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diesel catalyst to be big winner

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    ANO supplies micro particles of cerium oxide to Oxonica UK, the parent company of Cerulean Int.

    One small step for diesel additive technology

    11 June 2004
    British truck fleet operators are being invited to take part in operational trials of a diesel fuel additive with unusually good scientific credentials. The additive, called Envirox, was put on public display for the first time at the Birmingham CV show three months ago (Transport Engineer March).
    It is made by Cerulean International, the Kidlington, Oxfordshire-based subsidiary of Oxonica, a company set up five years ago to commercialise technology developed at Oxford University. Though Envirox is a fuel-borne catalyst claimed to cut diesel engine emissions of particulates and oxides of nitrogen, its main selling point is fuel economy.

    A three-million kilometre trial in Hong Kong buses is said to point to Envirox related fuel-savings of 9.9 per cent with Volvo buses and 11.4 per cent with Cummins-powered buses. It was hoped that the results of a six-month trial of Envirox in 1,000 Stagecoach buses operating in the UK would have been available at the CV show but in the event they were not. Now Cerulean’s commercial director Stuart Anderson says it is still “too early” to publish the results of the Stagecoach trial though he describes initial data as “very encouraging.”

    Mr Anderson would like big truck-fleet operators to come forward to take part in similar operational trials of Envirox. A trial involving one big high profile British truck fleet is due to start shortly, he claims.

    Mr Anderson is confident that the fuel economy gains and exhaust emissions cuts ought to be much the same for a longhaul truck as for a city bus.

    Envirox is an oxidation catalyst based on cerium oxide. There is nothing fundamentally new in this but what sets Cerulean apart from many other additive suppliers is its parent group’s expertise in nanotechnology. Cerium is a metallic element found in the earth’s crust. It is already used in cigarette lighter flints, among other things. Cerium oxide has been in use as a fuel catalyst for years but has proved difficult to commercialise not only because it tended to drop out of suspension in the fuel but also because the high concentration needed to be effective made the cost unacceptably high.

    Recent developments in nanotechnology allow cerium oxide to be made in extremely tiny particles - less than 10 nanometres across - which can be incorporated in a hydrocarbon carrier. This not only helps the cerium oxide remain in suspension in the fuel but also dramatically increases its surface area, thus enhancing catalytic action so less needs to be used. Cerium oxide cuts emissions of sooty (carbon) particles by lowering the temperature (by about 40 degrees Celsius) at which they burn.

    Envirox is added to diesel fuel (regardless of its sulphur content) at a concentration of only five parts per million. Cerulean is thought to be trying to establish marketing partnerships with a big oil company and/or with a global supplier of fuel and oil additives. Two members of the Envirox development team come from the additive industry – one from Infineum (a Shell/Exxon joint venture), and one from Rhodia of France. Rhodia supplies the cerium-based Eloys reductant used to stimulate regeneration of particulate traps in some Peugeot diesel cars.

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