What is Urea

What is Urea?

There’s been some confusion in the automotive industry on what exactly urea is and how it’s utilized in diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and AdBlue.  With urea being a component in a variety of everyday products we use, not to mention our bodies actually produce a natural form of it, it’s no wonder there’s been misunderstandings in the marketplace.

Commercial grade urea, which is made up of synthetic ammonia and carbon dioxide when subjected to high heat can be produced as a liquid or solid and is being used in fertilizer and DEF.  For DEF purposes it’s most commonly produce in the prill/granular form and is transported by super sacks or bulk rail car.

There does lie a difference in the particular type of commercial grade urea used in the solutionizing of DEF and AdBlue and the urea used in the production of fertilizer.  Although they come from the same chemical compounds, the higher grade, environmental urea is stripped of all contaminates since the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system can’t tolerate them.  While the fertilizer grade urea is solutionized with other chemicals including formaldehyde, allowing it to become a solid, making it easier to transport.

Why is it Important in the Automotive Industry?

Environmental grade urea is incredibly important because it’s one of only two ingredients that make up DEF and AdBlue, which is one of two components in the most widely used method in meeting the new standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union Commission to combat hazardous air pollutants.

32.5% of high grade environmental urea is mixed with 67.5% deionized water to create what is known in the industry as DEF or AdBlue – the aqueous reductant agent that is used in conjunction with the SCR system.  DEF or AdBlue along with the SCR system is what enables everyone in the automotive industry to remain compliant with the new standards that have been created for the purpose of cleaning up hazardous emissions.

What’s Dictating the Market?

Plain old supply and demand – the global demand for fertilizer grade urea, is what’s dictating the price for environmental grade urea.  Since both stem from the same source, environmental grade urea is being priced on the demand for fertilizer grade urea globally.  And as the global agriculture market fluctuates so does the demand for fertilizer grade urea, thus in turn dictating the demand for environmental grade urea as well. 

For more information on all things DEF, please see the following pages: