Tips for Handling Diesel Exhaust Fluid in Cold Weather

Diesel exhaust fluid is essential for commercial diesel vehicles, even during cold weather.

Storing diesel exhaust fluid at temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit can cause it to freeze, causing expansion and flow issues.

Use these tips from Blue Network to avoid common storage and handling mistakes for your diesel exhaust fluid.

Your commercial truck needs diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, to comply with emissions regulations. This fluid is required while driving in any weather condition, but it can become frozen when improperly stored. Find out how to safely store, handle, and deliver DEF to your commercial trucks with professional products from Blue Network.

How Cold Weather Affects Diesel Exhaust Fluid

Diesel fuel may gel when exposed to cold temperatures, but DEF can freeze solid. Even the best diesel exhaust fluid is prone to freezing, so it’s important to understand what this does to your DEF system and how you can keep it safely stored. Frozen DEF has the ability to completely stall your trucking operation in the winter, so be sure your fluid is warm and ready to pump year-round.

Average Freezing Point

The typical DEF freezing point is 12 degrees Fahrenheit, or -11 degrees Celsius. This is lower than the freezing point of water because of the area in the fluid. Unlike certain mixtures and solutions, the water in DEF doesn’t separate as it freezes. This means that the freeze/thaw process and small amounts of frozen DEF in a large container won’t affect the concentration or performance of the fluid. Why does it matter whether it freezes or not? Frozen DEF can affect your ability to pump it into your truck’s selective catalytic reduction, or SCR, system. It can also expand to crack or damage holding tanks on your truck or property.

Lack of Flow Due to Freezing

If you turn on your DEF pump or pick up a container to pour it into your truck’s SCR system, the last thing you want to deal with is a block of ice. Your truck will eventually warm up and melt any

DEF currently in the truck-mounted reservoir, but you won’t be able to fill that reservoir up for a long haul if your stored DEF is frozen solid.

This prevents you from moving DEF from a container to your truck. Attempting to heat the fluid quickly can cause it to become too hot and compromise the area. You can’t run your trucks without DEF due to the emissions concerns, so this situation can prevent you from driving commercial diesel vehicles in cold weather without proper storage solutions.

Damaged Containers Due to Expansion

Containers full of DEF and without the proper heating system can freeze solid and dangerously expand. This fluid can expand by up to seven percent of its liquid volume, so you need to plan on keeping the fluid in a liquid state or leave room for expansion in a tank.

While exploring the best tank for storage, be sure you use stainless steel or HDPE plastic. These materials can help reduce the risk of damage due to expansion, but they also avoid any damage due to the mildly corrosive nature of DEF.

A cracked container can be a costly issue. Not only does this mean you’ll need to invest in a new container, but it could also expose your DEF to direct sunlight or contaminants. This can lead to decomposed urea or contaminated fluid, both of which can make it unusable in your SCR system. Preventing a cracked container is one of the most important steps in safe DEF handling in cold weather.

How to Handle DEF in Cold Weather

Now that you understand some of the dangers related to improper DEF storage in Canada, it’s time to find solutions. At Blue Network, we work with you to create dependable DEF storage and delivery solutions to keep your fleet moving forward.

Choose a Durable Container

Our DEF equipment line can help you properly store DEF to avoid the irritating or dangerous effects of freezing temperatures. Indoor or underground tanks are the most common solution, as these tanks are heated through other sources and remain at a relatively stable temperature.

Another solution is to choose a tank with a heating feature built-in. Work with our team to explore your container options to prevent freezing in the first place.

Don’t Use Additives

Other liquids are kept from freezing with additives. It may seem common sense to add an anti-gel or antifreeze product to a DEF holding tank. Don’t attempt to introduce any additional products to your DEF, either in a holding tank or in your SCR system.

At Blue Network, we pride ourselves on delivering the highest quality and purity of DEF. Any additives or impurities can damage your SCR system and reduce the efficiency of this emissions reduction setup.

