A Brave New World for Diesel Powered EquipmentWritten By Dawn Fenton and Allen Schaeffer, Diesel Technical Forum
Article Date: 11-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Both old and new machines can enter the green scene.
Selling construction equipment in the next five years will be nothing like the past five years.
In addition to the familiar up and down cycles of the economy, housing markets and infrastructure project funding, environment and sustainability advocates are affecting capital investment and other bottom-line business decisions through their quest for new diesel emissions standards, contract bid specifications and "green construction" practices. For a growing number of public jobs, bid eligibility now includes providing the environmental footprint of the construction equipment to be used on the job; the level of emissions, fuel quality and even other factors.
Since construction companies with more progressive environmental practices stand better chances of winning future jobs, as equipment dealers, helping your customer understand the impact of these trends and offering solutions to face the myriad business pressures can make a big difference.
Just speaking the language of Tier III and Tier IV clean diesel engines, particulate traps, oxidation catalysts, renewable diesel, SCR, retrofits, and repowers can provide some comfort. New diesel equipment is facing stricter emissions regulations and older equipment is being targeted as a relatively easy source of emissions reductions. As a result, many equipment dealers and manufacturers are finding themselves increasingly drawn into a world of unfamiliar policy and regulatory influences.
The Advent of Clean Diesel - Lower Sulfur Fuel
Although cleaner off-road diesel engines meeting EPA standards will be phased in over several years, the foundation for this new technology is cleaner, lower sulfur fuel. New generation clean diesel engines require cleaner fuel than what has heretofore been available.
This new low sulfur diesel fuel (500 ppm sulfur maximum) is a far cry from the "old" off-road diesel fuel (2500-3000 ppm sulfur), bringing approximately 10 percent emissions reductions just through this simple fuel switching. This cleaner fuel had previously been used by highway vehicles before their own move to using Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).
Eventually, by 2010, standards for off-road and on-highway diesel fuel will converge, making all diesel sold ultra-low sulfur diesel. Getting sulfur out of diesel fuel is as important as the removal of lead was from gasoline back in the 1970s - it is critical to enabling the new emissions control systems to perform properly and meet the new, more stringent emissions standards. California contractors have been using ULSD for over a year without difficulties.
The Next Steps - Tier III and Tier IV Equipment
This cleaner diesel fuel is essential for the new emissions control technology you'll start seeing on some Tier III and all Tier IV level machines if you haven't seen it already. All diesel engine sizes will soon have diesel oxidation catalysts or particulate traps incorporated into the exhaust system to trap and burn off particles. Systems may be regenerated while the vehicle is operating or some designs might require particulate filters to be removed and exchanged for a fresh one while the old one is baked in a special oven to burn off the accumulated particles.
New clean diesel engines typically run hotter than previous engines, requiring more robust coolant and cooling systems and new oil formulations as well, along with possible changes to drain and filter change intervals. With the cleaner fuel, reminding customers of the fuel quality requirements for next generation of machines is extremely important. Based on experience thus far in the highway truck sector, using even just one or two tanks of higher sulfur diesel fuel in an new engine designed for low sulfur fuel that uses particulate traps or catalysts will create problems, ranging from smoking exhaust, catalyst and trap fouling to problems with filter regeneration.
In addition to reducing particles through the use of diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) and diesel particulate filters (DPFs), some off-road machines - especially larger ones - will likely incorporate a new emissions control system called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) in the 2010 - 2012 timeframe in order to meet more stringent certification standards for nitrogen oxide emissions.
California Takes the Lead
While there are great stories about new technology and its lower emissions, industry buzz is probably more focused on California's recently adopted mandate for construction companies to reduce emissions from existing construction equipment.
Other than to perform manufacturer recommended maintenance, contractors, unlike car owners, have not faced registration or annual emissions tests to meet clean air standards. The burden was solely on engine manufacturers to develop engines that met increasingly strict U.S. EPA and California emissions standards for new engines.
