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Posted April 9, 2019

Service tips: DEF storage solutions

How to ensure clean, quality diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) delivery.

by John Cleary

Supply access for DEF

The fluid connection panel on a Cummins generator provides a connection point between the machine and the auxiliary DEF supply tank.

Western Global Transcube fuel storage
The 105-gallon TransCube from Western Global offers an effective way to deliver DEF to remote job sites.
TransCube Blue Pro DEF storage solution

The BluePro storage tanks from Western Global provide rental centers with on-site fluid while greatly reducing contamination issues.

There’s no denying that Tier 4 regulations are impacting the equipment industry. As new Tier 4-compliant equipment rolls into equipment rental fleets, it’s important to consider how the strategies engine manufacturers use to meet Tier 4 emission requirements impact the rental yard and rental customers on the job site.

Tier 4 engines and their requirement of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) present their own set of challenges. The risk of contamination and fluid freezing are concerns that affect rental branches and contractors. But there are ways to combat these issues. With the right storage solutions, rental branches can provide the safest and most efficient options for customers.

Ensuring rental-ready
The first way new DEF requirements affect rental branches is in the yard when prepping equipment to be rental-ready. With an already long checklist of maintenance and prep tasks for equipment rental, ensuring DEF tanks are filled before that unit is green-tagged adds one more box to check.

Currently, many rental branches are purchasing their DEF in cardboard boxes that hold 2 1/2-gallon jugs. The boxes are stored inside, and jugs are manually hauled and poured into the appropriate equipment. DEF is very sensitive to contaminants, so this process presents many opportunities for contamination.

As the number of Tier 4 units on the yard grows and the need for DEF expands, rental branches are looking for safer and more efficient ways to handle DEF. Already familiar with incorporating larger stationary fuel tanks at the branch for fueling needs, many rental branches have looked for similar solutions for DEF – storage tanks that can sit next to their fuel tanks and seamlessly integrate into the rental-ready process.  

DEF storage tanks diminish the risk of contamination by providing a sealed connection for filling the tank and a faster method for transferring the fluid to equipment tanks. With a specially designed dispensing system to fill the fluid in the equipment’s tank, operators decrease the chance for contamination of product. It also eliminates the opportunity for contaminants to be picked up on the boxes during storage or on the cap of the jug.

Bulk fuel/fluid distributors deliver quality fluid to the rental branch and use special connectors that ensure no contamination enters the fluid in the transfer process. The distributor also ensures the fluid is always supplied without the rental service manager having to consistently track and buy boxes or jugs of DEF.

To further decrease the chance of contamination, rental yard crews must be trained about contamination issues and how they can limit exposure to contaminants. This includes making sure the cover of the equipment tank is clean before opening and avoid filling the tank in windy, dusty conditions. Even the smallest particles can damage an entire tank of fluid.

Freezing concerns at 12F
Contamination isn’t the only concern. DEF is also sensitive to cold temperatures and susceptible to freezing at 12F. Although freezing won’t destroy the chemical composition of the fluid, it will render it useless until it thaws out, which could have devastating effects on equipment utilization and customer relations. DEF storage and pumping solutions offer optional heating systems to ensure the fluid is always at ideal operating temperatures.

Tank options on the market range from 400 gallons to 1,300 gallons, allowing rental branches to choose a tank size that best matches their fleets. Estimating the exact need can be difficult and requires careful consideration not just of the fleet today, but of expected changes in the fleet over the next three to five years.

By understanding the size of the fleet with DEF requirements, the additional plans for equipment acquisition and a general understanding of the overall utilization of this equipment, rental centers can evaluate and decide on the tank size that best matches their needs.

The challenges of DEF for rental go beyond preparing the fleet to be rental-ready. As full-service solution providers, many rental centers are looking to provide DEF solutions on customers’ job sites, especially in remote, continuous-run applications.

Job site DEF storage
More equipment with DEF requirements in the rental fleet means an increased need for DEF on the job site. As rental branches have expanded their offering into portable fuel tanks to increase customer efficiency, many see a need and profit opportunity for onsite DEF solutions as well. This is especially true in continuous-run applications, like generators, pumps, compressors and heaters. 

Portable fuel tanks have long been a profitable and necessary accompaniment to generator rentals, especially in remote locations. But the simplicity of integration and operation of fuel storage tanks does not hold true for DEF solutions. With auxiliary fueling solutions, the engine draws fuel directly from the auxiliary fuel tank, completely bypassing the onboard fuel tank. With DEF, the engine always consumes the fluid via its own onboard tank, which is then continually refilled by the auxiliary DEF storage tank. This requires communication between the equipment being refilled and the auxiliary DEF storage tank, resulting in the need for a control system integrated into the rental unit.

Working to meet the needs of customers, rental branches have been instrumental in bringing generator and tank manufacturers together to develop and standardize connection panels and control systems to provide an easy and seamless integration system.

The design incorporates sensors in the rental unit to trigger filling from the auxiliary DEF tank when the onboard tank reaches a predetermined level. The auxiliary DEF tank’s pump refills the onboard tank and shuts off when it is full. This fully contained filling system prevents DEF contamination.

Because of the 2 to 3 percent consumption rate of DEF to fuel, a 100-gallon DEF tank provides plenty of supply for a continuous-run generator or other rental unit, extending the fill time and reduces labor costs of tending the unit.

Currently, there are standardized connections and control systems on Generac, Cummins and Doosan generators. Western Global, a manufacturer of fuel and fluid storage solutions, engineered a DEF tank, the TransCube DEF, designed around that standardization providing a simple solution for extended-run operations.

John Cleary is Western Global’s national sales manager for the rental & equipment channel.

Copyright 2019 Urbain Communications, LLC. All rights reserved. Contact for permission to reprint or rebroadcast all or part of this article.


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