Ultra Low Sulfur Emission Diesel

In a long awaited and hard fought victory, the nation is set this weekend to switch over almost all its diesel fuel to a new vastly lower sulfur content, setting the stage for major improvements in air quality, particularly in dense urban areas like NYC that rely heavily on trucks to deliver goods to our stores and houses.

The new fuel contains 15 parts per million of sulfur, down from the standard of 500 parts per million, thanks to changes in the refining process. As of Sunday, at least 80 percent of the diesel available for trucks and buses has to meet the new standard.

What makes this victory for cleaner air even better was that this was one of those rare instances where environmental lobbyists, government and industry found common ground to cooperate on a long term strategy to define regulations they could all agree to. This is not common and needs to be recognized when it happens.

But the full benefits will not take effect immediately. In the short term, the impact on particulate emissions will only decline by 10 percent, but with all new diesel engines built to take advantage of the new fuel, particulate emissions are expected to drop considerably as the older engines are phased out.

Old diesel engines burning the cleaner fuel will reduce dangerous particulate emissions by 10 percent, experts say. New engines with improved controls, which have to be available by Jan. 1, will cut this particulate pollution by more than 95 percent. The rule mandates more improved engines in 2010. It is unclear how soon existing trucks and buses, which often are in use for more than 10 years, will be turned in for newer models. The new fuel is expected to cost 3 cents to 5 cents more per gallon.

While the Bush administration is trying to take full credit for this victory, this regulation was initially started in the last days of the Clinton Administration.

Like many regulations that took effect in the twilight of the Clinton administration, the diesel rule, covering fuel and the seven million trucks and buses on the roads, was temporarily stayed by the Bush administration. Then the Environmental Protection Agency allowed it to proceed and in 2004 supplemented it with a similar rule requiring tight controls on engines in off-road equipment like cranes, tractors and construction equipment.

Carol M. Browner, the administrator who signed the original rule, bristled on Tuesday at the Bush administration's proprietary attitude.

"The best they can do in environmental policy," Ms. Browner asked, "is take credit for someone else's work?"

While the article did not mention anything about whether this new refining process can be applied to some of the other methods of producing diesel from biomass, coal or tar sands, but I would assume it would at least help. I will investigate and put it in the comments section when I do. It would be interesting to compare the emissions from the new ultra low sulfur diesel in new engines designed to work with it versus biomass, coal or tar sand derived diesel.

From an email Robert Rapier sent me about this:

the process could handle any of the sources you mention. It involves a hydrotreater that converts the sulfur into H2S, which then gets sent to a sulfur plant for processing into elemental sulfur.

Khosla and I debated the diesel issue. I told him he should be putting some of his energies there, since diesels are so much more efficient. He kept saying "Yeah, but diesel is so dirty."

I suspect that the "dirty" tag did not have this in mind, nor did it factor into account that diesel is more efficent to make from an energy perspective. Good to know you can take the sulphur out of anything.

This new regulation certainly makes diesel more attractive.

Can anyone comment on what is in store for stationary engines viz. ULSF? From what I know, unless you participate in  an emergency demand response program (EDRP), you're not required to burn ULSF. There are a lot of back-up generators out there that are running on high-sulfur fuel. Granted, they aren't (or shouldn't be) running for extended periods, but every week or month, they're tested. Even if a generator participates in EDRP, it's the operator's responsibility to ensure that ULSF is used. Is anyone enforcing the requirement? It would be great to see all stationary engines required to burn ULSF as well as enforcement of the EDRP rules.
Ultimately ULSF will be all that is available, so over a period of time this higher sulfur fuel will be burned out.  

Most state air pollution agencies are charged with monitoring and regulating this emission source.  The size trigger depends upon a number of factors including the air quality.  And those triggers may vary across a state and through local programs.  

Half of new cars sold in Western Europe are diesels.

As I understand the facts, compared to petrol, diesel has:

  • 13% more energy per gallon

  • adjusting for that, 30% net higher mpg

The pattern of demand in western Europe is sufficiently distorted by the new popularity of diesels, that although it generally attracts lower duty (in a bid to encourage their use) the price here in the UK is generally 4-5p/litre (7-10 cents) more.  The refineries were configured to produce more gasoline when they were built.
That's pretty impressive that they are that popular in the UK. What's the consumer trade-off in Europe between diesel and petrol?

A diesel hybrid sounds pretty good from an energy / environmental standpoint with the new low sulphur content.

I suspect our refineries have the same bias toward gasoline/petrol.

I suspect our refineries have the same bias toward gasoline/petrol.

Our refineries are geared more toward making gasoline, but there is some flexibility. Right now, they are making as much diesel as possible because that's where the profit margins are better.

Europe encouraged diesels by putting lower taxes on diesel fuel. I wish we could do the same. It would greatly lower our fossil fuel usage due to the much higher efficiency issue. A diesel will get something like 35% more mileage per gallon of fuel than gasoline, and double the mileage of ethanol. See the first couple of paragraphs in my essay:

Biodiesel: King of Alternative Fuels

I break down some of the efficiency advantages of biodiesel, which also apply to diesel in general.

Diesel now costs about 5p/ litre more than petrol (gasoline): 86.9p for petrol, 92p for diesel.



a diesel car costs about $2500 more.


p11 - diesel percentage of new cars:

UK - 37%
France - 69%
Germany -42%

Hybrid cars were only 6,225 (in 2004).  Alternate Fuel Vehicles (compressed gas) declined sharply due to the end of a tax subsidy scheme.

Diesel cars cost more, but hold their resale value better, than petrol equivalents (people expect greater longevity from the motor -- this, surely, gives a better overall energy equation over the lifetime of the car!)

The high proportion of diesels in France is price-driven. Historically, diesel was about 20% cheaper at the pump than petrol, because of lower tax -- this was originally a subsidy for truckers. The tax difference has been phased out, but diesel remains slightly cheaper (current prices : around 1.05 euros per litre diesel, 1.15 petrol)

>As I understand the facts, compared to petrol, diesel has:
>    * 13% more energy per gallon
>    * adjusting for that, 30% net higher mpg

I just never see this realized!

