The United States and Europe are mandating increasingly severe diesel fuel specifications, particularly with respect to sulfur content, and in some areas, aromatics content. This trend is directed towards reducing vehicle exhaust emissions and is generally beneficial to fuel quality, ignition ratings, and stability. However, laboratory studies, as well as recent field experience in Sweden and the United States, indicate a possible reduction in the ability of fuels to lubricate sliding components within the fuel injection system. These factors, combined with the trend toward increasing injection pressure in modern engine design, are likely to result in reduced durability and failure of the equipment to meet long-term emissions compliance. The U.S. Army Belvoir Fuels and Lubricants Research Facility (BFLRF) located at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) developed an accelerated wear test that predicts the effects of fuel lubricity on injection system durability. This test now has been widely used by fuel, additive, and equipment manufacturers. Several thousand fuel samples have been evaluated to date, and collectively, they form one of the largest databases on fuel lubricity currently in existence. This range of data permits a good overview of the commercially available fuels and confirms a general decrease in fuel lubricity due to increased refining severity. The results indicate that no high-sulfur fuel (>0.15 mass%) had poor lubricity, while a number of low-sulfur fuels (<0.05 mass%) did produce unacceptable wear. The lubricity of many highly refined fuels is probably being restored using relatively high concentrations of additive.
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