If you're in charge of data centers, hospitals, port cranes, telecommunication hubs, or other diesel-powered equipment, then you understand achieving sustainability requires embracing practices and technologies that balance both environmental responsibility and operational efficiency.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, where data centers play a pivotal role in meeting the demand for digital services, the imperative nature of sustainability is widely acknowledged. Today, mission critical facilities are proactively adopting practices to diminish their environmental footprint and prioritize public health. As key industry players navigate this critical discourse, they confront the urgency of addressing particulate matter, including black carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from on-site diesel generators.

Amidst this challenge, one solution appears in the form of active diesel particulate filters (DPFs). These innovative filters not only address the urgent demand for emissions reduction but also chart a course toward a future defined by cleanliness, enhanced health, and lasting sustainability.

Before we can delve into these transformative solutions, let’s first explore the issues.

The negative impact of diesel emissions

It’s an unfortunate fact, but diesel engine emissions pose a significant threat to both the environment and public health. Containing particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), these emissions contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, as well as the formation of ozone and smog, impacting health and contributing to climate change. Estimates suggest that, on a global scale, diesel engines collectively produce a staggering 1.3 billion tons of particulate matter annually.

Securing clean air to breathe emerges as a critical social determinant of health, deserving equal emphasis alongside access to education, nutritious food, employment opportunities, and adequate shelter.

Advanced technologies and emissions standards

Meeting stringent emissions standards, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) tiered progression and the California Air Resources Board's (CARB’s) high-quality standards, demands the adoption of advanced technologies.

And, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

These days, engine manufacturers are employing strategies, such as exhaust gas recirculation, DPFs, and selective catalytic reduction to curb emissions and enhance environmental sustainability.

The role of DPFs in on-site diesel gensets

At the heart of a Tier IV-compliant system lies the DPF. These exhaust after-treatment devices, designed to seamlessly integrate with a diverse range of engines, assume an important role in the concerted effort to curtail exhaust emissions. The mechanism is straightforward, yet effective — the DPF operates by trapping particulates within its filter, acting as a robust barrier that hinders the release of harmful emissions into the air. This pivotal function not only aligns with regulatory standards but also contributes significantly to environmental preservation and public health.

Active versus passive regeneration in DPFs

Not all DPFs are the same, and distinguishing between active and passive DPFs is essential. Passive DPFs rely on elevated exhaust temperatures during significant engine load to burn off trapped PM. However, they are not self-cleaning and may lead to downtime and costly repairs. On the contrary, active DPFs are self-regenerating, and capable of automatic regeneration regardless of exhaust temperature or engine run time, ensuring efficiency and reliability.

Other downsides of passive DPFs
While passive DPFs may offer lower upfront costs, their limitations can lead to costly consequences over time. Routine maintenance, increased back pressure causing engine strain, fuel consumption, and the need for additional equipment, like load banks or heaters for proper cleaning are some of the challenges associated with passive DPFs.

Are active DPFs the answer?
Active DPFs emerge as a streamlined and low-maintenance solution to Tier IV PM compliance. Not only do they reduce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and NO2, ensuring compliance with environmental regulations, but they also provide true self-cleaning filters, maximizing the safety, reliability, and uptime of engines and generators.

Choosing active DPF technology has advantages, especially considering that it eliminates the need to invest in new electric engines, a potentially cost-prohibitive endeavor. This technology is versatile, allowing existing engines of various sizes and brands to be seamlessly retrofitted with active DPFs. The immediate benefits of implementing this technology are diverse and include:

  • Effective removal of up to 95% of black carbon soot immediately upon installation.
  • Decreased diesel fuel consumption in units requiring filtration.
  • Compliance with current air quality standards.
  • Long-term reduction in labor and maintenance costs.
  • Enhanced sound attenuation.
  • No adverse impact on engine performance.

Meeting sustainability goals through exhaust after treatment

As emissions regulations escalate, mission-critical facilities facing unique challenges in compliance, are adopting exhaust after-treatment solutions.

In Santa Clara, California, a multinational technology corporation operating multiple data centers faced the challenge of replacing and retrofitting DPFs on one MTU Tier II, 2-MW diesel genset, and 24 HITEC DRUPS systems with MTU S4000 Tier I engines. The goal was to comply with the stringent regulations set by the CARB.

The solution involved installing 25 active DPFs onto the existing MTU S4000 engines. This proactive approach not only increased emissions reduction but also decreased maintenance workload, meeting the regulatory requirements for the mission-critical facility.

The future of sustainable data centers

The Santa Clara example goes to show that by adopting a holistic approach to sustainability, integrating advanced technologies, and complying with stringent regulations, mission-critical facilities can pave the way for a greener and more resilient future. The ongoing commitment to environmental responsibility and community well-being ensures these facilities continue to play a crucial role in digital transformation while minimizing their ecological footprint. As the demand for digital services surges, embracing sustainable practices becomes not just an ethical imperative but a strategic advantage for data centers shaping the digital landscape.