My friend had a Golf diesel which was rated at 48hp
and got about the same milage as my Chevy Sprint rated
at 52hp (both almost 1,000km per same sized tank).

I see the difference as theoretical - but not realized in practice.

I'm saddened to see that there is only a 10% reduction for older engines as I was pushing my MP about this a few years ago.  Indeed in Canada it was a crying shame how a company wanted to sell and advertise their low sulphur fuel; but was barred by the government/industry because in 5, or so, years we were going to phase in the low sulphur fuels.

If you do a lot of city miles you should definitely get better Mpg out of a diesel-- it's much more efficient idling than a gasoline car.

Also I had a girlfriend who had an GM Vauxhall Corsa-- 52mpg (Imperial Gallons).  I think the petrol equivalent would have been about 42mpg.

Half of new cars sold in Western Europe are diesels.  ...and the corresponding figure for North America is in the range 2-3%. We've never valued fuel economy much and, ironically, just now that we might, the EPA has effectively regulated European diesel car engines out of North America (except for Mercedes Benz).
Oil interests are certainly in control of this forum. No wonder westexas left.

What crap are you talking about. Khosla is focussing on non-fossil fuels. And you want him to focus on diesel? Maybe Chevron and Devon energy will give him a few hundred million to drill a hole next to their hole in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. A nice diesel gusher 15 billion barrels per year worth - an infinite reservoir.

If my employer paid me to hand around TOD I would be here more.

westexas left?
why did he leave?
Westexas fans - you can find him here as well.  I can't speak for why he hasn't posted receintly.

This is pretty chilling data he has collected (as usual). He gives credit to khebab as well.  Both are listed in this series...I recommend reading for it's 40-50 (hubert curve) charts from around the world (oh shit!).


This isn't for the faint of heart.

Google - Jeffery Brown (aka WESTEXAS) for more good reading.

Best D.

I think that Westexas is taking some vacation, he should be back around the end of October.
Oil interests are certainly in control of this forum. No wonder westexas left.

Someone sent me this e-mail this morning:

I almost wrote a satirical piece in response to ChemE questioning your integrity with your ties to big oil. I would have said something to the effect you seemed to be also promoting energy efficiency, mass transportation and plug in hybrids. All these would hurt big oil profitability and go against our non-negotiable rights as Americans to grow and consume. I suspect you are operating as a double agent.

In my response, I said that those with the most extreme biases are the ones who are accusing me of bias.

What crap are you talking about. Khosla is focussing on non-fossil fuels. And you want him to focus on diesel?  

Actually the conversation was on biodiesel, and the general fact that the diesel engine is more efficient. But I wouldn't expect you to ask for clarification before conclusion jumping.

If my employer paid me to hand around TOD I would be here more.

Yeah, and it's double-time for a Sunday morning. I will have to remember to put it on my time card.

Final questions: Do you have anything of actual value to add? Didn't you learn anything from the responses you got to your last attack on my integrity?

Frankly I am certainly not a believer in Corn (&other cash crops) based ethanol and I believe that they exist because of government mandates coming out of the Farm lobby.

I am not even sure about the wisdom of any biomass used for fuel (including various flavors of biodiesel). Energy conversion of solar radiation is probably going to most to be most efficient from

(i) direct conversion of impinging solar radiation (e.g. phovoltaics)
(ii) elec. generation through heat/turbines (use the radiation to heat water or something)
(iii) secondary effects (e.g. wind power, wave motion (ultimately sourced from the sun's energy)). Looks like there is a lot of momentum behind wind power.

I think that biomass in any form is not efficient and harmful to the the soil. Therefore the ideal solution for personal auto-type transportation is a plug in hybrid with back-up provided by a biomass fuel - non-fermentation type (e.g. biomass to syn-gas to some liquid burnable). Char/ash to be returned to the soil to return micronutrients.

I don't know Khosla though have heard of him by reputation through is co-founding of Sun Micro.

Following the debate here it seems to me that what he wants is
(i) Access to oil interest distribution for distributing biomass based fuels
(ii) A very modest sliding scale pricing subsidy to prevent oil interests from destroying the industry by temporarily dropping the price of fossils
(iii) A very very modest royalty from Oil/Gas extracted from public propery in California to fund development of renewables.

If Khosla indeed intends to use corn-based ethanol he is soon going to be priced out as the price of corn & other inputs escalates.

Oil interests are fighting the proposals tooth and nail.

My 2 cents & my last words.

You now appear to be agreeing more with Robert Rapier's view of what doesn't work - corn to ethanol. and where things things need to go - plug in hybrids. But you are also recommending solutions which are still tremendously expensive like photovoltaics or applicable only to limited areas like wind power. You are also going to need backup power when the sun isn't shinning and the wind isn't blowing. Nuclear of fossil fuel - take your pick? Or you are going to need storage. Having installed a grid tied pv system I can tell you battery storage is very expensive and has to be replaced periodically. The US won't be able to afford this any time soon.

I agree with you that a biomass solution for our energy needs does not work unless you want to turn the whole planet into one big farm.  

If you give it some more thought you may dcide we need to expand electrified mass transit on a massive scale. I think RR may have also said this.

Are you a big oil mole?

Flow Batteries are an awsome concept for large scale storage of excess energy.  They are fairly low maitenance and can be scaled up for any situation.  But that being said, your going to need to build enough wind and solar systems to 'overkill' our power needs.  I've heard of some estimates that we would need 5000 gw of solar/wind to accomplish the same thing that 1000 gw of conventional energy can do.
A very rough calc on how much wind + pumped storage (NOT FLOW BATTERIES) needed to replace 1,000 GW of convential power.

Figure 90% availability of convential, so steady 900 GW at peak (min demand 300 GW, average demand 500 GW).

