Meeting the challenge

| January 23, 2007

If you have a 2007 engine, you are required by law to fuel with ULSD. Even if you have an older engine, it could be a good idea.

By now, you’ve seen plenty of the new ultra-low-sulfur diesel out there, and you’ve probably heard rumors about its potential effects on your truck – both good and bad.

If you’re driving a truck with a 2007 engine, you are required by law to fuel with ULSD, but even trucks with older engines could benefit from using the new stuff exclusively (see “Advantages of ULSD” on p. 88).

ULSD is tailor-made for trucks with 2007 engines and is only required in those trucks. The reason for requiring the new fuel is that sulfur goes right through the engine and into the exhaust, where it will deposit in the Diesel Particulate Filter used on trucks with 2007 engines and interfere with the burning off of soot.

ULSD is being so widely distributed in part to minimize the chance that the driver of a 2007 vehicle would use the wrong fuel. Also, the sulfur in fuel combines with carbon and tiny amounts of unburned fuel to help create soot particles, so dropping the fuel sulfur will help reduce the total amount of particulate a truck puts into the air. Even older trucks without a DPF will be spewing out less particulate when running on the new fuel.

Still, the new fuel isn’t perfect. It comes with its own share of challenges, but they’re nothing you can’t handle if you know what to watch for.

Higher price, less energy
The new fuel will cost a few cents more per gallon, and it may have a slightly reduced energy content, meaning a very slight increase in fuel costs.

So far the volatile diesel market has hidden the effect of increased cost related to removing sulfur. Because all the oil companies need to employ the process to make most of their fuel, competition in the market should minimize the effect.

If you are concerned about fuel costs, there are plenty of ways to save 1 percent or more of the fuel you burn and keep from experiencing a drop in miles per gallon or even fuel cost. Being more careful about idling unnecessarily or fitting your vehicle with any kind of device that reduces the need to idle will help. So will being careful about shifting progressively, upshifting early and downshifting late while in the higher gears, and leaving early so you’re not so tempted to drive any faster than necessary. Just cruising with traffic in order to avoid frequently needing to stab the brakes can help a lot.

Although refiners were estimating energy content of ULSD might be as much as 2 percent less than the power in LSD, Al Mannato, the American Petroleum Institute’s fuels issues manager, says there are indications the refineries are improving their performance as they gain experience and making ULSD that is closer to the energy content of LSD than originally anticipated.

Fuel filter plugging
The petroleum industry, including the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance, recommends that truckers watch for fuel filter plugging or fuel system leaks as ULSD works its way through the system.

Karyn Leonardi-Cattolica of Shell’s U.S. media center says the problem with filter clogging is a result of the new fuel’s slightly different composition. Such changes sometimes loosen deposits that are normally stuck in your tank or tanks, and this allows them to be pulled out with the fuel. You should just carry an extra set of filters till you’ve run a number of tanks of ULSD, in case you get enough junk in your fuel to fill up the ones that are on there.

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