New European diesel spec looks good for Shell GTL fuel and the environment 22 April 2016

The new EN15940 standard for paraffinic diesel fuels, such as Shell’s GTL (gas-to-liquid) fuel, has been ratified by CEN (European Committee for Standardisation).

Shell was involved in the nine year consultation process, having first proposed the specification in 2007, before the largest GTL facility, Pearl GTL, came on stream in Qatar.

EN15940, which was ratified on 15 April 2016, will now create a standard technical platform for markets to develop around paraffinic fuels.

These 100% finished fuels can be used as ‘drop-in’ fuels for heavy-duty diesel engines and – most importantly – are designed potentially to improve local air quality without the need for engine modifications or changes to the existing fuel infrastructure.

“EN15940 will now become the fuel standard referred to when manufacturers and legislators stipulate conditions concerning use of paraffinic fuels,” explains Michael Flynn, general manager for Gas-to-Liquid Products at Shell.

“For example, manufacturers may now consider adding EN15940 to a list of approved fuels in their equipment user manuals. This will also bring quality and safety assurances to customers.”

Flynn believes that GTL fuel will play an increasingly important role in the fuel mix for heavy duty transport, especially in regions where governments are keen to improve local air emissions immediately.

“This new European Standard opens more doors for the use of cleaner burning Shell GTL Fuel today,” he enthuses.

Paraffinic diesel fuels are liquid fuels that can be synthetically manufactured from feedstocks such as natural gas, biomass, coal or from hydro-treating vegetable oil.

Shell GTL Fuel is part of the emerging paraffinic fuel market, offering a cleaner burning alternative fuel produced at Pearl GTL in Ras Laffan, Qatar, in partnership with Qatar Petroleum.

The plant already produces 140,000 barrels per day of GTL products, including Shell GTL fuel.

Shell GTL fuel is designed to be virtually sulphur- and aromatics-free, readily biodegradable and non-toxic. It helps reduce local emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and, to date, is commercially available in Europe, primarily in The Netherlands, Germany, UK, Denmark and France.

Paraffinic fuels do not fully meet the EN590 specification because they have slightly lower density. However, Flynn says they now offer “significantly improved and favourable” fuel properties.

He explains that they compensate for their low density with higher energy content and cetane number. Also, the higher consistency of the fuel molecules means they combust more uniformly in diesel engines, he says, compared with conventional refinery diesel – and hence the reduced emissions.

Shell has conducted several field trials on Shell GTL Fuel in major cities around the world over the past decade, covering more than 1 million kilometres.

Flynn cites current users as including heavy-lifting and transport specialist Mammoet and the City of Groningen’s utility vehicles, both in The Netherlands.

Brian Tinham

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