2000 GW wind x .32 capacity factor = 640 GW average output.

50% of generation is used directly, when produced.

50% goes into pumped storage, with 0.81 cycle effiency for hydro pumped storage.  So 320 GW into pumped storage, 259 GW out.  This gives an AVERAGE output of 579 GW versus a need for 500 GW.  Spare capacity for a less windy year (wind varies little year to year) and for seasonal changes in demand & output.

Some of the excess could be put into less efficient pumped air (~60%) in depleted natural gas field (massive storage) for seasonal shifts in demand.

One might count on (depends on area) 5% to 10% of wind being available at peak of 900 GW. So 700 to 800 GW of pumped storage (hydro + air) needed.

To sum 1,000 GW convential generation can be replaced by 2,000 GW of wind turbines and 700 to 800 GW of pumped storage (most hydro, some air).

This is basically how it is done.

Best Hopes,


The UK National Grid figure is 25GW wind will displace 5GW of spare capacity (fossil fuel).

So massively more conservative.  But it's not clear we have the foresight, the England-Scotland interconnectors, nor the environmental will, to build lots more pumped storage (it would have to be in environmentally protected valleys in Wales and Scotland).

That said, if you assume a load factor of 0.3 (which with offshore wind as well as onshore is credible) then

8760 hrs p.a. X 0.3LF X 25GW = 65.7TWhr = 18.8% of current UK annual demand

UK current capacity is 1GW, but Spanish and German is c. 12GW, which gives you a measure of what is achievable-- the UK could go to 12GW onshore and 12GW offshore relatively quickly (by 2020).

In practice, the other 20GW of backup thermal power already exists, it would just be mothballed.  You would only max out on that power 5 days a year or less.

Key factors to success of wind power:

  • availability of storage (pumped etc.)
  • size and capacity of grid - the US is in a particularly favourable position, as it has more than one 'wind zone', so if the grid is big enough, you can move power from the Midwest to the NE, and vice versa

  • at the moment, subsidy however this is because we don't tax CO2 as an effluent.  If we tax/ permit CO2, as the US does SO2, then suddenly wind looks like the cheapest of the mass power systems, rather than the most expensive

  • cost of interconnections.  The existing customers need to be made to share in the costs of new interconnections to wind power stations whereas many utilities are currently taking the view that it is not their problem

If one looks at the direct and indirect subsidies poured into nuclear power and fossil fuel generation, then none of the above is impossible.


Windforce 12 describes how 12 percent of the world's electricity can be supplied by wind and 11 billion tonnes of CO2 can be saved by 2020.

The global energy challenge of our time is to tackle the threat of climate change, meet the rising demand for energy and to safeguard security of energy supplies. Wind energy is one of the most effective power technologies that is ready today for global deployment on a scale that can help tackle these problems. Wind power can be installed far quicker than conventional power stations. This is a significant factor in economies with rapid growth in electricity demand. Wind energy is a significant and powerful resource. It is safe, clean, and abundant. Unlike conventional fuels, wind energy is a massive indigenous power source permanently available in virtually every nation in the world. It delivers the energy security benefits of avoided fuel costs, no long term fuel price risk, and wind power avoids the economic and supply risks that can with reliance on imported fuels and political dependence on other countries. Wind Force 12 is a global industry blueprint which demonstrates that there are no technical, economic or resource barriers to supplying 12% of the world's electricity needs with wind power alone by 2020 - and this against the challenging backdrop of a projected two thirds increase of electricity demand by that date. By 2020, 1,250 GW of wind power can be installed. The wind industry we have today is capable of becoming a dynamic, innovative € 80 billion annual business by 2020, helping to satisfy global energy demands and unlock a new era of economic growth, technological progress and environmental protection. The wind industry of today is one the world's fastest growing energy sectors and offers the best opportunity to begin the transition to a global economy based on sustainable energy.

Good morning Alan and ValueThinker,

Do you know if anybody has put $ numbers on these ideas in terms of capital investment and $/kwh generated? I have seen cost numbers for wind turbines alone and they look good and more so when you factor in the negative externalities of burning fossil fuel. But I have never seen  costs when you factor in backup power, storage, and additional long distance transmission (as from the windy Midwest to the NE) I like the idea of pumped storage versus batteries but wonder where it will go. Protected valleys as Valuethinker points out are going to be a hurdle. Here in Maine we have been removing some hydrodams to bring back Atlantic salmon runs.I suspect all valleys will be considered protected. We also have some excellent wind resource, but it is on mountain tops and ridges and there is concern about the effects on migrating birds. Until it becomes a desperate situation I suspect projects will be slow to be implemented because of environmental, property rights and aesthetic considerations. We won't be making the transition in time.

Why is Europe so far ahead of this than we are? Is it just that the average person is more enlightened?

People have put the numbers, at least in the UK.  I'll try to dig up the the links, but if you google 'Sustainable Development Commission' they have a pretty comprehensive report.

The short answer, in the UK is that total additional system costs are less than 1p/kwhr, v. 4-5p kw/hr wholesale pool prices.

I know Texas is going big for windpower.  I think population density is a big factor (Spain is the least densely populated country in Europe).

Also the historic presence of big structures like windmills.  In Crete, no one seems particularly bothered if they stick them on top of hills- Cretans are pragmatic, and their current eneergy supply is almost entirely oil fired (pllus solar water heat).

And in the case of the Danes and the germans, a national decision to go for it.

Generally electricity is expensive in Europe, and all our energy is imported, be it gas or coal.  So wind looks better economically.

In addition, our political parties, even our right wing ones, and our media, generally believe man made global warming is real.  In the US, the media is still addicted to 'balance' and so global warming sceptics get equal time.  Of course the President met with Michael Crichton and praised him publicly, so we know what he thinks about man made global warming, I think he called it 'a conspiracy against American prosperity'.

