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Monday, August 13, 2007

Racing in Baja? Running diesel fuels from Baja Mexico? The Baja 1000?


Today there is no ULSD fuel available in Mexico.





















The consequences of using non ULSD fuel in your rig are said to be dire.

The ULSD fuels in the USA are 15 ppm sulfur. Fuel in Baja Mexico is probably >500 ppm sulfur. Manufacturers of 2007 diesel powered light trucks in compliance with 2008 federal Emissions Standards, claim the non-ULSD "dirty" fuels will clog and or damage the emission control systems, the filter systems and
the injection systems and also void warranties.

We know lots of folks who are spending money upgrading and maintaining their "older" diesel rigs in lieu of purchasing new rigs because "new" rigs cannot be used in Mexico.

Of course, some believe the engine makers claims are merely scare tactics and there is no danger in using non ULSD fuels, sort of a Y2K comparison is used.
For several months now, Pemex Refinacion (that is the part of Pemex that produces fuel) has been producing Low Sulfur Diesel, known in Mexico as "Pemex Diesel Bajo Azufre".

This type of Diesel has been distributed all around Mexico for more than 8 months now, slowly replacing the old one (When received, it gets mixed with the old one, so it takes a while to reach it's optimal low sulfur quality). Pemex also sent mobile laboratories throughout Baja to check on the new Diesel quality at the beginning of this year... they arrived at the pumps in February 2007... they checked the Diesel Fuels in tanks and
told us it was already 98% Low Sulfur, back then, and according to them, at PEMEX stations, it should not have taken more than a couple of weeks to achieve it's optimal levels. At this point it is supposed to be all around Mexico. Premium fuel has also been upgraded to a Ultra Low Sulfur version, known as "Premium UBA" (Ultra Bajo Azufre). Regarding the quantity of sulfur in each fuel


In the near future, you may begin to see the change in the PEMEX Stations signs of the new fuel... it just takes a while since those are expensive and the owner of the Gas Station has to pay for them out of their profits.
On January 30th, 2006, the Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), published in the Federal Official Diary, the "Specifications for fossil fuels for the protection of the environment", in which are stated the new requirements Pemex will have to comply with, in order to produce and commercialized the fuels and diesel that are sell throughout our country.

The new Premium Ultra Low Sulfur, should have an average of 30 millions per part of sulfur (30 ppm), while the new Pemex Diesel Ultra Low Sulfur will have a maximum of 15 ppm. These new norms and specifications, are the result of a revision process that started in May of 2002, and in which the private, public and academic sectors participated. It must be noted that Pemex began to delivered the Premium fuel with the required specifications on October 2006. The quality required should be gradually met, due to the actual existence of fuel in the Gas Station's tanks, with a high content of Sulfur. Regarding Diesel Ultra Low Sulfur (Diesel UBA), it's introduction began on October 2006, in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. In January 2007 in will be extensive throughout the Northern part of Mexico and then to the rest of the country. In Mexico we only have two kinds of Diesel... Regular diesel and Marine diesel.

In the States the are several varities, each with different quality and quantities of sulfur.
Ultra-low sulfur diesel was proposed by EPA as a new standard for the sulfur content in on-road diesel fuel sold in the United States since October 15, 2006, except for California and rural Alaska. California required it since September 1, 2006, and rural Alaska will transition all diesel to ULSD in 2010. This new regulation applies to all diesel fuel, diesel fuel additives and distillate fuels blended with diesel for on-road use, such as kerosene, however, it does not yet apply to train locomotives, marine, or off road uses. By December 1, 2010, all highway diesel will be ULSD. Non-road diesel will transition to 500 ppm sulfur in 2007, and to ULSD in 2010. Locomotive and marine diesel will also transition to 500 ppm sulfur in 2007, and to ULSD in 2012. There are exemptions for small refiners of nonroad, locomotive and marine diesel that allow for 500 ppm disel to remain in the system until 2014. After December 1, 2014 all highway, non-road, locomotive and marine diesel produced and imported will be ULSD.

The EPA mandated the use of ULSD fuel in model year 2007 and newer highway diesel fuel engines equipped with advanced emission control systems that require the new fuel. These advanced emission control technologies will be required for marine diesel engines in 2014 and for locomotives in 2015. Real world examples,
a ranch ran dozens of diesel engines for tens of thousands of hours in irrigation pumps, gen sets for packing sheds and many, many tractors for many years in Baja. They sent out fuel and used oil samples as part of our regular maintenance routine.

Back then it wasn't uncommon to have diesel with >2000ppm sulfur. They cleaned it up to more or less 500 ppm in 1990 and there it has stayed. Here are the facts as in how many ppm's of sulfur are in the fuel being pumped here and now at all the fuel stations in Baja.

The consensus in the fuel trading world and the trucking world where they are poised to use new ULSD compliant fleets everywhere in Canada, USA and Mexico under NAFTA is everyone would like to see actual test results of fuel being pumped in Mexico, not just PEMEX promises the hype. Basically, few believe PEMEX is delivering ULSD fuel consistently throughout Baja.

Some real-world guidelines:
Mexican Pemex Diesel - >500 PPM Sulfur - good stuff
US Diesel - 15 PPM Sulfur- bad stuff.

Regarding vehicles, the Stanadyne Performance Plus - 2004.5 GMC Duramax. These and older models do well in Baja, Mexico fuels. 2007 diesels, not well.

ULSD has 15ppm vs old 500ppm. The new diesels being produced have "catalitic converters" in the exhaust system and higher than 15 ppm fuels will "kill" the converters. "Costly adventure". The pre 2007 diesels will have to make certain additives are used "stanadyne, etc" to make sure all the parts IE: pumps, seals, orings and the like keep their lubricity. Otherwise you may be looking a problems sooner than you think. Baja Mexico also introduced the ULSD fuel earlier this year - give or take, yet some stations in the USA still offer both fuel types. IE: El Paso, Tx - Flying J's have both 500 and 15 ppms at 2 different stations.

