Emissions Retrofit 101By Dana Brewster
Article Date: 01-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Defining the devices that you and your customers need for regulatory compliance on older machines
Editor's Note: Industry experts say that Tier 4 interim and final equipment launch will go down in history as the most challenging period the construction equipment industry will have ever faced. Yet numerous market-altering issues for distributors are not being widely discussed – until now. On the afternoon of Jan. 22, AED Summit in San Antonio presents an industry panel to address the most serious and urgent considerations and implications with which dealers must contend – the future of their customers and the dealer's own business depend on proactive learning and involvement now. I urge every AED member principal to attend this important industry event and begin engaging in the many layers of consequences and opportunities unfolding from the T-4 transformation. – Kim Phelan
Why does my company have tospend money on specialized mufflers when the economy and my business are struggling? This is a question that many equipment owners are asking themselves right now as the air quality regulations become tighter throughout the larger cities in the U.S. AED dealers should be positioning themselves to help their customers navigate the challenges they're facing.
Retrofitting equipment is not a complicated process if you understand the terminology and process that is involved. Most people are aware that retrofitting equipment with emissions-reducing mufflers has been going on for nearly a decade in the on-road sector. Less well known is that fact that off-road retrofits have been happening for more than 30 years in industries such as mining and cargo handling. The driver for these off-road retrofits has been occupational health and safety. Indeed, there is evidence that suggests that the health threat of diesel exhaust may be exacerbated where operators of diesel-powered equipment are in close proximity and where emissions may not always dissipate. This is particularly true for workers in the construction industry.
In the latter half of the 1990s, California, through the California Air Resources Board (CARB), led the charge, implementing mandates requiring fleet owners to comply with fleet-specific rules in order to operate within the state. These rules may require equipment retirement and replacement, repower and/or retrofit of equipment. The rest of the country has gradually been retrofitting equipment on a voluntary basis using federal and state funding through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other sources.
Retrofitting is the process of installing a pollution-reducing device in the exhaust system (typically in a muffler format) of a diesel-powered machine. The vast majority of retrofits in both on- and off-road applications consist of removing the existing muffler and replacing it with a specialized muffler that will reduce the harmful pollutants that come out of the exhaust pipe of the diesel engine.
The sole purpose of retrofitting equipment is to reduce air pollution. The amount of harmful pollutants that enter the atmosphere from on- and off-road equipment is considered a health risk to the population. The majority of the larger U.S. cities currently exceed the pollution levels that are acceptable by the U.S. EPA standards. These areas are called nonattainment areas. In most cases, you could draw a 40-mile radius around each large city in the U.S. and that area would fall into the nonattainment zone. As a result, the EPA focuses on these areas by allocating grant money to fleets within these zones to combat the problem. Engine manufacturers are doing their part to reduce emissions for all new equipment sold, but it is up to individual fleet owners to contribute to keeping the air clean by retrofitting the existing equipment that they have in their fleet.
There are three levels of exhaust retrofit equipment available; Levels 1, 2 and 3.
Level 1 technology consists of diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs). This technology reduces particulate matter between 20 and 40 percent, depending on the manufacturer's verification. A DOC is a maintenance-free device and is similar to a catalytic converter in a gas engine. Hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are also reduced by approximately 50 percent by this device.
Level 2 technology is a diesel flow-through filter (FTF) that reduces particulate matter by 50 percent. This product requires that each unit maintain a hot enough duty cycle for the filter to perform correctly. If the duty cycle temperature becomes too low then clogging can occur in the filter and require a cleaning. The verification of this product requires that the exhaust temperature be recorded to confirm that it meets the temperature requirement. There is no emissions-reduction credit for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide with this product.
Level 3 technology consists of a diesel particulate filter (DPF), which reduces particulate matter by 85 percent or more. This product is considered the "Best Available Technology" (BAT) in the industry and is the only product that can be used in California today. DPFs are separated into two types: passive and active.
Passive filters require the duty cycle of the unit run hot enough to allow the soot that accumulates in the filter to continually be "combusted." Data logging must be performed on each unit to qualify that the exhaust temperature will meet the temperature threshold to allow soot to break down on a regular basis.
Active filters do not need to rely on the exhaust temperatures to break down the accumulated soot in the filter. There is an "active" component that will provide the heat to the filter to allow the breakdown of soot to occur. Active components consist of either electric heating elements being built into the muffler or diesel fuel being dosed into the muffler and oxidized over a catalyst or combusted by a burner within the muffler. All passive and active filters do accumulate ash inside the small channels within the filter as the soot continually breaks down. As a result, it is recommended that the filters are de-ashed at least once a year or every 1,000 engine hours at a minimum to allow the filter to continue performing correctly. The de-ashing process occurs by removing the filter and placing it on an approved cleaning machine for diesel particulate filters.
The Retrofitting Process
The retrofit process can be intimidating if you do not have any experience with it. Equipment distributors should take advantage of the reputable companies that offer verified products and consult with one of their professional sales people about the specific equipment fleet or project needs.
The first step in the process is to figure out your ultimate goal. Are you or your customers trying to achieve the greenest fleet in your area so you have a competitive advantage? Are you or your customers interested in retrofitting as little as possible to satisfy a requirement on a bid? Once this is determined, then you can select the level of technology that you need (Level 1, 2 or 3). At this point you will need a quote from a vendor(s) that offers the product you are seeking. The vendor will need a detailed fleet list in order to properly calculate the size of DOC, FTF or DPF for each piece of equipment. The larger the engine, the larger the catalyst or filter required. Engine year, horsepower and displacement (usually expressed in liters) of engine are critical pieces of information to determine the correct size. Once you have obtained a quote, your funding options should be researched. The funding source will usually have a template that will need to be completed in order to submit your application. In the end, the funding sources evaluate proposals based on dollars spent compared to tons of particulate matter reduced for the project. The better the ratio, the greater chance you have of being awarded the grant.
After receiving the grant, or if your company is purchasing these filters directly, a vendor will need to be hired to manufacture and install your product. The EPA and CARB verification list will provide you with vendors that can bid your project.
Retrofitting off-road equipment is much more challenging than on-road. The biggest obstacle is space constraints within the engine compartment to fit the specialized muffler. These mufflers are typically larger than the OEM muffler that is being removed, and with most off-road equipment there is very little room to increase the muffler size. If the muffler cannot be a direct replacement then an alternative location is evaluated.
A key element to relocating the muffler is safety and functionality of the equipment. If one of these items becomes an issue then the piece of equipment cannot be retrofitted. Another challenge is the lack of off-road verifications available to the customer that will allow for your equipment to receive a verified device for its model year. Due to the lack of demand in the majority of the U.S. (California and New York excluded) manufacturers of off-road product have not spent the money to obtain new verifications. As a result, there are gaps in the verification years for each level of product.
Construction equipment owners and the dealers who serve them need to become knowledgeable in all facets of retrofit in order to stay competitive as the regulations become tighter within their operating areas. Retrofitting equipment is not only a benefit to the environment, but it can provide a competitive advantage to a business going forward by transforming it into a "green fleet." This title may give you an edge when project owners are comparing your customer's bid to other competitors. Retrofits need to be looked at as a cost to do business; and if your company is not affected by a current or upcoming regulation, then this is your opportunity to take advantage of the funding that your tax dollars pay for.
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