I generally find Americans think there is a global warming debate ie whether the world is warming up, and whether humans are causing that.  Americans also think America should do nothing unless China and India agree to do something. Informed Europeans think the debate is about how fast we have to act, and how far we are willing to go in those actions in terms of changing our lifestyles.  Al Gore comes as a shock to Americans, whereas in European circles there was much less impact.

When I read that nearly 50% of Americans don't believe in the theory of evolution, I am concerned that we just may never get there on doing something about this.

There is a lot of debate about migratory birds and bats.  I note a lot of people suddenly have become bird lovers, who were unlikely bird lovers.  The reality is except in a few circumstances, no one has shown they are particularly deadly vs. say, lit up office buildings.

however there are 2 species of migratory bats that seem to have a particular problem.

As with DDT (the ban on), I think a lot of people of a more conservative or libertarian bent hate wind power on general principle, because culturally they see it as associated with environmentalists, greens, green people, restrictions on their way of life.  Another iteration of the 'culture wars' (yes we ahve them over here, too)

Spain is the least densely populated country in Europe

Plus, we think wind mills are cool. They figure prominently in
Spain's self image (Don Quijote).

I have ridden many busses through the windy central plains,ç
and I have always loved to see those long lines of sleek,
slowly turning wind mills up the hills. I think that they
look amazing. I am mystified that someone can think that
they are ugly.

Welcome to Britain.

Not in My Back Yard. NIMBY.

My letter from the Ramblers (lobby group for those who walk in hills) is 'spoiling the views from the National Park of the distant Cairngorms'.

Translation: we are walking through the national park in Perthshire, Scotland (half the land area of the UK, 10% of the population), where windmills are banned.  We can see windmills on private land in the far distance.

This is ruining our view. (allegedly)  Therefore they must be banned (they have been).

And so Perthshire County Council has a perfect record of rejecting wind power projects, on arguments like those.

The Ramblers are, of course, 'not opposed to local and community wind power, only to large wind stations' ie build it in someone else's back yard (where it is not economic) but don't spoil our walking.

I would add that when I think that this is the country that stood up to the Nazis in 1940, I really wonder how.

page 5:

UK Onshore wind cost 3.2p +/- 0.3p

Offshore 5.5p

additional system cost 0.17p

good explanation of difference between 'Load Factor' (per cent. of rated capacity over a year that a turbine runs at)

and 'Capacity Value' (Capacity Credit): credit the National Grid Co gives for the wind capacity (about 20% ie 5GW of wind capacity offsets 1GW of theoretical capacity, which is about 1.1GW of CCGT gas (90% capacity credit) and somewhat lower of nuclear (about 75% capacity credit).

One can move large quantities of water from a low point in a valley to a higher point (between two existing dams for example) but most new pumped storage projects drill a hole up a mountain to the top, picking one with a "dimple", install a low coffer dam (perhaps dig out the dimple for the coffer dam) and create an upper storage reservior.

The lower storage reservior is usally an existing storage dam structure or a lake that can fluctuate a bit.  One in Japan uses seawater, but car must be taken on the upper end and everything must be corrision resistant.

TBM drilling is getting cheap and drilling some distance is possible.  All a matter of economics.  Best sites are built first of course.

Hope this helps.

Best Hopes,



I am sorry people are questioning your integrity.

I have read your posts here, and on your own website, and find them to be objective and balanced.

Yes you have the biases of an oil industry engineer.  So what?  'Objectivity' is a myth: everyone has biases.  My impression of you is not someone who is grinding their axe to ramp some dodgy NASDAQ stock you have loaded up on your personal account.

What your position gives you is a unique level of technical understanding, which informs your postings. If I were a colleague of yours, I would rely on you for objective advice on an issue, even if that advice was not necessarily in your own best interest.

Yours Sincerely

Valuethinker (remove 'at' in email address to reply by email)

PS I liked your Europe blog too-- quite accurate about travelling in Europe.

I liked your Europe blog too-- quite accurate about travelling in Europe.

I am trying to find more time to work on that. I have about 15 essays that are done; I just need to format them, insert links, and maybe some pictures.

Thanks for the other comments.

Kosla is focusing on non fossil fuels that either don't work due to low EROEI (corn ethanol) or are so far off as to be economically unfeasible (cellulostic ethanol).  
Because our economy depends so highly on diesel powered freight transportation for 98% of all goods/products/materials moved (except for pipelines), Kosla should be interested in renewable diesel from rapeseed, canola, soybeans or jatropha seeds.  All of these have a much higher EROEI than corn ethanol. But he is not interested in any of this.
Without short term solutions to the escalation of diesel fuel prices and future shortages caused by peak oil, the economy of the US is headed for a fall worse than the great depression.
One of my customers is a major fuel distributor/retailer in the upper Midwest.  His company sells hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel (gas and diesel) per year and he has withdrawn from the ethanol portion of the business.  His current efforts at inovation are BIODIESEL.  He has built a small processing plant that recycles old cooking oil from area restaurants and powers his company vehicles (cars and pickups) with the biodiesel.  His fleet of tanker trucks still run on conventional diesel.  
A solution must soon be found for the decline in oil production, and if part of that is conservation through the use of more diesel engines, then renewable diesel fuel should be an energy priority.
Incorrectly spelled his name. Should be Khosla, sorry.
I agree that corn-fermentation-based ethanol is asinine. If Khosla hopes to make money on that - he will soon be priced out.

If he wants to a  make biomass based burnable liquid fuel (may be but not necessarily ethanol) let him. For the rest see the earlier post.

If some other VC feels like you that biodiesel is the way to go let her/him fund it.

I can't find a link, but using biodiesel at 2% (B2) instead of 100% petroleum diesel allows the use of ultralow sulfur diesel.  (I have seen the details of this at multiple scientific conferences)  The sulfur in diesel protects the metal to metal interfaces by adding lubricity.  Without the sulfur, diesel engines wearout much faster.  Biodiesel has much better lubricity than petroleum diesel.  So using a mix of biodiesel is the easies way to meet the low sulfur requirements.
So using a mix of biodiesel is the easies way to meet the low sulfur requirements.