The new 2007/2008, Ford, Chevy and Dodge diesel engines. They will only burn ULTRA LOW SULFUR DIESEL FUEL, they will not burn the LOW SULFUR DIESEL FUEL that you have mentioned. LOW SULFUR DIESEL FUELS could be used in the US and Canada prior 10/06. Please let all of know if the new ULTRA LOW SULFUR DIESEL FUEL is available on the Baja. If not there will be many of us that have bought new 2007 and 2008 diesels that wont be able to come back to the Baja this winter. The LOW SULFUR DIESEL FUEL will not burn in the new diesel engines.

The low sulfur diesel issue is an international effort to protect the environment, it is not unique to the States or Mexico, in fact, Europe and Asia have been working on this for a few years now... In Baja Mexico, they are just catching up. The idea is to get to a point where all on-road diesel around the globe has 15ppm of sulfur or less... regardless of how you call it, Low Sulfur, Ultra Low Sulfur, Less Sulfur, Almost no Sulfur or whatever. In some places, they are making their way to the 15ppm sulfur content in steps... therefore they have diesel, low sulfur diesel (with 500ppm) and eventually Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel.

Either way, the idea is to get to the 15ppm sulfur content on diesel. In the States there are several types of diesel, depending on the use, and the sulfur content on them varies... in Mexico we only have two types: Regular diesel and Marine diesel. The one you put in your car is the same used for off-road, construction and any other equipment that runs on diesel... no difference. In Baja Mexico, low sulfur diesel (or ultra low sulfur diesel), which has content of 15ppm (or less) of sulfur, has been slowly introduced nationwide since last year (October 2006).

In Baja California Norte, all PEMEX stations began receiving it (and therefore selling it) since January 2007. In Baja California Sur it has not been introduced yet... they are schedule to have it in the later part of this year. PEMEX will not order nor authorize any signs about low sulfur diesel until they make sure every Gas Station in Mexico has this type of diesel... this is the reason for the mobile lab units being sent to every gas station in Mexico. Maybe they when they will finally order the change of signs the name will be change to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel...who knows.

From the insider, "PEMEX Memos" or Government Press releases. PEMEX stations have received Pemex's lab technicians making low sulfur tests of shipments of diesel. From the Commercial Director at the Ensenada Pemex Distribution Center. Everything points to the same: low sulfur diesel has been slowly being introduced throughout Mexico for almost a year now.
In Mexico diesel is mainly produced for the agricultural and marine industries, not private vehicles (remember the government controlled diesel price you get when coming to Baja Mexico?).

Diesel in Mexico is mainly produced for farming, marine and commercial vehicles, not tourism. From PEMEX,
We only have ULSD fuel in this areas: Rosarito, Mexicali, Nogales y Ensenada, this information was confirmed by our west sales representation. the official is not mentioning this because if you understand how PEMEX moves the fuel in Mexico, it is assumed you will immediately understand this. In Ensenada, the Pemex Depot in El Sauzal (north of Ensenada)... is the Distribution Center, responsible for all the Gas Stations from Ensenada all the way to Jesus Maria (north of Guerrero Negro).

The
diesel particulate filter (DPF) and the regeneration cycle on the new diesels are often discussed by the professional diesel mechanics in Mexico as being the problem areas in the new motors, when runn in Baja Mexico. A 2007.5 Silverado with the LMM diesel engine, regarding the DURAMAX engine from GM. The occasional tourist who runs 2-3 tankfuls on his vacation will probably not do anything to their diesel engine systems. Ford and Chevy recommend no use of non ULSD fuel in the 2007 and newer rigs and its use will void warranties. Dodge and their Cummins 5.9L and its ULSD fuel warranty issues are not well known.

In summary, in Baja Mexico fuels are high in sulfur, which used to be good thing. They are not ULSD fuels by any stretch of the imagination.


1. Ford has a retrofit available for owners who need to run the truck in Mexico. I do not know if the cost is practical for Ford truck owners but it would be worth enquiring.

2. GM has no plans to market their new trucks in Mexico so there is no retrofit available and the owner’s manual warns that irreversible damage may be caused to the DPF if low sulfur fuel (LSF = 500 ppm) instead of ultra low sulfur fuel (ULSF =15ppm) is used.

3. The theory is that excessive amounts of sulfur compounds emitted in the exhaust gradually “poison” the DPF, causng it to clog with ash.

4. The DPF is a special ceramic filter which traps the soot, or black smoke. This soot has to be burned off, typically once per tankful, by higher exhaust gas temperatures created by injecting additional fuel on a computer controlled cycle.

5. If the backpressure in the DPF gets too high, from poisoning with sulfur, the engine goes into a special “limp mode”, with reduced power, and can only be reset by a dealer.

6. GM contacts advise that they have tested the effects of using low sulfur fuel instead of ultra low sulfur fuel and, while they do not want to put anything in writing, they have not measured any serious problems. There is a “sulfur poisoning sensor” in the exhaust system but it has not registered a big problem in tests. This probably indicates that GM is using a newer type of DPF which has much greater resistance to sulfur poisoning.

7. Ask your local fire chief and he will tell you that new fire trucks have had DPFs for at least a decade, burning low sulfur fuel (500 ppm), for all of that time without any problems. This is a clue that the “damage” predicted by owners’ manuals for our new vehicles may be way overblown. It could well be a case of the manufacturers wanting to cover their rear ends, just in case.

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