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New Emissions Standards to Affect Diesel Tractors

Published: Friday, February 26, 2010

Starting Jan. 1, 2011, farmers can expect to see changes in their new diesel-powered equipment. That's when new and tighter EPA emission standards governing the manufacture of new off-road diesel applications become effective.

"Next year the new standards, known as Tier 4, will start with the larger horsepower diesel engines," said Mick Calvin, business development manager for CountryMark. "By 2014, all but the small horsepower diesel engines will be required to meet the new standards."

Calvin's comments came in an interview following a series of 10 annual energy meetings hosted by North Central Co-op, one of CountryMark's 17 branded dealers. The meetings were held in January at various locations in northern Indiana.

While the EPA-required new technologies will force farmers to add another item to their list of things to manage, primarily a nitrous oxide-reducing agent known as diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), it is not totally without tangible benefits to them.

"We know of one original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that says their third party tests revealed an increase in fuel efficiency of 12 to 15 percent when DEF technology is used," said Calvin. "That's huge."

Calvin stated that the upcoming changes in EPA standards were the final step in a progression that had been phasing in over a period of years. In 2007 the on-road diesel manufacturing industry was required to address particulate matter in diesel exhaust emissions, which was done through the use of a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

With the coming of technology to drastically curtail nitrous oxide from tailpipe emissions, Calvin explained that there are three primary ways of addressing that challenge: the use of exhaust gas re-circulation technology (EGR); the use of selective catalytic reduction technology (SCR, of which diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, is used); or a combination of both.

While SCR technologies increase both fuel efficiency and drain intervals for crankcase oil, increased EGR technologies have the opposite effects. Calvin said that OEMs are approaching the new standards in different ways, but that he expects that most will eventually use varying combinations of EGR and SCR to achieve optimum air quality results.

SCR technology injects diesel exhaust fluid into the exhaust stream to greatly reduce nitrous oxide emissions. DEF is a solution made up of 32.5 percent urea and 67.5 percent water. For applications using DEF technology, tractors and combines will include a reservoir for DEF, which will typically be used at the rate of 1 percent to 3 percent of the machine's diesel fuel usage.

For farmers, the additional management would involve the use and storage of DEF. At a diesel usage rate of four gallons per acre, a 1,000-acre operation would use 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year, which will also require the use of 40 to 120 gallons of DEF. Shelf life for DEF is rated at six months, although it can be kept longer with optimum storage conditions. DEF needs to be stored in a controlled environment of less than 86 degrees F., and out of sunlight.

Calvin also indicated that a frequent question from farmers at the NCC meetings was, "What happens if my tractor or combine runs out of DEF?"

"The engines will simply 'de-rate,'" explained Calvin. "They will essentially go into a 'limp mode' in which they lose about 50 percent of their power. They'll be able to maintain respectable road speeds to reach their farm shops for refilling of DEF, but they won't be able to perform any vigorous farm work. Originally, EPA's plan was to have the engines simply shut down, but diverted to have them de-rate instead for safety reasons."

He added that as a part of the new standards, operators can no longer emit crankcase fumes directly into the air. Those gases will now be required to go through a crankcase ventilator filter system.

Calvin said that while OEMs were not required to have all engines meeting the new standards until 2014, he anticipated that most of them would not wait until the final deadline, but would be in full compliance by 2012.

CountryMark is a marketer of diesel exhaust fluid, which will be made available to end users through CountryMark branded member co-ops.

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