Don’t Worry About Thawing Frozen DEF

You don’t need to worry about your DEF if it’s already frozen. As long as you avoid direct sunlight exposure and review the expiration date, you can safely pump it into your commercial truck.

Review the Expiration Date

Freezing may not harm your DEF, but long-term storage can. Review the expiration date on your DEF container or discuss the date of production with our team at Blue Network. As a leading supplier of diesel exhaust fluid in Canada, we offer long-lasting fluid on a schedule that fits your facility. Discuss your DEF use rate with our team as you schedule a bulk order to avoid using expired fluid. Once expired, the urea degradation can reduce the efficiency of your product.

With proper storage conditions, most DEF can last 12 months before degrading. Always review the expiration date with our team as you schedule a delivery to ensure you’re aware of the timeline of your DEF. We can manage your delivery schedule to be sure you never receive too much DEF to be efficiently used within its expiration date. A conveniently scheduled delivery is just one more benefit of choosing a leading distributor with national coverage.

Avoid Direct Sunlight Exposure

Freezing temperatures may not affect the quality of DEF, but direct sunlight exposure can. Don’t store DEF in direct sunlight, even if frozen. Our storage tank solutions safely protect your product from the effects of sunlight. If stored in direct sunlight, the area will begin to decompose and become ineffective.

Keep Your Fleet Moving with Blue Network Solutions

At Blue Network, we’re committed to keeping your fleet moving. Don’t let frozen DEF put a halt to your transportation needs. Now that you know how to prevent issues with your DEF and diesel in cold weather, work with our team to receive high-quality products at great prices. We also provide the proper storage equipment to prevent freezing issues in the winter.

Get started today to see why we’re a leading distributor across Canada. Whether you’re operating a single truck or a large fleet of diesel trucks, create a distribution schedule that fits your budget and supply needs with our team.

Image Credit: Vitpho/Shutterstock

Def Handling Guide

Diesel exhaust fluid is an incredibly useful substance — so useful that it’s now legally required. DEF takes diesel exhaust and transforms it into harmless water and nitrogen, ensuring that no pollution is created from diesel engines.

To get the most out of DEF, however, you need to understand how to handle it. DEF is chemically fragile, so it must be handled with the utmost care. To help you handle this substance appropriately, here’s everything you need to know about DEF storage, transfer, and transport.

Who Created the Standards for Handling DEF?

To ensure DEF is handled correctly, a global standard was created. This specifies requirements for storage containers, handling procedures, and more. But who is responsible for these standards?

The American Petroleum Institute is a U.S.-based organization that has existed for more than 100 years. Over that century, it has advocated on behalf of natural gas and oil companies, as well as conducted research that benefits these industries. As part of this research, it has also created over 700 procedures to ensure fragile and volatile substances are handled safely.

The API also offers training and certification to entities within and connected to the petroleum industry. This includes manufacturers of DEF and related accessories.

Is DEF Hazardous?

Fortunately, DEF isn’t hazardous. Diesel exhaust fluid won’t burn, stain, or otherwise harm individuals who come into contact with it. As a result, there’s no special protective gear required to handle DEF. However, it’s still important for anyone handling diesel exhaust fluid to do so with care.

Why Is It Important to Handle DEF Correctly?

DEF is chemically fragile and can become contaminated extremely easily. When exposed to oxygen, the molecules in the fluid undergo a chemical reaction, making the resulting mixture less pure. The less pure the fluid is, the less effective it is.

Using less effective DEF can put you on the wrong side of the law; subpar fluid can create emissions higher than the legal standard. This can lead to regulatory trouble if your company is audited.

Additionally, subpar fluid can void your SCR system’s warranty, leading to expenses down the road should the system need repair. Speaking of the SCR system, each vehicle has a built-in onboard diagnostics, which monitors the SCR system’s status. If the system’s not working efficiently due to subpar fluid, the OBD can switch your vehicle into crawler mode, affecting your ability to deliver shipments in a timely manner.

