New Emission Standards Bring Changes to Sweeper Industry

Consider this a lesson in alphabet soup for the sweeper industry.
SCR. DEF. EGR. LMNOP. Actually, the last one is just part of the alphabet – it has nothing to do with street sweepers. The first three, however, soon will become familiar acronyms, or at least they should be.

Schwarze Industries’ Raymond Massey said he has encouraged fellow members of the North American Power Sweeping Association to learn about the upcoming 2010 emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I encourage (everyone) to take some time to learn the differences between SCR, EGR and DEF,” Massey urged NAPSA members. “We can’t wait till the technology is out in the market to learn the basics. As an end user of the new technology, all NAPSA members need to be familiar with all forms of this new emission control technology as it is not going away.”

First, some background. The EPA’s tougher emissions standards go into effect this year requiring diesel exhaust to be reduced by 98 percent. The regulations, which apply to new vehicles, have been in the pipeline for several years. Engine manufacturers have responded to the regulations in a number of ways, either by tweaking existing engines, selling add-on equipment to bring them into compliance or through a combination of changes.

The result will mean cleaner air for everyone. The regulations “dramatically decrease discharges of nitrogen oxide, virtually eliminating emissions from on-road diesel engines,” according to the Clean Air Council. “Engine manufacturers are meeting the 2010 emissions standards …(by) making engine modifications for cleaner combustion and adding exhaust after treatment devises.

Diesel exhaust has been cited as a contributing factor in high childhood asthma rates. States, with prodding from the federal EPA, have been encouraging schools, businesses and other diesel engine users to voluntarily reduce engine idling. The reductions, coupled with the 2010 engine requirements, would further reduce diesel emissions.

Diesel exhaust is particularly noxious because it produces particulates that health officials and environmental activists can damage lungs and may raise cancer rates. In addition, the particulates from diesel soot can find their way into ground water and vegetation, environmentalists say. Street sweeping, of course, removes salt, grime and other materials that can wash into streams and waterways. The issue, from an air quality perspective, is that the diesel engine street sweeping machines themselves can spew particles into the air, and those particles, too, can wind up in water, vegetation and human lungs.

One way that engine manufacturers are complying with the 2010 diesel exhaust regulations is through the introduction of SCRs. SCRs, or selective catalytic reduction, is “one of the most cost-effective and fuel efficient diesel engine emissions control technologies available,” according to an industry association – the North American SCR Stakeholders Group, which promotes SCR technology.

“For passenger cars and light duty trucks, the ability to meet strict emissions and fuel efficiency guidelines affordably without compromising driving power and performance is attractive. In the commercial trucking industry, including heavy and medium duty trucks, the ability to reduce emissions to near-zero levels while also delivering a 3-5% diesel fuel savings distinguishes SCR as one of the only emissions control technologies that is as good for business as it is for the environment,” the group maintains.

SCRs work this way, according to the information given to NAPSA members. The nitrogen oxide reduction process takes place after combustion, which means it does  not diminish engine performance. Diesel Exhaust Fluid  – or DEF) is sprayed into the hot exhaust gases. The fluid, which is a combination of the chemical urea and deionized water or purified water, passes through a catalytic chamber. When the hot exhaust combines with the diesel exhaust fluid in the catalytic chamber, the exhaust is broken down into nitrogen and water vapor, two harmless byproducts. The information comes from AGCO, a manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, which is based in Georgia.

Proponents of  SCRs say there is plenty of diesel exhaust fluid available. The technology has been part of European-made cars and heavy-duty vehicles for years, with no problem.

The third acronym Massey said sweeper users need to understand is EGR, or exhaust gas recirculation. This is a process that allows the engine exhaust to be recirculated back to the cylinders, burning off pollutants. The benefit is that customers do not have to add urea to their engine systems or figure out a way to store the material if they choose to keep it on site.

With advanced EGRs, the system comes ready made, requiring no additional effort on the part of the operator. The emissions are controlled right in the cylinder, not through the introduction of an additional liquid.

So, what does all this mean for street sweeper distributors and users? Changes that have been long discussed and debated will finally be put into effect. Folks will need to educate themselves about SCRs, DEF and EGRs and make decisions about which emissions control procedures are best for their businesses and the workers who use their equipment.

While it may take awhile for users to grow comfortable with the changes, the environment is the big winner. In most cases, engines will run more efficiently, ultimately reducing fuel costs. The cost of having clean air can be measured in the price of the new technology and the time it takes for everyone to adjust to the changes. The savings, to the environment and to our health in general, will not be quite as easily measured.