The way you phrased that last sentence isn't exactly correct. Just using some biodiesel won't help meet the requirements. The sulfur still has to be removed from the petroleum diesel. But as you say, that sulfur helps with lubricity, so adding a bit of biodiesel gives the lubricity back without the need for other additives.

There is a lot of information about this at www.biodiesel.org
Now for the bad news:


The story revolves around a paper that Paul Crutzen (Nobel Prize winner for chemistry related to the CFC/ozone depletion link) has written about deliberately adding sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere to increase the albedo and cool the planet - analogous to the natural effects of volcanoes. The paper is being published in Climatic Change, but unusually, with a suite of commentary articles by other scientists. This is because geo-engineering solutions do not have a good pedigree and, regardless of their merit or true potential, are often seized upon by people who for various reasons do not want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

for a visual image of what he is getting at, see:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/how-not-to-attribute-climate-change/#comment-1 9970

(note the sulphate line in the graph)

What we (apparently) have is a world where atmospheric sulphates are (mildly) slowing down the heating of the planet caused by rising CO2.  However:

  • AFAIK sulphates don't last very long in the atmosphere

  • does stratospheric sulphates correlate with ground level emissions of same?

  • my gut reaction is that the Chinese putting SO2 scrubbers on their power plants (as we do) is a bad idea for global warming (but good for saving the lives of ordinary Chinese people)

Since diesel engines produce less CO2 per mile driven, and it takes low sulphur fuel to make diesels politically acceptable, it's probably a net win for the planet.

(Peak Oil it's a no brainer, of course).

Hi there..

Newbie on this forum, so just adding a small comment or two to see the reaction.

First, I have been enjoying all the posts on oildrum since I stumbled across it about 6 months ago.  The expertise on this site is very deep.  Long may it continue, and thanks to all from a humble newcomer.

Secondly, I actually own a diesel car, and am based in the UK.  I have been driving them since 1994, having first come across a car diesel when fitted in a relation's Volkswagen Golf in 1981.

Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) has been on sale here now for a number of years.  Additives are included in the fuel to provide the lubricity removed with the sulphur, and in any case it is possible to purchase separate additives if you feel that the fuel might not give the required lubricity.

ULSD is also required for the latest common-rail (common-fail some say!) electronically controlled diesels.  In a just world, these would gradually become available in North America from now on, but I understand the culture over there is different, and this is not expected to happen particularly fast, if at all.  This is a great pity, as the diesel engine has various advantages over and above fuel efficiency. I will not rehearse that now but leave it to a later time.


Does anyone know whether there are expected to be any issues with fuel compatability?

When Europe converted to ultra low sulphur diesel a number of years ago - there were problems. Many diesel engines, particularly those in high-performance German cars, relied on the sulphur in the fuel as a lubricant and preservative for the injector/pump seals.

This caused a spate of diesel engine failures - leading one major car manufacturer to warn drivers that ULSD would destroy their brand new car's engine, and that it would not be covered under warranty.

I would hope that, by now, most manufacturers have developed ULSD compatible engines - but some commercial engines have a very long life - and may not have been upgraded.

I remember reading about a recent near miss at a major datacenter - Someone had mistakenly filled one of the generator's fuel bunkers with ULSD. During a routine generator test, that generator stopped because the fuel pump had seized. Fortunately, this had been discovered during a routine test - had this happened during a power outage, most likely this would have resulted in significant down time for the datacenter.

Most diesel makers here dealt with the sulphur issue when we transitioned to Low Sulphur Diesel a few years back.

The enviromental effects of the 2007 diesel regulations will be muted by the massive pre-buy of earlier diesels. The last time we did this (October 02) the engines (and the trucks they came in) were not ready for prime time. The negative experience from the last change, coupled with the higher costs of the new engines ($5-10K initially, $20K+ total  lifecycle cost) has pushed many fleets to buy massive quantites of trucks in '05 and '06 to avoid the '07 engines as long as possible.

ULSD does have a slightly lower BTU content than LSD so there is a 1-2% drop in Fuel economy running ULSD (probably only detectable in an instrumented test).

Just to be clear...there is NO sulphur in biodiesel but it does promote lubricity.
Why is there so little info about using ethanol instead of methanol(from NG mostly) in biodiesels transesterfication? At present Im sure the added expense of E and the additional heat required are factors, but with cogen it would be a worthy goal to get 100% renewable bioD.
Why is there so little info about using ethanol instead of methanol(from NG mostly) in biodiesels transesterfication?

You would lose the ethanol subsidy if you used it to make biodiesel. That, and the fact that methanol is much cheaper.

There is so little information about Ethyl Ester Fatty Acid (Biodiesel made from ethanol) because it can't be made with regular ethanol. Because the presence of water causes the transesterification reaction to become a saponification reaction, the ethanol must be anhydrous ethanol (100% ethanol, 0% water). Regular ethanol is at max about 96% ethanol, because above that concentration distillation can no longer be used to remove water from the ethanol. Also, little information is actually needed because the only diffence between using methanol and ethanol is the ratio of alcohol to fat that is needed for a complete reaction.
A couple of marketing points. Advocates of coal derived diesel use the term 'clean diesel' because of the low sulphur content. CTL is not 'clean' with respect to GHGs.  Secondly I think part of the resistance to petro-diesel is the way it smells bad due to the aromatic fraction (eg benzene) that gets on your hands at the pump. Biodiesel has what I call a 'leather dressing' odour. I've read that Choren type BTL diesel is low in aromatics as well as sulphur. So I'm saying the future for diesel gets better, there just won't be enough of it.
I've long been a fan of diesels, and it's great that we're having this discussion. Now I'd like to ask a question...

