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AdBlue Fluid: The Facts, the Myths & its Usage

For many UK businesses, AdBlue is a legal requirement when running Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) that use diesel. This infers an extra cost which can be hard to calculate. But what is AdBlue, how does it reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what happens if you fail to use it? Read on to learn more.


What is AdBlue?

AdBlue is a highly purified diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) with the official name AUS32 which stands for Aqueous Urea Solution 32.5%. It is, in fact, a legal requirement to use AdBlue in a Heavy Goods Vehicle above 7.5 tonnes or a diesel engine car that’s fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR).

What is AdBlue fluid made of?

AdBlue is a non-toxic, non-flammable and odourless solution that contains 32.5% of high purity water and 67.5% of deionised water.

Why is AdBlue needed?

The transport industry is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions – and diesel-powered vehicles and equipment account for almost half of all nitrogen oxides (NOx). As so, the UK government is putting increasing pressure on diesel car manufacturers to do something about the substantial amount of harmful emissions released by diesel exhausts.

Since 2006 the 4th edition (Euro 4) of the EU law regarding diesel emissions came into effect. The laws become stricter with every update and the 4th edition made it compulsory for all new lorries to have SCR fitted on them.

Euro 1 came into effect in 1993 where any truck producing in excess of 2.72 g/km of CO was required to use AdBlue. Ever since then the regulation has become firmer with Euro 6 being introduced in September 2014, which will oblige any truck producing more than 0.50 g/km of CO and over 0.08 g/km of NOx to use AdBlue fluid.

There were no exact European exhaust emissions standards until Euro 1 was implemented in 1993.

What does AdBlue do?

AdBlue has become key in helping reduce NOx output from engines as standards have sharpened for transportation vehicles, as well as off-road vehicles and passenger engines.

AdBlue has been designed to meet the latest Euro 6 exhaust emission regulations and is key in improving public health. Keeping a supply onsite is a wise decision for any business that relies on diesel to complete its operations.

How does AdBlue fluid work?

Polluting chemicals and compounds, including Nitrogen Oxide and Nitrogen Dioxide, are produced when diesel engines burn fuel. These elements build up in the air and produce smog and acid rain.

AdBlue works through a process called selective catalytic reduction (SCR). Before any emissions are released, the solution is sprayed finely into a diesel exhaust at a proportion roughly equal to 5% of the diesel fuel.

This releases ammonia which is a catalyst to a chemical reaction and converts dangerous chemicals into nitrogen, water vapour and CO2 – all which are unharmful to our lungs and the atmosphere.

AdBlue is never directly added to the diesel fuel and will never come into contact. It is stored in a dedicated AdBlue container which has its own gauge and metring system.

Who requires AdBlue?

All commercial diesel-engine vehicles that weigh above 7.5 tonnes and vehicles manufactured after October 2006 (Euro IV and Euro V) are fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology. For SCR to function – and for the vehicle to function – AdBlue must be injected into the exhaust gases as a post-combustion process.

How do I know if my car uses AdBlue?

When you purchase a new or used diesel car from a dealership, they should explain what features it has and explicitly whether it uses AdBlue. Most vehicles will have a blue or black screw cap for AdBlue which is fitted next to the black diesel filler cap.

For information on your vehicle’s AdBlue requirements, head to the handbook.

What happens if I run out of AdBlue/don’t use AdBlue?

When your SCR-equipped vehicle’s AdBlue levels are running low, a warning alert will appear on the dashboard. If it runs out of completely, the car will lose power and reduce its emission in line with legal standards. Its performance will be returned when its AdBlue tank has been replenished.

As well as limited engine performance, running out of AdBlue could lead to fines or penalties as you will be running the engine illegally. Be smart and always ensure you have an emergency on board or on-site.

Will running out of AdBlue damage an engine?

No, it will not damage the engine, however, its performance will be affected until you next fill up.

What is the price of AdBlue per litre?

The price of AdBlue for a UK business isn’t just the price of the diesel exhaust fluid itself. The cost will depend on your fleet and its consumption will depend on your vehicles and their usage.

Many companies can reduce the overall costs of AdBlue by buying bulk amounts. Remember that this will require a large onsite storage tank(s) to safely and securely store the fluid, along with pumps to dispense it.

Remember to include these additional costs when looking at AdBlue from various suppliers.

How long does AdBlue last and how do I store it?

Storing AdBlue is straightforward, although it must be kept between 11 and 30°C to maximise its 12-month expectancy. It’s available in IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) of 1,000 litres, 205-litre barrels and a number of smaller 10-litre packs to cater for all requirements.

Is AdBlue hazardous?

