The issues with AdBlue and its performance are a major reason on their own to stop using the substance and find alternatives, but it may be another reason is emerging.
An actual shortage of AdBlue is sure to be a huge problem for road users who continue to rely on it, and, as has been quite evident in recent months amid a global logistics crisis, shortages of all manner of items has been the way of the world since economies started creaking back into gear as pandemic conditions eased.
This very problem appears to be taking root in Australia, a country where the effects of the pandemic have been limited due to closed borders and geographical isolation, but where shortages of materials can still cause a problem.
In this particular case, the problem stems from a lack of urea, a chemical compound used in AdBlue and fertiliser. Australia relies heavily on China for imports of this substance, but the Chinese have slapped a sudden export ban on it, in order to lower fertiliser prices in the world’s most populous nation.
This sudden disappearance of 80 per cent of urea supplies particularly threatens diesel users across the Asia-Pacific region. At the heart of the problem will be Australia’s farmers and also the long-distance truck drivers. With huge distances between cities, goods have to be transported on huge road trains, massive articulated lorries that travel vast distances through the bush and outback.
Without AdBlue, that whole process could grind to a halt within a few months, causing major shortages of fresh fruit and veg for consumers, production problems for farmers and putting haulage firms off the road.
Head of the Victorian Farmers Federation Infrastructure and Transport Committee Ryan Milgate said: “Modern machinery and truck motors are designed to keep emissions within legal requirements. Without sufficient AdBlue, some engines are programmed to stop working, rending them unable to operate.”
He continued: “The agricultural supply chain is already under huge strain with truck driver shortages and global supply chain disruptions, and we can’t afford to put the supply chain under any more pressure.”
Pressure is now on the politicians to find solutions, either through negotiations with China over the ban or by securing other sources of urea.
However, if the supply issues become a long-term problem, the ultimate solution may be to find alternatives to AdBlue out of necessity.
Another reason for this may be that the use of urea as a fertiliser could increasingly take priority, not just in China itself, but across the world.
Research by Mordor Intelligence noted that in 2020 the urea market represented over 180 million tonnes, and while the pandemic had reduced demand, it predicted the period of 2021-2026 will see growth approaching two per cent a year. Notably, the Asia Pacific region was listed as the part of the world where demand is and will be highest.
These projections suggest the circumstances that prompted the Chinese export ban will not be reversed anytime soon, and might lead to more countries hoarding supplies to help their farmers. If so, this will only serve to push AdBlue nearer to obsolescence.
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