What are the Issues with Measuring Low Sulfur Levels in Diesel?

Regulations around diesel fuel for machinery and heavy vehicles are strict and fuel providers are affected by new regulations on biofuels. An overview is given here of what’s changing, the specifications and which analyzer should be chosen in order to accurately detect the very low sulfur limits in diesel for machinery and commercial vehicles.

Biofuel Obligations

There is mounting pressure to cut global carbon emissions. The EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) states that, by 2020, at least 10% of all energy in road transport fuels should be produced by renewable sources. The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) also requires that, by 2020, road transport fuel is 6% less carbon intensive than pure fossil fuels. In the UK, steps to implement this has led to big changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) policy. The target for 2019 is 8.5% sustainable fuel by total volume and this increases every year up to 12.4% in 2032.

Virtually Sulfur-Free

Since 2010, all on-road diesel in the EU has had to meet the virtually sulfur-free limits of less than 10 ppm. In 2014, the EU Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) extended this standard to include non-road mobile machinery (NRMM). Since then, all diesel sold for machinery and heavy vehicles in the EU has had to meet this ultra-low sulfur limit, whether derived purely from fossil fuel or blended with biofuel.

Ensuring Accuracy with Your XRF Analyzer

Detecting a relatively light substance like sulfur at limits of less than 10 parts per million can be challenging. Further complications are added when using a biofuel blended fuel because other elements in the mix can interfere. This depends on the source of the biofuel, for example, waste cooking oil may include potassium, phosphorous and chlorine, so these need to be removed by refining before the biofuel can be blended.

The majority of official test methods for ultra-low sulfur require the measurement of two portions of the test sample and the use of the average as the final result. If two measurements are compared before they are averaged, and an unusually high difference between the two readings is noted, there may be a contamination problem with one of the samples.

The type and quality of the sample film is another critical factor when detecting ultra-low sulfur levels. In order to reduce any background signal that could reduce the accuracy of the result, a high purity, uniform quality window material must be used. When using the film during sample setup it is important to be careful and not to touch the surface because the film needs to be completely smooth with no folds or crinkles as these may change the sulfur response that reaches the detector of the analyzer.

Introducing the X-Supreme8000 XRF Analyzer

Hitachi recommends using the X-Supreme8000 benchtop analyzer for making sulfur measurements in ultra-low sulfur fuel.

The X-Supreme is a dedicated application package and this means that it comes pre-loaded with optimized operating parameters and correction specifications for sulfur in fuel analysis. Also included are all the accessories that are required to get the system up and running quickly.

For ease of use and in order to ensure accuracy, the X-Supreme has SmartCheck software that actively looks for anomalies in the readings and alerts the user to anything that does not look right. For example, if two sample readings are outside the normal range, SmartCheck will alert the user. SmartCheck can also be set up to check other measurements. These include whether the sample is in the right calibration range or whether the right sample film is being used.

The X-Supreme, with a ten-position sample changer, is perfect for unattended high analysis throughput, 24/7 environments.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

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