Engine manufacturers call for on-time delivery of ULS fuel

After a May 27 EPA announcement that the agency will postpone next year’s retail compliance date for ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel by more than a month, engine manufacturers say they will not be able to meet 2007 emissions standards for trucks and buses if the clean fuel requirements are relaxed, weakened or delayed.

Jed Mandel, president of the Engine Manufacturers Association, said manufacturers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in research, development and engineering in order to meet the U.S. EPA’s 2007 on-road diesel rule, which requires emissions reductions of 90 percent compared to current levels.

Ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel is crucial for the proper operation of new engines and aftertreatment devices designed to meet the environmental standards. The fuel is supposed to be available beginning in June 2006, with a phase-in period lasting through 2009. EPA will require refiners to cut the sulfur content of on-road diesel fuel 97 percent from its current level of 500 parts per million to no more than 15 parts per million. “There can be no slippage in the delivery schedule or quality of the fuel,” Mandel said.

EPA said last month it will issue a rule this year that will shift the ultra-low-sulfur diesel retail compliance date from Sept. 1, 2006, to Oct. 15, 2006, to give terminals and retail outlets more time to comply with the 15 ppm standard.

During the past four years, manufacturers have been designing engine systems based on low-sulfur-content fuel. “Engine manufacturers have done their part,” Mandel said in a March 10 letter to members of Congress. “It is far too late in the process to change the game plan, especially one as significant as the sulfur content of the fuel on which clean diesel engines have been designed to operate.”

Sulfur in diesel fuel poisons aftertreatment equipment needed to achieve the EPA’s emission requirements, Mandel said.

In a response letter to Congress, three associations representing the refining and oil industries said they are seeking no delay or change to the fuel standard, but recent testing shows despite significant investment, the distribution system may not be able to deliver projected demand volumes of ultra-low-sulfur fuel in all markets until “some time” after the regulation takes effect. “The 15 ppm standard will work, but not without an opportunity for the supply and distribution system to react to the change and to the technological uncertainties that are inherent in the system,” the letter said. “One significant variable is the effect that a long distribution chain may have on ULSD fuel.”

The groups — the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Oil Pipelines — say Congress, the executive branch and EPA need to be aware of these variable in order to prevent any potential disruption of the nation’s diesel fuel supply.