22 May 2009 19:37 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US government regulations designed to curb the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in diesel engine exhaust have provided a new market for the urea industry, The Fertilizer Institute said on Friday.
In 2004, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began phasing in regulations requiring motor vehicle manufacturers to reduce millions of tons of NOx emissions from their products. The regulations bringing NOx emissions to nearly zero will be fully implemented in 2010.
Most vehicle makers complied by including selective-catalytic-reduction (SCR) systems in their vehicles. SCR is a process that uses lower rates of exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) to meet the near-zero NOx requirement.
Urea-based diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is a key element of the SCR process.
DEF is made up of 32.5% urea and 67.5% purified water.
When injected into hot exhaust as a fine mist and passed over a catalyst, DEF helps convert NOx into nitrogen gas and water vapour. It is stable, colourless and odourless.
A committee led by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and supported by The Fertilizer Institute was responsible for gaining acceptance by EPA of SCR and DEF as solutions to eliminating NOx.
“Fertilizer companies are excited to have this new market for urea,” said The Fertilizer Institute’s Bill Herz, vice president, scientific programmes.
DEF manufacturers include the fertilizer companies Agrium, CF Industries, Dyno Nobel, Koch Nitrogen, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, Terra Industries and Yara.
“The urea used for DEF is technical grade, meaning it has a higher purity than urea used for fertilizer,” Herz said.
DEF quality is monitored through a certification programme developed by the API.
The use of urea-based DEF would consume up to 2% of the world’s global urea production, which totalled 143m tonnes in 2007.
DEF is marketed in North America as BlueTec. In Europe, the product is known as AdBlue. Both products are the property of Daimler.
Currently, diesel-powered vehicle owners with SCR systems buy DEF from vehicle dealers.
Herz said the infrastructure to supply DEF through the pump for both automobiles and trucks is developing quickly.
US travel-stop operator Love’s said that it would begin installing bulk containers for DEF at 50 of its truck stops, beginning in the fourth quarter. Love’s also sells DEF in 1 gal (3.758 litres), 2.5 gal and 5 gal containers.
According to Integer Research, 65% of commercial vehicles (over 4 tonnes) sold in Europe in the first half of 2008 used SCR.
The researchers said that at current market shares, nearly 80% of all commercial vehicles sold in North America will use SCR in 2010.
At market maturity in about 10 years, sources said the consumption of urea in DEF will account for slightly less than 5% of global urea production.
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