How to Keep DEF From Freezing In Large Containers

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Powerblanker DEF tote heaterDiesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an injected additive to a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. SCR is a technology that uses a urea based DEF and a catalytic converter to significantly reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions. SCR is the leading technology being used to meet 2010 emissions regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a set of standards that are designed to help alleviate many of the pollutants released into our air by the exhaust of diesel engines. The first federal standards (Tier 1) for new non-road (or off-road) diesel engines were adopted in 1994 for engines over 37 kW (50 hp), to be phased-in from 1996 to 2000. In 1996, a Statement of Principles (SOP) pertaining to non-road diesel engines was signed between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California ARB and engine makers.

Because of these standards, a lot of companies are now in hot pursuit of DEF for their diesel operations including:

·        Caterpillar
·        Cummins
·        Deere
·        Detroit Diesel
·        Dietz
·        Isuzu
·        Komatsu
·        Kubota
·        Mitsubishi
·        Navistar
·        New Holland
·        Wis-Con
·        Yanmar


Companies this size will likely need storage tanks for their DEF that will exceed the standard 330 gallon totes. Many will seek storage tanks in the thousand plus gallon range. In any size tank there are items of relevant interest.

  • If DEF is kept to temperatures between 15ºF and 65ºF (-9ºC and 18ºC), it will last a minimum of 1 year without problems.
  • Big bulk dispensers (1,000 gallons) have internal climate control systems
  • In cold temperature regions it is recommended to store DEF in a storage unit. In warm temperature regions it is recommended to store DEF in a shaded area.
  • New climate control systems specifically for DEF are being developed.


How do you keep a large storage tank protected from freezing conditions? There are options on the market that offer solutions. Powerblanket is one of several companies creating innovative solutions for these types of tanks.

Everyone has to have a solution for staying compliant with EPA standards. A SCR/DEF system or an equivalent, equipped with an effective heating solution is a great way to stay compliant.

What You Need To Know About Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)

What You Need To Know About Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is used to meet the strict US EPA emissions regulations for diesel engines. DEF is a fluid that is injected into a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. The SCR technology uses an urea based DEF and a catalytic converter to significantly reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The higher oxygen levels provided by DEF results in a more efficient combustion. This equates to clean nitrogen and water emissions and maximized fuel efficiency.

It’s important to note that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) will limit NOx levels and will require North American trucks to be equipped with SCR after 2010.

DEF is stored in a tank onboard the vehicle, and injected into the exhaust stream by a metering system at a rate of 2% of diesel consumption volume. Newer trucks have storage systems available that will hold up to 20 gallons.

Selective Catalytic Reduction and Diesel Exhaust Fluid systems are really not that intimidating once you do some research and learn what you need to know about them.


According to RelaDyne, here are some key points about DEF:

  • If DEF is kept to temperatures between 15ºF and 65ºF (-9ºC and 18ºC), it will last a minimum of 1 year
  • Big bulk dispensers (1,000 gallons) have internal climate control systems
  • In colder regions, it is recommended to store DEF in a storage unit
  • In warmer regions it is recommended to store DEF in a shaded area.
  • There are new climate control systems, designed specifically for DEF



Why Is Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) Required?

DEF gallon containerThe pollutants emitted from the exhaust of diesel engines are extremely harmful to our environment and air quality. Federal standards limit exhaust emissions of five pollutants:

  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Particulate matter (PM, for diesel vehicles only)
  • Formaldehyde (HCHO)

NOx and PM are the two most harmful of these five pollutants. NOx is the main cause of acid rain and ozone layer reduction. PM is composed by minute carbon particles and other toxic substances.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set in motion a series of tier standards that will eventually require all operating vehicles on the road, as well as off-road vehicles, to be in compliance with tier 4 standards. The latter having everything to do with diesel exhaust.

According to DieselNet’s website, “On May 11, 2004 the EPA signed the rule introducing Tier 4 emission standards, which are phased-in over the period of 2008-2015. The Tier 4 standards require that emissions of Particulate Matter (PM) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) be further reduced by about 90%. Such emission reductions can be achieved through the use of control technologies – including advanced exhaust gas after-treatment- similar to those required by the 2007-2010 standards for highway engines.”

What this means is that all engines in use will need to be in compliance with these standards. Manufacturing new vehicles isn’t a problem, but what about vehicles produced prior to 2007?

One solution is to use Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) and a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. By using an SRC system in conjunction with DEF, 94% of harmful pollutants are eliminated from diesel exhaust.

DEF is non-toxic and has a shelf life of about one year. However, it is susceptible to fierce summer and winter conditions. DEF freezes at about 11 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent DEF from freezing there are solutions available.

What are Storage Options for Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)?

DEF toteDiesel Exhaust Fluid or DEF is a high purity chemical solution containing 32.5% urea mixed with high purity deionized water. It’s used to stay in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stringent emissions requirements mandated in 2010. DEF is used in conjunction with a technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SRC) as an injection to reduce harmful NOx.

