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:
- Opaqueness to protect from sunlight
- Airtight seal to prevent air from entering
- Durability to withstand long-term storage
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.
Featured Image: Shutterstock / Moab Republic