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SA Graan/Grain enquiry - What to use: 500 ppm or 50 ppm?

November 2013


Not only do fuel prices nowadays make producers frown and scratch their heads, they also have to decide whether to use 500 ppm or 50 ppm in their tractors – especially if it is a new tractor that was recently purchased. On behalf of producers, SA Graan/Grain asked tractor manufacturers which fuel they would recommend for their tractors (500 ppm or 50 ppm) and why they recommend it.

Barloworld Agriculture


Continuously changing targets with regard to international emission standards complicate matters for the manufacturers of agricultural machinery and engines. Fuel manufacturers are also put under pressure because they have to keep up with rapidly changing engine technology in order to meet the ever increasing stringent requirements regarding the sulphur content of fuel.

Sulphur in fuel is the main contributing factor to harmful gas emissions. The environmentally friendly choice is therefore to use diesel containing 50 parts or particles per million (ppm) – i.e. 0,005% sulphur – instead of diesel containing 500 ppm or 0,05% sulphur.

Diesel with a lower sulphur content has other significant benefits for the owners of tractors, combine harvesters and other agricultural machinery with high technology engines. These benefits include performance and the longer lifespan of lubricants, resulting in extended service intervals and a prolonged engine lifetime.

  • Engine performance improves, because 50 ppm diesel has cleaner and more effective combustion properties than 500 ppm diesel.
  • Diesel of 50 ppm causes less wear and tear and therefore prolongs engine life. Sulphur oxidises during combustion and forms sulphur dioxide, while nitrogen from the air is also oxidised, forming nitrogen oxide. Both of these oxides react further and form acids which are detrimental to engine components and also adversely affect lubrication. The more sulphur fuel contains, the higher the chances are of engine wear and tear.
  • Service intervals are extended since engine oil has to be replaced less often. Lubricants containing additives help combat wear and tear caused by sulphuric acid, but these additives are exhausted more quickly when 500 ppm diesel is used.

At this stage 50 ppm diesel is not freely available all over South Africa. For this reason, high technology machinery distributed by Barloworld Agriculture are designed to accommodate diesel with a maximum of 500 ppm. This includes Massey Ferguson’s MF 8600, MF 7600, MF 6400 and MF 5400 tractor ranges as well as Challenger tractors, sprayers and combine harvesters.

However, these machines will benefit from using 50 ppm diesel. The less sulphur in the fuel you are using, the better it will be for both your high technology tractor’s engine and the environment in the long run.

John Deere


John Deere takes its responsibility for the environment very seriously. We have been working on lowering engine emissions since 1967, years before government standards were set. We have taken an integrated approach to cleaner air, while improving fuel economy and engine performance.

Environmental regulatory agencies focus on four types of engine emissions: Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. As more focus is placed on health and environmental issues, governmental agencies throughout the world are enacting more stringent laws to reduce these emissions.

To meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations, John Deere has followed a carefully planned building block approach. We have systematically adopted new technologies and integrated them with our fieldproven solutions to meet each regulatory tier.

So when it comes to the fuel, it should be obvious that whilst we improve the engine technology we should be using the best quality fuels available.

Without question, the 50 ppm would be a better choice of the two offered, not only because of all the factors mentioned above, but here are a few more. Engines are designed to emit lower emissions, so shouldn’t we be using fuel also developed to emit fewer toxins into the air?

Many of the new developments in engines catch the remaining fuel particulate matter before being emitted into the air, technologies such as Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and so forth; but the fuel has already passed through the critical parts in an engine and a high sulphur content can be corrosive for any engine.

As the US and EU move to high emission requirements using less than 15 ppm fuel for iT4 and FT4 emission standards, Africa is being left behind and deprived from these new engine technologies due to the lack of higher fuel quality.

The current regulatory standards require as a minimum a Tier II emission level and only make provision for the availability of 50 ppm fuel (2006). Hopefully the future of fuel is one of higher quality and we can look forward to a “greener” future.


Publication: November 2013

Section: Input Overview