AdBlue shortage spells imminent diesel crisis

The looming shortage of diesel exhaust fluid has transport bodies and governments scrambling to prevent a significant supply chain emergency.

A global shortage of urea from which diesel exhaust fluid, more commonly known as AdBlue, is refined threatens to sideline thousands of trucks in Australia.

The additive helps reduce pollution released into the atmosphere from the exhaust of diesel-powered commercial vehicles.

The issue has been exacerbated by China heavily restricting its exports of urea and Australia is the latest nation to likely sustain significant impacts to its supply chain.

Western Roads Federation Chief Executive Cam Dumesny told radio station 6PR the road transport industry was facing a major problem.

“We’re going to need to support our manufacturers, we’ve got about three manufacturers in Australia, we’re going to have to help them find strategic sourcing of the base agent from anywhere in the world if we can get it,” he said.

“If we can’t do that you’ve got the worst case scenario … we start rationing it, if you follow the logic of that,” Dumesny continued.

“Which areas of transport to you want to prioritise?”

The National Road Transport Association has been fielding calls from members reporting retail shortages of the fluid, which ensures diesel-powered trucks comply with national emission standards.

It will meet with the Federal Government later today to brief Transport Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, on the potential impact on the national supply chain and to discuss the looming shortage of diesel exhaust fluid.

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said the situation is serious and the Federal Government needed to act fast.

“Our industry isn’t the only one that will be affected, but we will be hit first and hardest,” he said.

“These issues go beyond NatRoad and the trucking industry,” said Clark.

“We are calling on the Government to convene a task force of industry groups to look at options to mitigate the situation in the immediate term.”

Clark called for leaders from industry, government, supply chain and major consumers to work together to manage the foreseeable challenges which are many.

“If we learned one thing from COVID-19 it’s that a lack of co-ordination only compounds problems,” he said.

“While those issues reflected different health rules in different jurisdictions, the ball is squarely in the Federal Government’s court in terms of finding an alternate source.”

South Korea was permitted to fly a military oil tanker into Australia to airlift 27,000 litres of urea solution in November following China’s decision in October to introduce an export requirement that effectively stopped exports in order to boost supplies to its own domestic market.

In South Korea, approximately two million diesel vehicles, mostly cargo trucks, are required by government to use the additive.

That decision by the Federal Government to send precious stockpiles of urea overseas now looks increasingly shortsighted.

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