Production throttled – Less AdBlue: Will diesels soon stand still?

Semiconductors, bicycle parts, paper – there is currently an unusual shortage of goods in many areas. Now the high gas prices could cause supply problems for the Adblue exhaust gas cleaner. The first chemical plants have reduced the production of ammonia – the raw material for Adblue. Without this urea solution, modern cars and trucks with compression-ignition engines would come to a standstill.

At the end of September, the chemical giant BASF cut back ammonia production at its Ludwigshafen and Antwerp sites. In mid-October, the SKW nitrogen works in Piesteritz, Germany’s largest producer, also sounded the alarm. The reason is the same in both cases: high natural gas prices would make production uneconomical. The methane in natural gas is one of the raw materials for the production of ammonia (NH3), which is used in a variety of ways in the chemical industry, not least for the production of fertilizers. In addition, ammonia is the most important raw material for the production of urea, which in turn is the main component in Adblue.

In Italy, the ammonia bottleneck has already reached the next level. The largest Adblue plant in the country has just announced a four-week break in production, according to “Corriere della Sera”. At the same time, prices were increased. In Germany, the Mineralöl-Wirtschaftsverband (MWV), among others, is observing events with “increased attention”, but does not yet see any concrete cause for concern. So far, no bottleneck has been seen at the petrol stations. In the medium term, too, the warehouses should still be well filled.

This is how urea is used
The urea solution Adblue is used in diesel cars and trucks with a so-called SCR catalytic converter for exhaust gas cleaning. The liquid is injected into the exhaust system to render nitrogen oxides harmless. Most cars use around one to two liters of the solution over a distance of 1000 kilometers. If the on-board supply is exhausted, it must be refilled quickly at the petrol station or in the workshop. Otherwise the vehicle will no longer start or the engine will switch to limp home mode. This is to prevent the vehicles from emitting more nitrogen oxides than allowed in everyday life due to the carelessness or frugality of the user. Adblue has no direct influence on engine service life and mechanical functionality. The costs per liter are between around 70 cents and just under 4 euros, depending on the size of the container.

A shortage of Adblue would affect numerous drivers of newer diesel cars complying with the Euro 5 and, above all, Euro 6 emissions standards. An SCR catalytic converter with Adblue injection has been mandatory for trucks complying with the Euro V and VI standards since 2008, and numerous construction machines and ships also require urea for exhaust gas cleaning.(SPX)

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