AdBlue is not a hazardous substance and has no known effects or critical hazards. Urea is a raw material that also occurs naturally in our digestive system. However, we strongly advise that you never inhale or ingest AdBlue due to the risk of a reaction.

Although not hazardous, AdBlue is corrosive and can dissolve materials not listed as AdBlue proof in ISO 22241, which could cause malfunctions in your SCR catalyst.

You might want to wear gloves when dispensing AdBlue to keep your hands clean but AdBlue can easily be washed off with water. It might stain any clothing though.

What do I do if I have spilt AdBlue fluid?

AdBlue isn’t hazardous to the environment – so you can dilute a small spill with water and simply mop it up.

In the event of a large spill, make sure the solution does not enter any drains or waterways. Then, contain the spill with a spill kit and dispose of it safely.

Make sure that you never reuse any spilt AdBlue as it will have become contaminated. This will cause expensive damage to your vehicle’s SCR system.

Is AdBlue an additive to diesel?

The diesel in your vehicle must never come into contact with AdBlue. The systems for derv and AdBlue are completely separate.

I have accidentally put AdBlue in my diesel tank, what do I do?

You must not start your engine as this may damage your engine depending on how much AdBlue has been inputted. Empty and clean your tank and discard of the mixture. For more information on cleaning and emptying your tank, contact your vehicle supplier or get in touch with our team here at Nationwide Fuels.

I have accidentally put diesel in my AdBlue tank, what do I do?

Again, do not start your engine. Just one drop of diesel will pollute up to 20 litres of AdBlue. Running an engine on contaminated AdBlue will disrupt the SCR system and cause engine failure. To avoid additional damage to your vehicle, contact your vehicle manufacturer as you may need to replace some AdBlue components.

The price of storing AdBlue

Keeping AdBlue safe from contaminants will help maintain its quality and avoid any damage to your vehicle’s engine. If you fail to store AdBlue safely, you increase the risk of it degrading in quality which can cost you to replace it.

AdBlue price in packs

Like most products, the smaller the volume, the higher the price when it comes to purchasing AdBlue. AdBlue costs more when you buy it in smaller quantities, like 10-litre packs.

However, a cost-saving to consider is that if you do only need small amounts of AdBlue, you’ll be saving on paying for a large storage facility.

AdBlue price in barrels

AdBlue is often sold in 205-litre barrels which will cost less per litre than a 10-litre AdBlue pack. You would just need to purchase a pump to dispense the solution – which tends to be cheap and will last a while.

AdBlue price in IBCs and bulk

An IBC can store 1,000 litres of AdBlue and will cost much less per litre compared to a pack and barrel. The more AdBlue you buy, the greater the savings you’ll see.

Why do AdBlue prices change?

The cost of AdBlue fluctuates due to the cost of the raw products that make up the solution; urea and water. There are no active urea processing plants in the UK which increases demand and therefore price. Buying in bulk means you can avoid any sudden price increases as a result of raw materials.

Benefits of AdBlue

Reduced NOx and CO2 emissions from commercial vehicles are not the only benefits of AdBlue.

It also increases your fleet’s MPG and helps your business achieve greener goals and accreditation.

It’s completely safe to handle, easy to store and non-flammable.

How do I keep my AdBlue clean and safe?

To avoid high costs of replacing your AdBlue, follow these simple steps:

  • Always use dedicated dispensing equipment to transfer AdBlue to avoid spillages
  • Ensure the tank lid is firmly shut to avoid water and contaminants getting in
  • If you suspect AdBlue contamination, you must not use the solution and dispose of safely as it can damage your engines
  • If your AdBlue freezes when temperatures drop below -10°C, don’t worry – once it’s thawed out, it’s safe to use

Is all AdBlue the same?

To recognise quality AdBlue it’s important to remember the following:

  • AdBlue should always be a colourless, clear liquid
  • Only buy AdBlue from licensees, registered by the VDA
  • Check for “AdBlue according ISO 22241” on the container or dispensing system
  • Watch out for similar brand names that could be inferior in quality
  • Not all urea solutions are AdBlue, so be wary of any AdBlue sold at extremely low prices

Where can I buy AdBlue?

AdBlue is widely available throughout the UK, however, varies in price significantly. Nationwide Fuels is a nationwide competitive supplier of high-quality AdBlue, which you can buy in quantities from 10-litres up to 36,000 litres and more. Make sure your fleet of vehicles is safe, legal and helping the environment.

To learn more about how we can help you or your business, take a look at our AdBlue product page. If you’d like to discuss your Adblue requirements, get in touch with our knowledgeable team of fuel experts today by calling us today on 0330 678 0880.

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