I tried to buy a new diesel-powered car a few months ago (a VW Golf). I was told by the VW dealer that they are no longer being sold in the USA due to "stringent new emissions regulations that go into effect in 2007." I assume that the new regulations are the ones we are talking about here.

What I don't understand is how these diesel cars are still being produced and sold in Europe, which also requires ULSD. Are the US regulations so much stricter that Europeans carmakers can't meet them? Are diesel cars just no longer going to be offered for sale in the USA, from now and forever? The VW dealer didn't know the answer to any of these questions (or I should say, the ignorant salesman didn't know - he kept pushing me to buy a new gasoline-powered VW Rabbit which is in fact a gas guzzler - I declined).

If anyone knows more about the future availability of diesel cars in the USA, I'd love to hear it. I'd still like to buy one.

Thanks in advance,
Robert (aka Ozonehole)

I believe your dealer is mistaken. VW diesels are only banned in States following California emission rules which include I believe NY, NJ, Maine and a few others. Mercedes and VW both  have new models planned for the better emissions control in the rest of the US possible with low sulfer fuel. But these new models still won't meet an increasingly stringent CA standard.    
from the above "A new "50-state" diesel Jetta should be available for the 2008 model year."
The 2008 MY car has already been sighted:


Pictures of the thing were even posted...

Hi folks

I thought I might put in my 2ps worth on this.  Ignore if you think it's worthless.

I have only been to the US once, and only driven a car in California (they had to explain to me how to drive an automatic car --  I'd never encountered one before).

I like California, but I think it would be a much better place motoring-wise if they did a bit of lateral thinking.  I'll explain.

"But these new models still won't meet an increasingly stringent CA standard."

And there's the great shame of the whole California emissions question.

The excellent detergent qualities of petrol ensure that wear in the engine top-end is always a factor.  This is why most car petrol engines only last for a limited time compared to diesels.

Take for example two engines, one petrol and one diesel, built for the same duty and of similar power rating.  When  both are new, the petrol engine's Nox emissions are lower than those of the diesel engine.

However, after about 20000 miles (I'm speaking from memory here and have hunted around (admittedly not very thoroughly) on the net but cannot find a suitable link; the British publication "Diesel Car" had an article on the subject sometime around the late '90s) this situation reverses itself, and from that mileage until the ultimate life of the engines the diesel engine shows lower Nox emissions.  Indeed, due to the superior lubrication qualities of the diesel fuel, the Nox emissions of a properly-maintained diesel will remain remarkably constant throughout its life.

The diesel, of course, lasts longer than the petrol engine so it doesn't take much genius to work out that overall Nox emissions from a fleet of diesel engines in California (and by implication elsewhere) would ultimately be lower than that of a fleet of petrol engines.

There are other advantages of taking this course of action:

  • Diesel start-up to running temperature is less polluting than petrol.  This is important for dense urban environments

  • Particulate emissions cannot be seen from a petrol engine but can from a diesel engine but are just as injurous to health (allegedly).  It's just that Joe Public can't see them either.  The particulate emissions from diesels can, however, be eliminated (see European Peugeot 407 HDI etc)

  • Diesel engines are admirably suited to automatic transmissions which seem to be prevalent in America.

  • For low-mileage users, a petrol engine has to have its oil changed on a time basis (if the required mileage is not reached).  The diesel engine suffers no such restriction.  There may be many reasons why a car should be serviced every year, but oil changes in the case of diesels is not one of them.  Another saving in pollution perhaps?

The upshot of this is that the worst effects of pollution in Los Angeles would almost disappear if diesels were used universally and were properly maintained.

Before anyone comes back to me about alternatives to the IC engine, lifestyle etc etc I might explain that the above is only about the differences between two types of IC engine, and in no way alters my views about what has to be done about transport in the long term.  I am an ex-railwayman after all.

Now I had better go and do some work.  Being retired is not a relaxing option!

Cheers and regards


The issue with the Volkswagen withdrawel fro the U.S. market has nothing directly to do with ULSD but instead with Nox (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions regulations.  VW seems to have been caught out by only a year and intend to return to the Diesel car market next year.

Of greater concern to all Diesel drivers is the gasoline/Diesel fuel price differential.  A combination of ULSD introduction, and a refinery squeeze on production of Diesel fuel have driven Diesel prices up considerably, to the point that Diesel now costs 20 to 30 cents more in many markets than gasoline does.

Is this a short term situation?  No one knows, but even us Diesel fans (I own two older Mercedes Benz Diesel models) are becoming concerned.

Even with the miles per gallon advantage of a Diesel, a quarter per gallon penelty is not sustainable, and the already tiny Diesel auto market in the U.S. will collapse to a sliver (perhaps 1 to 2% of the national market.

Few people understand just how much the noise, smell and even small amount of black smoke are held against Diesels.  I have taken to parking mine on a lower parking lot at work, just to silence complaints by some of our nose sensitive office girls.  They will have to be able to show a real financial advantage to ever gain even a tenth of the market share in the U.S., or gasoline will have to climb to much higher prices.  Of course, if crude oil climbs, the Diesel fuel price climbs.

If I were buying a new car today, I question whether I would buy a Diesel, and as I said, I am already a fan of them.  I would look much more closely at the new Camry Hybrid.  Clean, quite, smooth, and as much or more fuel efficient as any Diesel I have seen.  

There is a a growing consensus among many that Diesels have already conquered most of the markets they will ever conquer.  The growth areas in the future for alternative fossil fuels are CNG and LPG in combination with hybrid, and in particular, plug hybrid technology.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

It seems that this is another Europe-US thing, because the consensus here is that diesels will be half the new car market here (more than that in many countries) and keep growing outside of Europe.

It's funny but the smell/noise thing is never mentioned here.  Enough people try to fill their diesels with petrol that that tells you many people aren't even aware which they are driving.

They have tinkered with the fuel duty here, but diesel is now 50 more than petrol, due to the demand and the historic configuration of the refineries.  The oil companies are talking about a Europe-wide diesel shortage because of the diesel car effect.

