AdBlue: The price of the diesel additive is seven times higher in some places

Many things are currently becoming dramatically more expensive, and AdBlue is one of them. The Federal Association of Goods Transport (BGL) is now warning that there could soon be bottlenecks in the transport industry.

The AdBlue manufacturer SKW nitrogen works Piesteritz has not produced AdBlue for more than two weeks due to the high gas prices. Dirk Engelhardt from BGL: “No AdBlue means no trucks. And that means no supply for Germany.” The company from Lutherstadt Wittenberg covers 40 percent of the demand in Germany. Other major manufacturers are BASF and Yara.

AdBlue prices also continued to rise sharply for car drivers in the summer of 2022. A liter of the additive currently costs up to two euros at petrol stations. In the spring, the additive was half as expensive. On the Internet, prices for ten-liter canisters start at 25 euros! However, Engelhardt also knows haulage companies where the prices would have increased five to sevenfold.

Industry’s AdBlue emergency reserve only lasts for a short time

There is an emergency reserve of around one million liters of AdBlue, as a spokesman for SKW Piesteritz announced. However, according to the company, logistics in Germany requires 2.5 million liters of AdBlue per day, and all cars alone require five million liters per day.

SKW needs 14 terawatt hours of gas every year, so the company is hit hard by the sharp rise in gas prices. The Federal Ministry of Economics said on request that it would monitor the situation. However, there are other manufacturers and also the possibility of importing AdBlue. “We could not find a real shortage,” said a ministry spokesman

AdBlue for self-filling

In November 2021, the AdBlue price rose sharply for the first time

AdBlue is indispensable for modern diesel. The price increase is caused by the rapidly increasing price of natural gas. It serves as the starting material for AdBlue. “The price has been almost constant for more than twelve years,” explained Hagen Reiners from the industry service Argus Media. This only changed in autumn 2021 – due to rising natural gas prices.
BP refinery

In order to produce AdBlue, large amounts of natural gas are required as a raw material. But since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, it has become increasingly expensive.

Because long before the war in Ukraine, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom was offering less gas than usual on the trading platforms. Because demand in Asia increased at the same time, prices climbed. As a result, gas reserves in Germany were filled to a lesser extent than usual. Gazprom also controls almost a third of the gas storage facilities in Germany.

Increase in price as a reaction to the price of natural gas

When the war in Ukraine began, not only oil prices but also natural gas prices skyrocketed. A megawatt hour of natural gas rose in price from 71 to 118 euros between February 21 and 24, 2022 (wholesale price). In March, the price even reached 200 euros.

AdBlue followed with a delay: on March 14, the wholesale price for 100 liters of the diesel additive climbed from 37 to 76 euros! In the summer it calmed down a little, currently (September 2nd) this batch costs 99.51 euros. Argus Media monitors the market and creates price indices in order to support customers with this data when drawing up contracts.

What you should know about the Adblue shortage

What do modern diesels need AdBlue for?


AdBlue contains urea. Finely dosed, this substance is injected into the SCR catalytic converter in diesel cars. SCR stands for “Selective Catalytic Reduction”. This dissolves 90 percent of the toxic nitrogen oxides from diesel engines. The diesel engine would work without AdBlue, but the exhaust gases would then be many times more toxic.

How do I know that AdBlue is missing?


A display in the cockpit lights up when the AdBlue supply is running low. A beep will also sound as a warning signal. The notice is usually activated for the first time when the supply still reaches at least 2400 kilometers. If the tank is freshly filled, the warning goes out.

Why is my car only driving with AdBlue in the tank?


Because only then does the exhaust gas cleaning function properly. The problem: Without AdBlue, millions of cars are forced to shut down. Since 2007, the aqueous liquid has been required in diesel cars and trucks in addition to the fuel. Emergency vehicles from the police, rescue service and fire brigade are also affected. And of course the Bundeswehr.

One liter of AdBlue is enough for around 750 kilometers, depending on the car and engine. Rule of thumb: The amount of AdBlue corresponds to about five percent of the fuel consumption. If the AdBlue tank is empty, the engine management switches off the ignition. Then it says: Leave the car, it can no longer be started!

Where is the filler neck for AdBlue?


In modern diesel vehicles, the filler neck for AdBlue is located behind the fuel filler flap next to the large filler neck for diesel. It is smaller on average and usually has a blue cap. In car models from the early years after 2007, when nitrogen oxide cleaning was introduced, the filler neck is often also in the trunk.

Why is AdBlue suddenly so scarce?


The lack of AdBlue, which is called urea (Latin for urea) abroad, is a global problem. It is caused by the increased natural gas prices. Because natural gas is not only used for heating and driving, but also for the production of ammonia, the basic substance of AdBlue.

Within the past few months, the retail price of AdBlue has risen from 60 cents per liter to more than one euro. Since the beginning of the year, the price has even increased by 400 percent! However, the supply of AdBlue is currently unproblematic. However, it is expected that prices will continue to rise.

