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E&MU: DEF Storage and Testing Grows as Fleets Move to SCR Engines

Integer Research Ltd., the London-based sponsor of the DEF Forum, estimates that 2012 DEF usage in the United States and Canada was about 135 million gallons in 2012 and that it will rise to about 205 million gallons this year and to more than 300 million gallons in 2014.

DEF is a solution of urea — a carbon-nitrogen-oxygen-hydrogen compound usually used as fertilizer — dissolved in distilled water.

The DEF makers and distributors at the forum said they insist upon using dedicated tank trailers and railcars for moving the product around North America.

“We want to own the supply chain and understand every piece of equipment that plays a part. We need to know the trailer’s number and not just the carrier’s name,” said Donald Thomas, director of technical service and quality programs for CF Industries, a urea manufacturer and DEF producer.

Lewis and Haugh agreed with Thomas on the need for dedicated equipment, as did Chad Dombroski of Yara North America.

DEF sales are not regulated by the state or federal governments, but industry groups have set standards. ISO, the International Organization for Standardization based in Switzerland, has a manufacturing standard for DEF, calling for it to contain 32.5% urea, give or take 0.7%.

The American Petroleum Institute has a voluntary quality certification program, and ASTM International is developing a testing procedure so laboratories can analyze samples of DEF and match them against the ISO standard.

Joe Franklin, manager of analytical testing for Intertek Automotive Research and chairman of the ASTM committee, said its purpose is not to replace the ISO standard “but to enhance and supplement it.”

The SCR catalyst is sensitive to many minerals and can be “poisoned” by inferior DEF.

The ISO standard says DEF should never have more than 0.5 milligram per kilogram of fluid for five metals: aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium or sodium. For four other metals the tolerance is even tighter at 0.2 milligram per kilogram of fluid: chromium, copper, nickel and zinc.

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