What is Clean Diesel?

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Energy Security

Clean diesel fuel is America's #1 petroleum product export by far. Learn more about how clean diesel fuel is important to energy abundance and energy security.

There has been quite a lot of mention of America’s newfound energy abundance these days. While most attention has been focused on newly found supplies of natural gas, a lot more is coming out of the ground than just natural gas including record amounts of crude oil. America’s fuel producers are turning much of this product into ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). This fuel is integral to power America’s fleet of trucks and commercial vehicles, a growing fleet of diesel passenger vehicles along with agricultural, construction and mining equipment, locomotives, marine workboats and ferries and emergency backup generators. 

Newfound oil and gas reserves has helped the U.S. achieve energy abundance. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) recently announced that proven petroleum reserves in the U.S. exceeded 36 billion barrels for the first time since 1975. The U.S. is now a net energy exporter for the first time since 1953. While much attention has been focused on natural gas reserves, the U.S. is now a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since 1949 thanks to these recent discoveries of petroleum reserves. Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) with 15 part per million (ppm) or less sulfur content is the largest single petroleum product exported in 2018.   

Oil and Gas Exports

In 2018, U.S. refiners exported over 391 million barrels of clean diesel fuel abroad representing almost 32 percent of all finished petroleum exports. Refineries along the Gulf Coast are responsible for exporting 90 percent of U.S. ULSD while refineries on West Coasts make up the remainder.

Much of these exports are ultimately destined for our European allies and rapidly expanding economies in South and Central America.

Top 5 Markets for U.S. ULSD Exports in 2018


Share of Total U.S. ULSD Exports
















Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

The importance of access to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel is a necessary first step to introduce the latest near-zero emissions diesel technologies that are fundamental to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks and equipment. Modern engine designs and emission controls may only operate effectively with access to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. In the U.S., almost half of the diesel commercial vehicle fleet comes with these near zero emissions technologies and have eliminated 18 million tons of ozone forming compounds and is equivalent to eliminating the emissions from evert car on U.S. roads for six years. These near-zero emissions trucks have also eliminate one million tons of fine particle emissions, equivalent to taking all cars of U.S. roads for 33 years. These more efficient trucks have reduced 126 million tons of C02 emissions.

While the U.S. and many advanced economies have required access to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, more developing economies are also instituting regulations requiring cleaner diesel fuel and standards to limit emissions from trucks. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, cleaner diesel fuel coupled with growing use of near-zero emissions diesel technology can significantly reduce emissions of black carbon, a potent yet shortlived climate pollutant.  With greater access to cleaner fuel and greater uptake of trucks with diesel particulate filters, emissions of black carbon attributable to diesel vehicles could fall 93% below 2010 levels. 

Thanks to growing access to newfound sources of domestic energy, U.S. refiners supporting energy security but also exporting cleaner air abroad.


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