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Future freight plan for California depends on clean diesel power

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The major environmental, economic and efficiency goals sought in California's proposed sustainable freight plan will be attainable only with expanded use of advanced clean diesel technology, according to the Diesel Technology Forum.

These points and others were outlined in the Forum's final comments submitted Wednesday on the draft California Sustainable Freight Action Plan concerning the development of strategies to improve freight efficiency and the transition to zero-emission freight technologies.

"Diesel engines are the prime mover in the global goods movement system, which includes California,"Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, stated in his comments to the California Freight Advisory Committee. "From ocean going vessels to railroad freight locomotives to medium and heavy duty trucks, diesel engines power the movement of freight and commerce because of their unmatched combination of efficiency, power, performance, reliability, durability. And while nothing has changed about that, everything has changed about the diesel engine's environmental credentials.

"California has played a major role driving a transformation to the new generation of clean diesel technology, now available in all modes of goods movement, from truck engines to locomotives, work boats, freight locomotives and many vessels. Today, that technology is delivering not only the goods and services that Californian's depend on, but it also is delivering proven and tangible clean air benefits. Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from commercial diesel trucks (light, medium and heavy duty) have declined by about 60% from 2000 - 2015, according to CARB's most recent data. Near zero emissions clean diesel technology is now the gold standard for moving goods. Technology developed to meet California's most rigorous standards for commercial vehicles established nearly a decade ago, has contributed to California's goal of improving air quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum use.

"The fastest way for California to achieve many of the goals outlined by Governor Edmund Brown for sustainable freight movement – cleaner air, a more efficient freight system and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – is the accelerated adoption of new technology clean diesel in commercial trucks and off-road engines and equipment.

"Moreover, when considering enhancements to the freight system infrastructure, large construction equipment that will be vital to complete infrastructure projects necessary to realise the goals of the Draft Action Plan are powered nearly exclusively by diesel.

"While the plan discusses its ambitions and potential for zero emissions technology in some niche uses in the future, today clean diesel technology is delivering - fuel savings, lowering air toxic emissions, helping to achieve clean air standards and climate change goals for all Californian's."

According to 2015 data compiled by IHS Insight for the Diesel Technology Forum, there are over 900 000 Class 3-8 commercial vehicles in California and about 18% are the newest generation clean diesel (2010 Model Year and newer) that achieve near zero NOX and PM emissions. Since 2010, these vehicles alone have saved or eliminated 700 000 t of NOX and 20 700 t of PM. They have also saved or eliminated 5.8 million bbls of crude oil and 2.5 million t of CO2. This compares with just over 15 000 natural gas powered commercial vehicles. Nationwide, almost 26% of the diesel commercial vehicle fleet is powered by engines that are 2010 and newer generations.

Accelerating the adoption of new clean diesel technology is key

"Substantial additional greenhouse gas reduction goals are achievable under a modest increase in the share of these model year 2010 compliant commercial vehicles," Schaeffer stated. "For example, over a million tonnes of CO2 each year may be eliminated if the share of these newest clean diesel commercial vehicles increased to just 26%, the national average."

According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), an additional 80 t of NOX emissions each day may be eliminated in the South Coast air basin if all commercial vehicles were powered by a 2010 or newer clean diesel engine.

"A unique aspect of the diesel engine is its ability to utilise a wide range of blends of high quality biofuels, such as biodiesel and renewable diesel that further enhance the benefits and capabilities of the diesel engine in a sustainable freight future.

Off-road clean diesel technology will be vital for enhancing California's freight infrastructure

"The Sustainable Freight Plan includes consideration of the necessary freight infrastructure – roadways and bridge systems as well as rail and port infrastructure to achieve economic growth targets and other goals. Performing this work will rely on heavy duty diesel powered construction equipment, of which the new generation of clean diesel technology achieves near-zero emissions. Technology deployed since 2014 to meet the near-zero 'Tier 4' emissions standards, results in more than a 90% reduction in NOX and PM emissions, depending on the horsepower range of specific equipment. Much like commercial vehicles, a diesel engine powers the majority of this equipment and will continue to do so in the future.

"Agencies are already recognising the recent clean air and fuel savings advancements in the latest clean diesel innovations that power Tier 4 construction equipment. The California High Speed Rail Authority announced that Tier 4 compliant equipment, where available, will be required at all job sites associated with the large public works project. Tier 4 compliant equipment is expected to deliver substantial air quality benefits for communities near worksites while saving fuel costs for contractors and delivering savings to the State of California."

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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