However, due to air quality concerns and diesel equipment's durability, states and the federal government are increasingly looking at how to reduce emissions from in-use equipment. In 2000, California adopted a requirement for all existing diesel engines based there to have dramatically lower levels of emissions - at least 85 percent lower - by 2015. While the deadline has slipped, the requirements have not, and the California Air Resources Board adopted these requirements for the construction equipment sector in August 2007, with rules for highway vehicles (utility trucks, stake bodies, dump trucks and other diesel powered highway vehicles) not far behind - they are slated for adoption in December.
If implemented as adopted, this rule will fundamentally change how equipment is acquired, used and maintained in California, with ripple effects that will decimate used equipment values in other states, particularly for Tier 0 equipment. Starting in 2009, companies must inventory, report and label their equipment, implement idling limits and eliminate importation of older equipment into California. Then, beginning in 2010, fleets with over 5000 hp must meet fleet air emissions targets of PM or apply best available control technology (BACT) to 20 percent of their fleet's total horsepower. Large and medium fleets must also meet target emissions for NOx or turn over a certain percentage of their fleet (8 to 10 percent). Smaller fleets have until 2025 to comply.
Many are concerned that California's action will enable other states to adopt and enforce identical rules as they seek to benefit from California's historically unique rule-making authority under the Clean Air Act. A legal challenge by contractor organizations could ensue.
Voluntary Retrofit Efforts
While California pursues a mandatory approach, several stakeholder groups are looking for carrots to encourage voluntary retrofit projects. Voluntary diesel stakeholder groups of environmental advocates, business leaders, government officials and equipment dealers and manufacturers have formed around the country. These groups, all with some degree of EPA support, provide case studies, networking opportunities and grant funding for parties with an interest in reducing diesel emissions - a virtual plethora of information for equipment dealers who want to proactively serve their customers by getting up to speed and helping them through the process.
Federal and state funding for diesel retrofit projects has grown over the last several years, with hopes of more to come. A Diesel Emissions Reduction Program was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 creating a $1 billion diesel retrofit program within the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to appropriate any funds in support of the program, although advocates hold out hope that early support for $50 million in funding will be approved before the end of the year.
In 2005, Congress also approved language within SAFETEA-LU which required that diesel retrofit projects be given priority for federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding based on their cost-effectiveness in reducing PM and NOx emissions. Variations and complexities with each state's CMAQ program has made this a difficult funding nut to crack; however, the number of retrofit projects is growing, making this an increasingly more attractive and viable option for equipment and vehicle owners.
To learn more about this program, download a recently published guide from the Diesel Technology Forum titled, "CMAQ Funded Diesel Retrofit Projects: A Guide to Understanding and Accessing the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program."
Many states have also developed their own retrofit funding programs, including California, Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey and Ohio, just to name a few.
The Next Hurdle
As federal and state policymakers look beyond local air quality concerns to tackle the looming climate change challenge, the amount of legislation on energy efficiency, renewable fuels and greenhouse gas emissions is growing exponentially. Whether intentional or not, these proposals will have an effect on diesel vehicle and equipment owners, and clean diesel technology will have a role to play in meeting the goals set by policymakers.
Clean diesel's energy efficiency translates into lower carbon emissions than many other technologies and the potential for using renewable diesel fuels like soy-based biodiesel and other second-generation diesel fuels will position diesel technology favorably. Nevertheless, equipment owners must remain vigilant in their insistence on fuel quality standards. The quality of renewable fuels like biodiesel is still highly variable region to region and even tank to tank.
For equipment dealers, recommending proper maintenance levels for customers who might consider biodiesel is important, such as fuel filter changes before and shortly after switching into using biodiesel blends, due to the "cleansing" effect of biofuels on the system after the first few tankfuls.
So as contractors try and navigate this brave new world of owning and operating construction equipment, equipment dealers can play a significant role - and turn the challenges into opportunities.
Visit www.dieselforum.org for more information.
[ TOP ]