providing a cleaner environment by providing delivery service programs for Blue Def Diesel Exhaust Fluid and equipment regionally, as well as nationally, through its strategic distribution partners.
The DEF demand might be starting off slowly, but it has the potential to explode in the near future.
"More SCR chassis are rolling off dealers' lots every day,” Faris said. “The average age of U.S. Class 8 fleets is the oldest, going back to 1979, and it won't be long before repair and maintenance costs exceed the expense of purchasing new equipment. Off-road equipment (tractors, earth-movers, locomotives, etc.) is just around the corner. This industry has huge potential for increasing volumes in a very short period of time. If you are in the fuel business, you need to have a plan."