Can AdBlue be reproduced?


It sounds paradoxical: Although there is no substitute for AdBlue and the demand is increasing, the industry cannot simply produce any large quantities. Behind this is not the attempt to drive up the price, but process engineering. AdBlue is produced in refineries via the intermediate product urea from ammonia, the production of which requires water and natural gas. If natural gas becomes too expensive (as it has been for months), it is no longer worth operating the systems – because ammonia is essentially the starting product for artificial fertilizers. If the production of artificial fertilizer is not worthwhile, the entire plant becomes unprofitable. And running them just for AdBlue isn’t worth it either, since much less AdBlue is needed in relation to fertilizer. As a result, five production plants in Europe are currently out of service, while others are only running at a reduced rate. This also means that the AdBlue shortage could increase with rising natural gas prices.

Could AdBlue eventually be sold out?


Luckily that’s unlikely. The high price of natural gas has led to many producers shutting down their plants. Nevertheless, AdBlue accumulates automatically in certain quantities because it is part of the ammonia utilization. However, the price of natural gas as a starting material for ammonia production will probably continue to rise in the future. AdBlue will therefore also become significantly more expensive in the near future.

Can I fill water in the AdBlue tank?


If there is no AdBlue, could you just fill the tank with water? At first glance, this seems possible: “A float in the tank registers liquid and reports this to the car,” explains automotive engineer Thomas Schuster from the KÜS testing organization.

But even if the display then goes out, the problem would not be solved: Because the nitrogen oxide cleaning cannot work with water. “The NOx sensor in the exhaust would register that and report a fault,” says Schuster. The engine then switches to emergency mode, and performance is reduced by 50 percent. NOx stands for nitrogen oxides.
In addition, the amount of liquid injected into the SCA catalytic converter would increase to the maximum. “This leads to rust in the catalytic converter,” says the automotive engineer.

Where else can I get AdBlue?


There is currently no threat of a bottleneck: Specialist shops, hardware stores and petrol stations have the aqueous urea solution in stock. The prices are very volatile, from just under 1.00 to 14 euros per liter. (belongs to the AUTO BILD group) or Findadblue offer a nationwide search for AdBlue.
Attention: If you have AdBlue filled in the workshop, you pay twice! Firstly for the service and secondly for the filling quantity, with workshops usually adding a lot more. Tip for emergencies: Many gas stations sell it in their own dispensers, where they usually have supplies.

Can I retrofit my old diesel with AdBlue?


That’s fine! Suppliers like Dr. Pley and Baumot-Twintec offer retrofit kits. Older diesels can be equipped with an SCR catalytic converter and AdBlue tank. This is then reclassified into a higher pollutant class, which saves you money! The purchase is even subsidized by some manufacturers (VW, Daimler) with 3000 euros.

Should I stock up on AdBlue?


This is of little use. First of all, buying hamsters is not advisable because it is fundamentally antisocial and can lead to other customers standing in front of empty shelves and making hamster or even panic purchases. Secondly, it is of little benefit to you because AdBlue has a limited lifespan: it lasts around twelve months, with a maximum of two years if stored optimally in cool and dark rooms. Since you (see above) only need one liter for a journey of around 750 km, it quickly becomes clear: It is not worth having more than 150 liters in stock, because otherwise it will become unusable faster than you can move it.

The price development threatens the transport industry in particular: “This affects around 90 percent of all truck movements in Germany,” says Frank Huster from the Federal Association of Forwarding and Logistics.

If the AdBlue tank is empty, the engine control in modern vehicles refuses to restart, and the car – whether car or truck, delivery van, rescue vehicle or fire engine – then stops. The AdBlue price increase makes operating a heavy truck full-time several thousand euros more expensive every year.

Transport industry warns against buying hamsters

Huster: “The current Russia sanctions have exacerbated the bottleneck.” So far, there have not been any widespread AdBlue supply bottlenecks, but “it is now important for all market participants to act prudently – stockpiling and panic buying would only exacerbate the already tense situation”.
Pollutant killer in practice - AdBlue in the car

AdBlue is also available in larger canisters from specialist retailers – but the prices there are currently much higher than at the gas station.

The ADAC recommends drivers to fill up the AdBlue tank to the brim now. At gas stations, the price has so far been significantly lower than for filled canisters in specialist shops or on the Internet. For this reason alone, the car club also advises against buying hamsters.

Anyone who stores AdBlue at home should note: AdBlue should be protected from direct sunlight and stored at temperatures between -5 and +25 degrees if possible. The additive for vehicles with an SCR catalytic converter does not last indefinitely. With optimal storage, the manufacturer only guarantees a shelf life of up to 18 months. Even the smallest amounts of foreign matter make AdBlue unusable – you should therefore never use used canisters for decanting.

With material from Reuters and AFP

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