I told you diesel was winning

I told you diesel was winning

Last December, I gave several reasons why I thought clean diesel would be the fuel of choice for our nationÂ??s immediate future.SHTO.on isn’t easy.offer more. yet! r mention. called. e more difficult.family: Arial;">, N.C., early in May.ze in our lifetime – then fuel economy is likely a high priority for you.

Last December, I gave several reasons why I thought clean diesel would be the fuel of choice for our nation’s immediate future. In January, I cautioned that the demand for diesel fuel (and the cost) was rapidly increasing. BP’s recently introduced Statistical Review of World Energy 2007 provides us readers with some interesting supporting data.

World energy consumption rose 2.4 percent in 2005. Middle distillate fuels (diesel, heating oil, jet fuel and kerosene) experienced higher growth rates worldwide than all other hydrocarbon fuels (except coal). Worldwide demand for middle distillate fuels now exceeds the demand for gasoline at 30 million barrels per day (bpd), approaching half of the world’s total fuel requirement (85 million bpd). Remember, the crude oil barrel is 42 gallons, so worldwide diesel demand is currently 1.26 billion gallons per day! As you might expect, the highest demand growth rates were in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s fuel demand was up 8.4 percent last year (average worldwide energy demand increases 2.5–3.0 percent per year).  Gasoline demand is actually decreasing in some areas of the world.

In North America, passage of the long-awaited energy bill (H.R.6) on June 21 is causing several OEMs (BMW, Bosch, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, et al) to accelerate the development of diesel-powered light-duty vehicles. This energy bill calls for reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Diesels can provide a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy while still reducing CO2 emissions by 15 percent, so they now become the fuel of choice in the near term. Several OEMs are now promising us diesel-fueled light-duty vehicles as early as 2009.

Ah, but “therein lies the rub.” The ever-increasing demand for diesel fuel cannot easily be met, even with the incorporation of biodiesel produced from soy beans. Cellulosic biodiesel products offer more promise, but much more R & D is necessary before substantial production becomes a reality. Also recall that many current users of biodiesel are having problems because there is a lot of off-spec biodiesel out there. We need a National biodiesel specification!

Oil refiners have been hamstrung for years by environmentalists and legislators, so insufficient new refining capacity is currently being constructed. I wish our government would require them to put some of their recent profits into increasing refining capacity, but I’m not holding my breath. Since new refineries take several years to construct, we’re not going to see major refining capacity increases by the time light-duty diesel vehicles hit the North American market (2009, 2010). So, what are we going to do?

Albemarle Catalysts recently unveiled a “breakthrough technology,” which will allow refiners to produce high-quality, high-cetane number ULSD fuel from feedstocks (light-cycle oil) normally used to produce gasoline. Most refiners are currently heavily invested in fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) units to maximize gasoline production. The Albemarle system enables these refiners to utilize the new catalyst to produce ULSD fuel without totally reconfiguring refineries (which takes considerable time and money).

Albemarle developed this system in conjunction with a French refiner to assist with extreme diesel fuel shortages in Europe. Once the bugs are worked out of the process, they intend to offer it to refiners around the world.

Chiyoda Corp., in a joint research project with Axens, recently developed a new titania-based catalyst that reduces the temperatures needed to de-sulfurize diesel fuel. This process, developed under sponsorship of the Japan Petroleum Energy Center (JPEC) and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), is expected to be commercialized early in 2008.

If there is construction for additional refining capacity in the U.S., we should be in good shape for the light-duty diesel boom coming in two years.  

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