Hybrids are miniscule here-- the cost differential Corolla v. Prius is £3000, I think (USD 5k about).  You see them around London because they don't pay the congestion charge (£10/day to drive into central London weekdays).

Plug In Hybrids, I agree, have very significant advantages over diesels.  A plug in hybrid diesel would be a killer car, but unless you do very high mileage, not economic.


69mpg (US) -- if you put a rechargeable capacity into that, you would have a truly amazing vehicle.

5p not 50!

In Europe, that margin is smaller.

Roger, your experience relates to a 20-year-old car, if I remember correctly. Things have evolved so much in Europe that the concerns about noise and smell are really only a distant memory.

I hate the tinny high-revving noises a petrol engine makes. I love the low-rev couple that gives me power and security without boosting consumption.

By rights, the US market should soon be awash with the small, economical diesel cars that the Europeans and Japanese make so well (and that includes Ford and GM, who are present in Europe in this market. The little diesel Opels are well-regarded.)

I'm alarmed that refinery issues seems likely to price diesel off the US market. Is there a technical fix for that?

As far as I know the only technical fix is a new refinery, or a rebuilt one.

Which in the era of tightened environmental restrictions and NIMBYISM is hard to do.

Another solution will be to import refined diesel from the new refineries being built by the oil producing countries.  Which of course increases transport costs.

US refineries shift from a gasoline heavy mix of products in the summer to a more distillate (diesel & heating oil) heavy configuration in the winter. There is no reason why they could not maintain a diesel biased configuration in the summer and probably meet future needs as easily as they could meet future gasoline needs.

However, in the winter, when the US does demand a proportion of distillates cionsistent with maximum production, refineries might have more trouble meeting higher levels of distillate demand.

I am not sure converting refineries to produce more diesel would be very expensive or difficult. Diesel is a heavier product and broadly speaking easier to produce. I would guess that retrofitting a refinery to increase the portion of diesel is fairly simple.

However, in any event, a refinery can not produce 100% diesel or 100% gasoline, without extremely expensive technologies. There has to be some balance between diesel and gasoline (and kerosene, etc.). Since European refineries are exporting gasoline to the US, thye must be near the point where it is no longer worthwhile to try to pry more diesel out of the crude.

That having been said, generally refiners try to produce lighter and lighter products. The idea of producing more heavy products is unusual and I am less familiar with making heavy products out of light than light out of heavy (cracking).

I'd be interested to hear Robert's view on this one.

Some Refineries will not change over to ULSD, instead they'll make diesel for Agriculture and Heating Oil, neither of which are sulphur restricted. I'm sure the survivors don't mind the increased margin.
I have a low mileage (84,xxx miles) 82 (instead of your 81) M-B 240D (manual transmission).  No problems with smoke, etc.

I drove an 82 Isuzu I-mark diesel (wanted an M-B, no $ then) for ~250,000 miles till the body gave out.  Rebuilt the injectors every 100K and this helped with smoke both times.

I also add cetane improver, which quiets it down.  (Add at idle and wait a few minutes for additive to reach the engine.  I can hear the difference).

At 6 gallons/month I do NOT care about prices very much (fill up every 2.5 months).

Best Hopes,


Alan and others,

Alan said, "I have a low mileage (84,xxx miles) 82 (instead of your 81) M-B 240D (manual transmission).  No problems with smoke, etc."

But that's the rub.  I don't think mine does either.  I even had two friends at seperate times follow me while I accelerated, braked, shifted, etc., to see if they could see any smoke to speak of, and they both said no.

Apparently, compared to gasoline though, many folks are still sensitive, and it is true that Diesel does emit a "different" oder than gasoline, and the small extra amount of noise is unavoidable (I have listened to the newest ones, and there is still some).  The truth is, the American buyer seems to very, very, VERY picky.  And the cost differential between Diesel and gasoline pretty much kills the deal.  As for me, I still like them, and will probably go on paying the penelty (as for Alan, well, that's a fine logic Alan, you could pretty much burn Champagne in yours at that level of consumption and it wouldn't matter! :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

If you assign equal values to diesel and gasoline, what is the cut of each that you get from refining an average barrel of crude?
As below (above) we are not as strict on NOX (or particulates, I think).  California is quite a unique air quality environment because of the mountains and the number of cars.

European governments have taken a view (aided and abetted by motor manufacturers) that fuel economy is a more important goal than air quality, at the margin.

Diesels will come to the US, I am sure.  There are inherent advantages although hybrids will provide strong competition (hybrids are miniscule here).  The SUV class vehicle is the one where I would see the diesel having particular advantages-- I am sure more than half the LandRovers sold here are diesels.

However, as always, being an early adopter is a major risk.  It usually takes a year or two for the manufacturer to 'get it right' for the US market.  Which could push you to 2009-10.

Do all US petrol stations carry diesel?  I remember in the 70s that was a problem if you owned one.

VW is losing a real marketing edge by being caught out. I don't think they have a real franchise in America, any more, other than in diesels.

Ironic, because in Europe the diesel leaders are Peugeot-Citroen, with the Japanese racing to catch up (Honda especially was slow).  A VW Golf diesel is popular, but not way out of sorts popular.

Ford is going to use a 3.6 CRD, sourced from the European Range Rover, in the F150 for the 08/09 model year to keep the F150 as the "sales leader". The holdup is the stringent emission requirements. The Range Rover with this engine achieves about 25mpg.

They are trying to beat Dodge, GM and Toyota in offering a light duty diesel to the 1/2 ton pickup truck market.

This makes sense. I must use a truck for work, but do not need a 3/4 ton, 600ft/lb diesel truck, and would certainly like the fuel economy in the mid 20 range.

However, is this really a good idea? And will it simply perpetuate the use of large trucks for people that don't really need them?

I think this is called 'Jevons Paradox'.

If we sell consumers more efficient goods, they consume more power/energy/oil etc., and so total consumption does not fall.  More fuel efficient cars => drive further to work.

