Diesel emissions pose a significant threat to both the environment and public health. As the need for sustainable practices becomes more apparent, mission-critical facilities must take action to reduce their impact on the environment. It is time to discuss the importance of addressing particulate matter, including black carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, from on-site diesel generators. By prioritizing emissions reduction, we can pave the way towards a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.
The negative impact of diesel emissions
Diesel particulate matter (PM) consists of black carbon, or soot, along with various organic compounds. Diesel exhaust also releases gaseous pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitric oxides (NOx). The emission of NOx from diesel engines is significant because it can undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere, leading to the formation of particulate matter and ozone. Additionally, diesel exhaust contains carbon dioxide (CO2).
Accurately quantifying the exact amount of PM generated by diesel engines annually is a complex task due to variations in engine type, fuel type, and operating conditions. However, according to estimates, diesel engines globally produce an astounding 1.3 billion tons of particulate matter each year.
Black carbon, a component of diesel PM, is a recognized carcinogen and is associated with the occurrence of strokes, heart attacks, and chronic respiratory diseases. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that diesel PM contributes to approximately 1,400 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease annually in California alone. Furthermore, a study conducted in 2022 even found a correlation between low-level exposure to PM and behavioral issues, as well as lower IQ scores in children aged 2 to 4 years.
Ensuring clean air to breathe is a crucial social determinant of health and should be regarded with the same significance as access to education, nutritious food, employment opportunities and adequate shelter.
The role of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in mission-critical facilities
DPFs are crucial tools for reducing emissions from diesel engines. These exhaust after-treatment devices effectively trap and remove PM from exhaust, helping to prevent harmful emissions from entering the air. DPFs can be fitted to various engines, including backup generators used in mission-critical facilities. The cleaning process, known as regeneration, ensures that captured PM is removed from the filter, maintaining optimal performance.
Active vs. passive regeneration
There are two types of diesel particulate filters: active and passive. Passive filters rely on the heat of combustion to regenerate and burn off trapped soot. However, in cases where generators experience intermittent demand, such as standby units in data centers, passive filters may not efficiently perform their cleaning function. This can result in clogged filters and reduced performance during power outages. On the other hand, active filters undergo self-cleaning during normal engine operation, independent of exhaust temperatures. This flexibility ensures maximum efficiency and reduces the need for additional measures like costly generator load banks.
Meeting sustainability goals through exhaust aftertreatment
Emissions regulations have been steadily increasing, with California at the forefront of these efforts. Mission-critical facilities, which often house multiple generator units in a compact area, face unique challenges in meeting these regulations.
To meet regulatory standards and achieve significant reductions in emissions and maintenance workloads, a data center on the west coast in Santa Clara, California, successfully installed 25 active diesel particulate filters onto the existing MTU S4000 engines.
“When you have facilities with 30 to 50 units, multiplied across several facilities in a geographic area, the concern for regulation ramps up, especially when there are existing neighborhoods or communities in that area,” said Roberto Montero of Rypos, a manufacturer of diesel exhaust aftertreatment filters.
The proximity of these facilities to existing communities further emphasizes the need to reduce diesel engine emissions. By prioritizing compliance and sustainable practices, mission-critical facilities can demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility and community well-being. Manufacturers of aftertreatment solutions play a vital role in helping facilities reduce emissions. By providing emissions reduction data based on generator specifications, these manufacturers assist consulting engineers, facility design teams, and ESG/EHS groups in making informed decisions. Training and educational resources are crucial in ensuring seamless operation of exhaust aftertreatment systems, empowering staff to utilize these technologies effectively.
The benefits of CARB-verified active DPFs:
Utilizing CARB-verified active DPFs in power generation standby systems offers numerous benefits. These filters provide critical-grade sound attenuation, eliminating the need for separate silencers in standby applications. They also achieve immediate and significant reductions in diesel PM emissions – up to 95%. By ensuring compliance with CARB-level 3+ and EPA air quality regulations, Rypos active DPFs contribute to a healthier environment and improved public health. Moreover, they enhance equipment efficiency and lifespan while reducing maintenance requirements and fuel consumption.
Retrofitting vs. engine replacement:
Mission-critical facilities have two options to achieve PM compliance: retrofitting or engine replacement. Retrofitting involves installing updated emissions control equipment, such as DPFs, SCR or EGR systems, on existing engines. This cost-effective solution is suitable for engines that can support the necessary emission control technologies. However, older or outdated engines may not be compatible, necessitating engine replacement. While more expensive and time-consuming, engine replacement guarantees compliance with current emission standards and minimizes environmental impacts.
Making strides toward a sustainable future:
Reducing diesel PM emissions is not only essential for decarbonization but also for mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. “It’s become imperative mission-critical facilities utilize the technology we have that will make an immediate and beneficial impact,” says Rypos CEO Paul Anderson. “What many don’t realize is DPFs will save them labor and maintenance costs in long run.”
The time to act is now. Mission-critical facilities must prioritize the reduction of diesel emissions to safeguard the environment and public health. By adopting emission-reducing technologies like active DPFs, complying with regulations and investing in sustainable practices, these facilities can lead the way towards a greener and more sustainable future.