What Kind of Containers Should Be Used?

DEF can interact with solid material as well as liquid and gas, so it’s crucial that containers be made of compatible material. Both high-density polyethylene plastic and stainless steel are safe to use in storage, as they won’t instigate a chemical reaction.

While, in theory, you can hold fluid in any container comprised of these materials, it’s advised to use containers specifically made for DEF storage. These accessories are designed and manufactured to meet API standards, ensuring the fluid retains its purity. Storage tanks should have the following:

Many DEF accessory manufacturers also create reusable containers that can be sent back to the company. This is an excellent cost saver for everyone involved and also prevents needless waste that can have a negative environmental impact.

How Should You Store DEF?

Maintaining a consistent temperature within the appropriate range is essential to keeping your DEF as effective as possible. In the heat, water evaporates; since DEF contains a large amount of water, this can negatively impact the purity. If evaporation has occurred, the fluid should be disposed of, and the container drained.

Additionally, heat exceeding 75 degrees can negatively impact shelf life, so it’s advisable to store DEF at room temperatures. At 75 degrees, fluid can remain viable for up to two years. At 90 degrees, that decreases to one year, and at 95 degrees, it decreases to six months.

Extreme cold is also an issue. As a fluid, DEF has a freezing point of 12 degrees. However, it can be safely thawed without degradation so long as thawing is gradual. The problem is, DEF expands when frozen, which can result in damage to the container.

Even if freezing is a risk, it’s imperative that no freeze point improver be added to the fluid. This will violate standards set by the API and can result in damage to the SCR. Also note that should DEF freeze while in your shut down vehicle, the SCR generates enough heat to thaw it and function normally.

Additionally, you shouldn’t store DEF in a humid environment or direct sunlight. Even if the containers used are opaque, it’s advisable to store them away from windows.

How Should You Handle DEF When Filling Tanks?

Tanks are generally filled using pumps powered by electricity or air. Funnels and other equipment not made specifically for handling DEF should not be used.

How Should DEF Be Transported?

Due to the fragile nature of DEF, it should be transported in the appropriate tanks and secured to prevent excessive movement. Professionals, such as those employed by Blue Network, are trained to carefully manage fluid en route to ensure its purity upon arrival.

Does DEF Equipment Need Maintenance?

Like any equipment, accessories used to store, transfer, or transport DEF should be maintained with regular inspection. If you notice any damage, the equipment should be repaired or replaced immediately to prevent an impact on the fluid quality.

Any cleaning should be done with de-ionized water. This ensures that no minerals are left behind that may interact with the fluid.

What Should You Do If There’s a Spill?

Occasionally, you may have a spill during transfer. DEF isn’t corrosive, which means it won’t damage equipment should it come into contact with it. It’s also non-toxic, which means it won’t harm animals or the environment. However, it’s important to clean up spills, as the area can become slippery and result in falls.

If fluid is spilled on equipment or vehicles, it can be washed away with water. Should it be spilled on the ground or other areas where it may be absorbed, dilute the fluid by generously hosing the area with water. Otherwise, you can use sand or other absorbent, non-combustible material to absorb the fluid and easily dispose of it. Although DEF is non-hazardous, it shouldn’t be poured down the drain.

What Should You Do If the Fluid Is Contaminated?

Contaminated fluid should be disposed of immediately. The tank and any other accessories the fluid came into contact with should be cleaned before their next use to prevent further contamination.

How Can You Prevent Contamination?

The best way to prevent contamination is only to use DEF with your DEF-related equipment. Additionally, ensure that tanks are properly sealed and stored after every use.

Are you looking for a diesel exhaust fluid provider? Blue Network is proud to supply locations all over Canada. For more information, give us a call at 1-888-732-6668 or contact us online.

Featured Image: Shutterstock / Moab Republic