Ad-ing Blue to green
With Euro-6 vehicles soon to be mandatory in Europe, and a handful making their way here for forward-thinking operators, CLAIRE RENCKEN looks at why AdBlue is necessary for Euro 6-compliance. Here’s what it is, how it works and where you can get it …
In Europe and North America, Euro-6 will be the final emission control legislation to come into effect in 2014. It will be the strictest of all emission limits, reducing around 98 percent of emissions. At this rate, the air from compliant engines may sometimes be cleaner to breathe than the prevailing atmospheric air.
All vehicles equipped with a diesel engine will be required to substantially reduce their emissions of nitrogen oxides as soon as the Euro-6 standard takes effect. For example, emissions from cars and other vehicles intended to be used for transport will be capped at 80 mg/km (an additional reduction of more than 50 percent compared to the Euro-5 standard). Combined emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from diesel vehicles will also be reduced. These will be capped at, for example, 170 mg/km for cars and other vehicles intended to be used for transport.
To achieve these standards, the emission control technology has to include the selective catalytic reducer (SCR), a system that depends on a pure solution of automotive grade urea called diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), also known as AdBlue. The AdBlue is housed in a separate plastic tank, with its distinctive blue cap normally near the diesel tank. Unlike diesel, AdBlue is a clear, non-toxic liquid that is safe to handle and does not damage the environment.
To ensure that the vehicles’ nitric oxide (NOx) and other green house gases remain below the legal limit, it is important to ensure the vehicles remain supplied with AdBlue, as onboard policing systems will enforce a torque penalty should the tank run dry. This “after treatment” system doses a measured amount of AdBlue into the SCR, which consists of a three-stage catalysation process (involving three catalytic converters made up of noble metals), and reduces NOx to water vapour and atmospheric nitrogen. This reaction takes place downstream of the engine in the exhaust system and allows the engine to be tuned for maximum efficiency, which can give an estimated fuel saving of five percent in some cases.
Blue Sky Environmental Technologies (Pty) Ltd, a joint venture between Viscol and Kruse Gruppe, a German chemical manufacturer supplying Germany with over eight million litres of AdBlue per month, is the first AdBlue manufacturer on the African continent. Situated in Centurion, Blue Sky has now supplied the growing South African market for over a year. Currently, there is a depot in Durban and Cape Town, with emergency outlets dotted along all the major transport nodes around the country.
Says Alex Hime of Viscol: “Sadly at this time, Euro-6 is not on the South African radar and Euro-5 is a tiny blip somewhere on the outer 2017 range marker. Our current position is the outdated Euro-2, which will be with us for another five years. With global phenomena such as hurricane Sandy flooding New York, droughts giving way to torrential floods in the south of Pakistan, and extreme weather conditions in other parts of the world, it is clear that global warming is happening and we need to act now! We’ve got to reduce our emissions.”
Most South African original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will guarantee their Euro-5 trucks only if run on clean diesel –
50 parts per million (ppm). “Well, 50 ppm diesel is now available at more and more fuel depots, truck stops and petrol stations,” continues Hime. “The Department of Energy has gazetted the specifications of the new Euro-5 diesel (10 ppm) for importation beginning 2013. The refineries have been given notice to upgrade their refineries by 2017 to produce Euro-5 diesel. One of the OEMs has given the green light to operate their truck on the old spec diesel of 500 ppm. So why are we not going for it?
“Well, like anything new that costs a bit extra, we apparently need legislation to force us to comply. This does not say much for our corporate responsibility, does it? We need to urgently come to terms with our responsibility to mitigate and reduce the effects of global warming. We must fight the temptation to only ‘go with the flow’ once legislation has been passed. We have to learn to contribute to our nation’s well-being without being forced to do so by our government.”
This is a contribution to healthy living in South Africa in which business needs to play a leading role.
“We are the biggest carbon-emitting country in Africa and the 13th largest in the world!” says Hime. “The excuse that
50 ppm diesel is not freely available all over South Africa is not good enough, since most major cities and transport routes do have the cleaner diesel – and wherever this cleaner fuel is available, Euro-5 trucks should be running. India and China have emission control laws sometimes just covering specific geographical areas for exactly the same reason.”
According to Hime, running the Euro-5 fleet would entail no extra running costs other than the variance between the standard diesel and the 50 ppm diesel. “The emission system consumes AdBlue, of which the cost is more than compensated for by the reduction in the use of diesel. And that is what we are aiming to achieve – the reduction in the use of hydrocarbons to reduce the CO2 emissions.”
Hime feels passionately that businesses should take a stand in making sure that their transporters, or their own fleet of vehicles, are at least Euro-5 compliant. “Then we could reduce the 27 percent carbon emissions contributed by the transport sector in South Africa to almost zero. By just starting simple, the transport sector can reduce these emissions without having to look at expensive alternative renewable fuels. Nor would it have to grapple with hugely expensive alternative transport modes such as electric or gas-operated vehicles. It’s time to make a conscious decision – we need to weigh corporate profit against corporate responsibility,” he concludes.
Some manufacturers are already doing so. MAN Truck & Bus, for example, made use of AdBlue in its TGS 26.480 6×4 BLS vehicle during its Consistently Efficient Tour last year. The vehicle was Euro-5 compliant, while running on 500 ppm diesel with AdBlue.
So, although our European and North American counterparts may have a head start in striving towards Euro-6 compliance, with progressive thinking on the part of the OEMs, increased awareness, and the use of products like AdBlue, South Africa need not be too far behind.