Re-Thinking Fuel Additives: Making Them an Integral Part of Fuel Production

Fuel additives, or compounds which change the chemical makeup of gasoline or diesel fuel, are already familiar to most people.

Racing enthusiasts know about fuel performance additives used by racing car drivers to improve their 0-60 time. People who live in cold climates and drive diesel engines use an additive to stop fuel from congealing, and when leaded petrol was phased out, drivers of older models used a lead petrol additive to ensure the fuel matched their engine type. Other fuel additives help clean the engine, preserve the “shelf life” of fuel when it’s stored for a long time, or increase mileage per gallon.

Additives can be applied by fuel providers and gas station owners to enhance all the fuel offered for sale, removing the need for consumers to buy and add them separately. To some extent, this is already a reality, with many fuel stations selling high-octane fuels alongside regular petrol and diesel options. Those more expensive fuels are simply regular fuels with specific additives already added by the gas station owners.

But fuel additives have the potential to do far more than improve car performance or stabilize fuel. At a time when the impact of fossil fuels on both climate change and public health are once again at the forefront of general conversation, it’s wise to reexamine the contribution that fuel additives can make, and consider ways to use them to reduce the harm of automotive fuel.

Fuel emissions create a world of hurt

The developed world, especially the US and Western Europe, is addicted to cars. In the US alone, drivers consume 378 million gallons of gasoline every day, and keep 253 million vehicles on the roads for an average daily commute of 54 minutes per person. The gasoline used for all these journeys produces emissions that have a terrible impact on our health, and are a major source of chemicals responsible for global warming.

Gasoline-powered vehicles, whether they use petrol or diesel fuel, emit multiple harmful chemicals including carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, particulate matter, and unburnt hydrocarbons. Carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas, while carbon monoxide is a poison that prevents oxygen absorption in the body. Approximately 430 Americans die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning

Particulate matter is made up of tiny particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream, carrying harmful compounds with them. Hundreds of thousands of people and animals die prematurely each year because of particulate matter. Both particulate matter and hydrocarbons can be carcinogenic, harm the skin, and contribute to heart disease and auto-immune disorders.

Benzene is another carcinogenic emission that is toxic to plants and aquatic life; sulfur dioxide can damage the lungs and destroy rivers and waterways; and nitrogen dioxide causes acid rain, weakens the respiratory system, and can convert into a corrosive and oxidizing gas if it’s heated above 21°C.

In terms of direct impact on human health, the WHO concludes that “about 100 000 premature adult deaths attributable to air pollution occur each year in the WHO European Region. Emissions from road traffic account for a significant share of this burden.”

Millions more people die every year as a result of extreme weather conditions like hurricanes, floods, avalanches, heatwaves, and drought, caused by climate change in which transportation plays a significant role.

Fuel additives can help mitigate the disaster

Against this backdrop, there is some good news. Simple fuel additives like FuelGems can turn ordinary petrol and diesel into fuels that are far cleaner and produce lower emissions. Gas station owners, petrol companies, and the owners of large fleets with on-site refueling stations can buy additives in bulk and add them to the fuel before sending it to distributors or filling tanks.

“If additives are needed, it should be done at the fuel supplier terminal,” says John Moore, PowerTrain product marketing manager for Volvo Trucks, North America. It’s more effective and efficient this way, reducing the risk that drivers will forget to use them, helping ensure additives are used correctly, and lowering the chances that consumers will balk at the modest price increase. FuelGems fuel additive adds only 2 cents to a gallon of fuel, a price rise that would barely be noticed at the pump.

FuelGems fuel additive is made up of nanoparticles that dissolve in gasoline or solvent to directly change the way an internal combustion engine impacts the environment. With this addition, fuel consumption drops by 8%, carbon dioxide emission by 8%, carbon monoxide by 15%, particulate matter drops by 6%, and unburnt hydrocarbons fall by 50%. In this way, the same tank of gas causes less damage on the environment and to public health, without requiring anyone to change their habits.

Electric cars are not enough

Pinning your hopes on the electric vehicle market as a solution would be a mistake. A McKinsey report found that electric vehicle sales have slowed dramatically in the last year or so, stating that “EV sales rose 65 percent from 2017 to 2018 (Exhibit 1). But in 2019, the number of units sold increased only to 2.3 million, from 2.1 million, for year-on-year growth of just 9 percent. Equally sobering, EV sales declined by 25 percent during the first quarter of 2020.”

In an ideal world, would be entirely using electric vehicles and higher-density public transportation, which results in lower emissions per passenger. But we’re not in an ideal world. By 2050, it’s estimated that 66-77% of all vehicles will still be powered by diesel or gasoline.

Waiting for electric vehicles to save the planet at that rate will take a very long time.

This is due to two reasons. 1. Slow adoption of electric cars 2. Electricity comes from fossil fuels, needs to come 100% from renewable, and god knows how long this will take.

Electric cars are as clean as the electricity they use. USA electricity mix is coal 30%, natural gas 34%, nuclear 20%. Electric cars use electricity of which the majority (60%+) comes from fossil fuels.

Fuel additives are an immediate solution that can significantly reduce degradation of the planet and help preserve the environment and human health over the next several decades.

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