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January 31, 2020   |  


U.S. Refiners Help Clean the Air Abroad

U.S. energy producers are expected to continue to expand production of domestic sources of oil and gas and that’s a good thing for developing economies abroad. According to recent projections published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. refiners are on track to continue to expand oil and gas production. In case you did not know, the U.S. is expected to become a net exporter of oil and gas this year reversing a trend that started in 1953.

Gross Energy

One of the biggest U.S. energy products exported is diesel fuel, particularly low sulfur diesel. U.S. refiners are expected to export 2.5 million barrels of diesel fuel abroad each day.

Diesel Exports

This should be great news for developing economies looking to reduce transportation emissions, including a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, diesel fuel is the fuel of choice for work as it powers trucks, buses, trains and heavy-duty equipment. Here in the U.S. and in most developed economies, requirements to reduce the sulfur content of diesel fuel have been on the books for well over a decade. Access to low sulfur diesel fuel not only reduces sulfur emissions but is a necessary condition for the use the latest near-zero emission diesel innovations play a key role in reducing transportation emissions from the heavy-duty sector.

One of those key technologies is the diesel particulate filter that traps fine particle emissions. Near zero emissions diesel technologies like the diesel particulate filter may only operate in the presence of low sulfur diesel fuel. Without low sulfur diesel fuel, modern emission controls cannot operate effectively. Since 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that all diesel fuel sold must be low sulfur. Since 2007, all new trucks manufactured must also come with diesel particulate filters. Today, more than half of all diesel trucks on the road have a diesel particulate filter and have eliminate 1 million tons of fine particle emissions. This is equivalent to taking all cars off U.S. roads for 33 years!

Fine particles are also a component of a potent yet shortlived climate pollutant called black carbon and near-zero emissions diesel technology, specifically the diesel particulate filter, is a leading technology to nearly eliminate transportation sources of black carbon emissions. Small black particles generated by unburned fuel rise in the atmosphere and fall on polar ice and contribute to a warming Artic region.  Diesel particulate filters that nearly eliminate transportation sources of black carbon can help mitigate melting polar ice.

Researchers have estimated that global access to cleaner diesel fuel with a lower sulfur content in conjunction with the use of clean diesel technologies can have an immediate and beneficial impact to help cool a warming planet. The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that, under ambitious scenarios, 81 percent  of the global supply of diesel fuel will soon have a low sulfur content that will help developing countries require heavy-duty trucks and equipment come with diesel particulate filters. Researchers estimate that the ambitious uptake of cleaner diesel fuel and diesel particulate filters globally can reduce black carbon emissions by 90 percent from 2010 levels, well below the 75 percent level needed to keep climate change in check.

Black Carbon

All of these expected benefits come with growing access to low sulfur diesel fuel. U.S. refiners are helping to meet the global need for cleaner fuel to keep us on track to reduce fine particle emissions and help cool a warming planet while improving air quality.


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