Truck Stops Concerned About Supplying Urea

By Andrea Fischer, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the April 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Truck-stop operators said because several engine manufacturers will use selective catalytic reduction to meet 2010 emission rules, they may be forced to spend more money to provide the urea that the new trucks will need.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has not said it will require truck stops to supply urea for engines using SCR, it has said engine manufacturers will have to prove the material is widely available at truck stops (4-2, p. 1).

The truck-stop operators told Transport Topics that amounts to an industry mandate that could prove expensive.

SCR uses urea to help catalytic converters break down nitrogen oxides in diesel exhaust. Several engine manufacturers have said it is the most promising technology available to meet EPA’s 2010 standards, which will cut truck emissions sharply from 2007 levels.

Sarah Dodge, vice president of government affairs at NATSO, a group that represents truck-stop owners, said the responsibility for providing urea ultimately would rest on truck-stop owners and fuel suppliers.

“This is essentially an industry mandate, because manufacturers are making vehicles that have to have urea,” NATSO’s Dodge said.

Urea distribution “could be expensive,” for truck-stop owners, said Roger Cole, president of Highway Service Ventures, an Ashland, Va., company that owns four truck stops.

“Not all engine manufacturers may go the route of using SCR, and if SCR is not a widely chosen technology, there wouldn’t be a market for urea that would justify the cost of the investment to sell it,” Cole said.

EPA has not mandated that truck stops supply urea, but Dodge said, “Manufacturers may void the warranty for SCR trucks if urea is not used.”

Jed Mandel, president of the Chicago-based Engine Manufacturer’s Association, said engine manufacturers and truck makers have an incentive to make sure urea is supplied at truck stops — especially those that have close business relationships with truck dealers.

“We think the system will work itself out,” Mandel said. “We don’t think this is forcing truck stops to do anything they don’t want to do” since urea supply “is not a mandate.”

Truck and engine manufacturers have “been working on this issue for long time,” Mandel said.

“Businesses will have to make the decision to supply urea and the supply will depend on the degree that the market moves towards SCR technology,” Mandel said

But, said Dodge, engine makers should work harder to give fuel suppliers a better picture of how much demand there will be for urea in 2010.

“This is a huge guessing game for us — the questions are how much urea should we plan to supply, how long will the product last and how will it be sold,” she said.

For example, NATSO members “originally thought they could supply urea in liter containers like fuel sellers do in Europe,” said Dodge. “But the sheer volume of diesel some of our members sell, and the fact that drivers have to fill SCR trucks with 2% urea by volume, means that they will most likely need underground storage tanks.”

“The sheer quantities of urea we will be forced to sell means retailers may not have the storage capacity for the amount of liter containers that will be needed,” Dodge said.

Dodge said fuel suppliers that do not sell urea in liter containers would have to spend $50,000 to $100,000 to build underground storage tanks. She added that retailers do not yet know how expensive urea will be for consumers.

Brendan Foster, president of Benecor, a company that builds urea distribution infrastructure, said many of the questions surrounding urea supply — including whether or not truck stops will have to build underground storage tanks — will be solved as manufacturers announce whether or not they will use SCR technology to meet EPA’s 2010 requirements.

Benecor is a member of a urea distribution stakeholder group, which meets to discuss urea supply issues and includes engine manufacturers, fuel suppliers, truck makers and clean-diesel organizations.

Freightliner, Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks have said they will use SCR, but other manufacturers — including International, Paccar, Cummins and Caterpillar — have not yet announced which technology they will use.

“If all the manufacturers hold their cards close to their chests and make announcements at the last minute, we will have problems with the [urea] infrastructure,” said Foster.

“The problem is that there are not a lot of guarantees from the original equipment manufacturers yet that they will actually supply urea,’’ Foster continued.

“As soon as they can do that, it will help everyone involved.”

Click here for previous coverage.


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