If I have doubts about our ability to conquer global warming, it is centred around that.  Everything we do to make life easier/ more efficient, will be gobbled up in higher standards of living.

There is no way the current political and economic system can deal with that.  Ethanol is a classic symptom-- a search for a 'no losers' out-- clean politics but dirty air.

This reminds me too much of Mayan Temple builders, building ever higher temples-- within 50 years, the civilisation had collapsed into the jungle.  Medieval Europe was doing something very similar, staging huge civil wars and building giant Gothic cathedrals, on the eve of the Black Death.

If Peak Oil really just is out there, then of course the problem is partly self-solving.  Fuel economy will be de rigeur.  But so too will be massive tar sands and coal-to-oil, and the challenge of Global Warming will be that much worse.

In some ways Peak Gas is an even greater nightmare, because gas substitutes for oil in transport applications and in heating and power.  But nothing (except coal) substitutes for gas.  And at least on Matthew Simmons data, gas depletion moves far faster than oil depletion in a field, and the published data is of much lower quality.

however geology says there is more gas out there than oil because the conditions to create gas are more general.

obviously jeavons' paradox is price driven and global warming is co2 driven.

the way to bridge the gap is with some sort of carbon tax.

squinting, we could say that our old CAFE aspirations in the US were a form of carbon tax ... but in that round price won, and we did not have the guts to press harder with CAFE (or whatever) to compensate for the oil price decline.

It's why I think, long term, carbon taxes won't work.

As with gasoline taxes, you have to keep raising them.

I think we will have to move to a permitted carbon rationing system.  You can buy permits, or sell them, but the total permits in issue is never more than X.

Start with 7 billion tonnes pa, then ratchet it down by 3% pa.

Which means that the price of a permit will keep rising.

btw, i hope no one pretends the oil price decline we had in the 90's, and resulting expansion of consumption was conservation driven, as it would be in a true 'paradox'

it's my understanding that production increased, not efficiency.

Supply and demand lags.

Demand fell in the early to mid 80s as new technologies were adopted and efficiencies reaped across the economy.  For example, a lot of homes and industries switched to natural gas heating, and fuel oil fell out of use for electricity production. It takes a long time for the oil shock to have its full effect (up to 10 years) as capital equipment is replaced only slowly.

Also many jurisdictions (Sweden, California) enforced new building regs on energy use, but those take decades to have an effect, as buildings are replaced quite slowly (about 30 years in the case of commercial structures, longer in the case of homes).

In the late 80s and post the 1990s recession, demand rose along with world economic growth (and US fuel economy started to fall again with the rise and rise of light trucks and SUVs which are not CAFE).

Another big factor was the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a one off drop in energy consumption and particularly oil consumption of about 40% in almost all those countries.  Recovery is now happening, at different rates in different economies.

Oil production in the former SU recovered faster than oil consumption, thus leading to a significant increase in exports in the late 90s.

Amazed at this exchange rate they can make a European-sourced engine work.  Eventually they will need US-currency engine plants*.

Just from a safety point of view, diesel is preferable (lower flash point-- no rioter throws a 'diesel bomb' at cops, but petrol bomb is an established British custom).

*if you strip out healthcare and UAW benefits, then the US auto worker is competitive with any other in the world, given the very high productivity.  Toyota certainly finds that in Tennessee and Ontario.

Half the Ford engines in Europe are made at 2 UK plants: Dagenham in East London and Port Talbot in Wales, which tells you what you can do with even a 'high cost' labour force.

Amazed at this exchange rate they can make a European-sourced engine work.

There may be a fair amount of import or dollar-based content in the engine work. Steel is globally priced, so the strong Euro helps in buying it. Likewise any imports from Asian or US suppliers has US dollar cost.

Eventually they will need US-currency engine plants

I just read something on this over the weekend, but can't remember where. It does seem that having a dollar-based cost platform makes sense in most scenarios. If the dollar were to go up, they have some hedge in the fact that most export customers are dollar based. If the dollar goes down, their costs and revenue are aligned and they could develop an even cheaper manufacturing base for reimport.

AFAIK the European Ford engines are pretty much 'all European'.  The prices might be set internationally, but the production centres are still in Europe (even for the steel).

What is happening, however, is production is moving east, especially to Slovakia, which has a heavy engineering labour skillset dating back to pre War and when they made Soviet tanks, and wages and social costs a fraction of Germany or the UK.

For example Peugeot is closing its Coventry plant, and expanding in Slovakia. Not the political and redundancy costs of closing a French plant, and a UK car assembly plant cannot be cost competitive.

Is that Range Rover mpg adjusted for US gallons?

http://www.landrover.com/gb/en/Vehicles/New_Range_Rover/Specifications/Range_rover_engines_and_perfo rmance.htm

25.1mpg Imperial gallons.  So about 21 US mpg?

Drag is a real factor with a RR, the new Ford may have a lower drag coefficient?

I think drivers used to petrol V8s can enjoy smaller turbodiesels with manual gear change (stick shift). You have good acceleration from idling speed (some call this 'torque') and you have to use the gears to stay in the turbo boost range. You'll need a tall top gear for cruising where modest rpm can give you excellent fuel economy.  Not so good however for stop/start driving which I guess is the strong point of the hybrid.  
I got 30 mpg from my 1982 240D during my evac for Hurricane Katrina.  8 hours of stop & go driving and my range seemed to exceed anyone else's.  Refueled just north of Birmingham Alabama.

So old diesels do fairly well with extended stop & go driving.

I assume the few hybrids did as well.

Best Hopes,


Yes, being "fuel throttled" and not air throttled as gas engines are, diesels by nature idle at extremely lean fuel/air ratios. Whereas a gas engine is forced to idle around stoichiometric (14.7:1), a diesel I believe may go as lean as 40:1 at idle. This makes a big difference with extended idling.
Certainly a lot of the diesels here have a 6th manual gear.