As with highway use the EPA has now mandated the reduction of NOx in off road use. Some of which include:

  • excavators
  • construction equipment
  • farm tractors
  • other agricultural equipment
  • heavy forklifts
  • airport ground service equipment

As well as utility equipment such as:

  • generators
  • pumps
  • compressors

With such a large and growing need for DEF product there is also obviously the need to store it properly. Several types of storage container options are available that range from 2.5 gallon buckets to 8500 gallon tanks, and everything in between. Purchasing DEF in the smaller containers is more expensive per gallon and typically used for emergency supply for trucks. The larger containers, or bulk storage tanks, are primarily used with very large fleets.  While the great bulk tanks are more cost effective per gallon (buying in bulk is always a bargain. Just ask the millions of Costco lovers around the world) they can be an expensive initial investment. This is why most DEF storage containers tend to be “mini-bulk” storage containers.

330 gallon totes and 55 gallon drums seem to be the trend with many companies right now. Both can be refilled easily and there are several equipment companies that offer electrical or pneumatic pump and hose systems that work well with these containers. There are also freeze protection solutions available for storage in extreme cold climates.

The important thing to remember is to keep your DEF contaminant free. DEF is not harmful to touch and if you get it on your skin you can wipe if off easily without worrying about chemical burns, but contaminated DEF can cause harmful side effects to your SRC system, which can be devastatingly costly to repair or replace. Proper storage and handling care is essential to prolonging the life of this important material.


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How Long Will it Take My Powerblanket Product to Heat My Materials?

Ground thawing blanketIt’s a great question and one I get asked over and over. You would think that such a consistently asked question would merit a quick answer for it. Unfortunately, we have to ask our own questions first to give a good answer. I realize how odd this sounds but let me ask you this … do you know how temperamental the heat transfer process can be?

Allow Wikipedia to explain: “Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the generation, use, conversion and exchange of thermal energy and heat between Physical systems.” What this means to those of us who suffer with a non-engineer-type brain (yes, I do work with a few engineers and I have every right to pick on them once in a while!) is that there are many variable that contribute to how heat is transferred from one object to another. This alters the time frame of heating something to the right temperature.

Here’s a quick review on why the answer is different for everyone on the question of “How long will it take my Powerblanket product to heat my materials?” You see, heat transfers from one object to the next in one of three ways:

  1. conduction,
  2. convection and/or
  3. radiation.

So, here are the key factors to heat transfer:

  1. When heat transferrers using our products, it is typically happens through conduction. Not always, but most of the time. “Conduction is the transfer of heat between substances that are in direct contact with each other. The better the conductor, the more rapidly heat will transfer.” This means the snugger you apply your Powerblanket wrap –  without adding additional straps –  the better the heat will transfer.
  2. Another variable that will play havoc on heat transfer is wind. Heat hates wind. In almost all cases wind will swoop in and steal heat from just about anything. That is not to say a Powerblanket wrap won’t heat, but only that it could take longer to get it there.
  3. Ambient temperatures also play a determining factor in heat-transfer time. If the desired temperature is 70°F and your ambient is -20°F it will take quite a bit longer to get there than if your ambient was 65°F. Make sense? Of course it does.
  4. And, finally, what are you trying to heat and what is its beginning temperature? Is it thick and viscous or is it thin like water? Does it begin the heat process at frigid temperatures or something reasonable like 50°F? The more viscous the product the harder it is to circulate the heat throughout. (This is called convection.) “Heat energy transferred between a surface and a moving fluid at different temperatures is known as convection. In reality this is a combination of diffusion and bulk motion of molecules. Near the surface the fluid velocity is low, and diffusion dominates. Away from the surface, bulk motion increases the influence and dominates.”

So, now you see that this one simple question, “how long will it take to get hot?” cannot be answered quickly and there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

How Do I Keep My DEF Tote From Freezing?


DEF tote heater“My [totes] are froze!” (101 Dalmatians)

Freezing is one of DEF’s (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) bigger problems. DEF is made up of a 32.5% urea solution and 67.5% de-ionized water and it may freeze at temperatures at or below 12°F. However, keeping the frost at bay is as easy as 1, 2, industrial electric blanket.

Storing and dispensing DEF in cold areas presents many challenges. DEF storage containers range from two-and-a-half gallon jugs to bulk systems that hold anywhere from 300 to 4000 U.S. gallons. Because these will freeze in cold weather, they need protection.  Additionally, if you’re using dispensers like a DEF pump or an electric tote pump, your product can freeze in the pump and hose. This prevents dispensing –even if the fluid in the container hasn’t frozen yet.

Cha-Ching! Pricy Alternate Solutions

Building an outbuilding to store DEF product can cost tens of thousands of dollars and use unnecessary resources. Many facilities also have to pay a premium on space, making indoor storage not feasible for many.

Powerblanket DEF Tote Heaters

Heating the containers with a DEF Tote Heater saves time and energy by only heating the unit and not an entire building. You will want to find a DEF Tote Heater that:

  1. Protects the pump and hose.
  2. Fully wraps around the entire tote and dispensing unit.
  3. Keeps the DEF at its optimal temperature while factoring in heat loss from wind and cold temperatures.
  4. Evenly heats so the DEF is not overheated in patches or left unprotected.
  5. Utilizes a thermostatic controller to monitor and maintain the proper temperature.

Stacks of IBC Tote ContainersAlso look for similar solutions if you keep your DEF stored in:

  • 330 gallon IBC Totes
  • 275 gallon IBC Totes
  • 55 gallon drums
  • 30 gallon drums
  • 15 gallon drums
  • 5 gallon drums

Whether you’re storing DEF, powdered milk, or toxic chemicals in your IBC tote, rest assured that Powerblanket has you covered…quite literally.

For more information about Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Program visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Learn More About DEF Totes