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EPA Considering Changes to Certification Standards for Diesel Exhaust Fluids

Aftermarket Business World...September 25, 2011

     The Environmental Protection Agency wants to make some changes to its certification program for reducing agents, and they aren't talking about chemicals used by weight-loss companies such as Jenny Craig or in saunas at health clubs. The July 7 draft guidance from the agency concerns the reducing agents that are an integral part of a NOX emission control technology called selective catalyst reduction (SCR) used in light- and heavy-duty trucks.
    These are not solely commercial trucks, but include trucks below a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 19,500 lbs. which are used for personal and business work. The reducing agents, also referred to as diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), are used up just as the fuel is. Replacing the fluid is regulated by the EPA under allowable and necessary maintenance and adjustable parameters. These regulations also apply in the case where inadequate quality DEF could be used or where the SCR system may be subject to tampering.
     The EPA draft guidance tightens up prior guidance which mostly, for the moment, affects original equipment manufacturers, in terms of how Low-DEF warning systems work and when inducement--where the engine slows down in response to dwindling DEF levels--kicks in. But the draft guidance  illuminates aftermarket issues, too.
     The key problem, from the EPA's standpoint, is that truck owners run out of DEF and don't refill the tank, leading to emissions violations. Maybe it is a case of a faulty warning or inducement system. The draft guidance aims to prevent this from happening by setting out engine indicator capabilities which truck and engine manufacturers must meet in order to self-certify their engines. The draft guidance doesn't directly get into aftermarket issues, although to the extent a truck owner can't find a DEF refill while on the road, that, too, could be a major emissions problem.
     Truck owners have to either buy 2.5 gallon jugs of DEF in the aftermarket or pull in to a truck stop and pump fresh DEF into what is conventionally a 20-gallon tank located on the vehicle. More than 100 truck stops in the U.S. and Canada now have DEF available at the pump. There are also over 3,000 locations that have packaged DEF, and a majority of the locations are in the U.S. As truck stops such as Travel Centers of America roll out on-island DEF dispensers, they usually incorporate technology which allows for single transaction fuel and DEF filling.
     But Navistar Inc, which has been locked in a battle with the EPA and CARB over SCR/DEF issues, thinks aftermarket sales are a problem. Navistar's MaxxForce Advanced EGR engines use advanced fuel injection, air management, electronic controls and proprietary combustion technology to cut NOx emission. Competitors such as Cummins use DEF in their SCR engines. Navistar argues that the draft guidance will allow truck drivers to continue to drive “dry” DEF tanks,  and spew big amounts of NOx, because DEF refills “are both expensive and inconvenient for the customers of SCR engine makers—assuming DEF is even available,” according to Patrick Charbonneau, Vice President, Government Affairs, Navistar. He calls the draft guidance "a major step backwards" and says it lets SCR manufacturers get away with murder, allowing them to self-certify liquid, urea-based SCR technology--first allowed by the EPA for model year 2010--without full scale testing.
       So even though this draft guidance does not touch directly on aftermarket sales of DEF, it could end up spurring more aftermarket locations to carry DEF. That would certainly be the hope of companies such as Cummins, which says only 30 percent of retailers who normally supply parts and equipment for light-, medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles have DEF available.