The new standard
Another issue with ULSD is that the process to remove sulfur from the fuel also reduces its lubricity, but terminals plan to incorporate lubricating additives into the fuel before it reaches the consumer, Moskowitz said.
Also, some fleets who have tested ULSD report that it cleans sediment out of fuel systems, clogging the fuel filter more quickly, Moskowitz said. Owner-operators and fleets can address this by planning ahead to change the fuel filter more often.
In a truckstop near you
The new 15 ppm ULSD probably won’t hit most truckstops until Oct. 15, an extension past the original deadline of Sept. 1 (except in California, which will meet the original deadline). During the extra six weeks, retailers will be allowed to label, sell or distribute fuel with 22 ppm as ULSD.
The lag between the June 1 date for ULSD refining and Oct. 15 for the retail implementation date will allow time to build up a supply of ULSD and work out the kinks in transporting it through pipelines and in tankers that may be contaminated with sulfur.
“Perhaps the greatest concern with ULSD is whether the fuel will be available in all parts of the country,” Moskowitz said. “There’s a chance that as you move farther and farther away from the refinery that each of these handoffs will result in a slight contamination of the fuel. At least in certain parts of the country, ULSD may have to be downgraded to low sulfur diesel.”
Because both types of fuel will be available until 2010, the EPA now requires retail establishments and fleets that use in-house central refueling operations to label all pumps either low sulfur diesel or ULSD, even if they choose to distribute only low sulfur diesel.
“Even if they’re not carrying the ultra low yet, they’ll be required to label their tanks low sulfur,” said Mindy Long, senior director of communications for NATSO, the National Association of Truckstop Operators. “They’ll probably label them all low sulfur now and re-label in Oct. 15. They want to make sure nothing is being sold as ultra low when it’s not ultra low.”
Retailers are required to ensure that anything they sell as ULSD meets the 15 ppm requirement.
“The fines from the EPA can be as much $32,500 per day for labeling it ULSD if it wasn’t in compliance,” Long said.
To get ready for the change, many truckstops are planning to wait until the supply of ULSD is steady and then gradually clean out their tanks, Long said.
“Many of them are planning to take the tanks down as low as they can with normal use, in their normal pattern, through people filling up their trucks. Then they’ll refill with ULSD,” Long said. “They won’t label it ULSD, and it probably won’t meet the requirements, but it’ll be cleaning out the tanks.”
The truckstops will repeat this several times until the tanks are clean enough that ULSD reaches the right ppm levels.
“If you were to take our tanks out of commission, it would cost the truckstops, but this way minimizes disruption,” Long said.