EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction program is showing promise

Diesel-smoke[1]Although patented by German mechanical engineer Dr. Rudolph Diesel in 1892, it wasn’t until 1897 in Augsburg, Germany that the first successful test of the diesel engine actually occurred.

No doubt revolutionary for its time, it is amazing how far this means of producing motive power has come since. Having said that the diesel development story is far from over and this is right where DERA, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, is of particular relevance.

In the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document “Second Report to Congress: Highlights of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program,” the EPA in its opening remarks states: “From goods movement to building construction to public transportation, diesel engines are the modern-day workhorse of the American economy. Diesel engines are extremely efficient, and they power nearly every major piece of machinery and equipment on farms, on construction sites, in ports, and on highways. However, not all diesel engines are as clean as those manufactured after 2006 and later, when EPA’s stringent heavy-duty highway and non-road engine standards began coming into effect. EPA estimates that approximately 11 million older diesel engines remain in use, and will continue to emit significant amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) until they wear out and are replaced. To reduce the public’s exposure to pollution from these older, dirtier engines, Congress in 2005 authorized funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a grant program designed to selectively retrofit or replace the older diesel engines most likely to impact human health.”

Program highlights

In Fiscal Year 2008, according to the EPA, costing $49 million upgraded were 14,000 various pieces of equipment, vehicles or vessels. Through Fiscal Year 2008 DERA grants, for the types and numbers of vehicles receiving upgrades, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Rail (locomotives) – 64
  • School buses – 5,775
  • Short-haul trucks – 1,606
  • Long-haul trucks – 4,495
  • Transit buses – 306
  • Non-road – 936
  • Ports – 540

“These projects reduced 22,700 tons of NOx, 2,270 tons of PM, 4,200 tons of HC [hydrocarbons], 15,900 tons of CO [carbon monoxide], and 289,900 tons of CO2 [carbon dioxide]. The 2008 grants provided approximately $644 million to $1.6 billion in health benefits and saved nearly 26 million gallons of fuel.”

Making its debut was the sub-DERA program known as the EPA Emerging Technologies (ET) program. ET has a goal of field-testing clean diesel technology effectiveness.

Through this specific program, the federal agency was able to confirm its first devices to control emissions from locomotives and marine vessels.

“One such technology was Caterpillar’s marine engine upgrade kit for certain engine models, which is now available for widespread use to help ship owners reduce pollution,” the EPA in the document noted.

Similarly, through Fiscal Year 2009/2010 clean diesel projects granting, upgraded were:

  • Rail (locomotives) – 82
  • School buses – 2,222
  • Short-haul trucks – 536
  • Long-haul trucks – 5,580
  • Transit buses – 92
  • Non-road – 432
  • Ports – 531

“These grants will provide estimated lifetime emissions reductions of 50,600 tons of NOx, 2,600 tons of PM, 3,600 tons of HC, 9,300 tons of CO, and 706,000 tons of CO2 with fuel savings of nearly 63 million gallons. These grants provide lifetime health benefits of $728 million to $1.8 billion,” the EPA in the document noted.

Published by Alan Kandel