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Fuelling progress in the GCC's PMV sector

What would a move to ultra-low-sulphur diesel involve for the region?

James Morgan
James Morgan

As expected, the industry’s biggest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) used CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014 as a platform to launch their latest models, and Tier 4 technology represented a common theme. Developed in line with legislation from North America, Europe, and Japan, Tier 4 machines emit lower levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) than their predecessors.

Tier 4 engines, however, require ultra-low-sulphur diesel (ULSD) in order to run. As the Middle East has not yet made the transition to ULSD, the region’s construction professionals will be unable to get their hands on the latest generation of machinery for some time.

In my last comment piece [‘Second in the queue’, PMV March 2014], I argued that regulatory reform would help to bring the latest construction equipment to the Middle East sooner rather than later.

Since environmental legislation and weight regulations seem to be the primary drivers behind innovation within the industry at present, I suggested that the introduction of new standards would benefit the Middle East’s construction sector, ensuring the region no longer has to content itself with the West’s hand-me-downs.

If the Middle East is to achieve environmental and technological parity with the West, a coordinated effort of unprecedented proportions will be necessary. In the lead-up to major events such as Expo 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the region will find itself under increasing pressure to improve its environmental credentials. A sensible starting point, therefore, might be the region-wide adoption of ULSD.

This would pave the way for the latest technology, whilst offering significant environmental and public health benefits. Of course, multilateral change on this scale would bring with it its own set of challenges.

Even if this situation is achieved, it does not necessarily follow that the global playing field will be levelled. End users might baulk at the cost of ULSD, and if regulated markets continue to push ahead with emissions mandates, the Middle East could find itself in a perpetual struggle to catch up.

In this month’s news analysis, CNH’s Franco Invernizzi puts forward a compelling case for regulatory respite in the West. He points out that a focus on engine emissions within the construction equipment sector has curbed innovation in other areas during the last 15 years. If regulated regions were to wait before pushing ahead with Tier 5 legislation, Invernizzi contends that unregulated regions such as the Middle East would be able to bridge the gap, whilst OEMs could invest in other areas of research and development.

Most would agree that when it comes to reducing emissions, quicker is most definitely better. It seems somewhat wrongheaded, therefore, to suggest that regions pushing ahead with green legislation should intentionally slow their efforts. Ultimately, however, a level global playing field could serve to expedite environmental progress.

In the meantime, the Middle East’s PMV sector should work with regional policy makers to encourage the transition to ULSD. There are no easy answers in terms of how best to proceed, but to use this as an excuse to do nothing would surely be the worst course of action.

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