ASTM Blend Specifications: What Do They Mean?

By Stu Porter | August 08, 2008
A great deal of work has been done the past two years toward achieving ASTM biodiesel blend standards. Three key ballots were voted on at this year's American Society for Testing and Materials D02 Main Committee, including:
1) adding the cold soak filtration test to the mandatory annex in the specification for B100 biodiesel blend stock D 6751,
2) adding up to B5 into D 975 the specification for diesel fuel, and
3) the addition of a new B6 to B20 specification. Although the B6 to B20 specification has not yet been published, it has been given a number, which will be ASTM D 7467.

While there were some negative votes in the process, all ballots were successfully adjudicated at the ASTM meetings held in June in Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition, the B5 in D 396, which is the furnace fuel specification, was tabled at the December 2007 ASTM meeting, as it was awaiting the outcome of the D 6751 ballot amendments. All four specifications will become official as soon as they are published by ASTM, which at press time was anticipated to occur in the coming weeks. This will be great news for both the biodiesel industry and original equipment manufacturers.

Industry need and strong desire were shown to include the cold soak filtration test method in ASTM D 6751 even before the test had an ASTM method number. To accomplish this expeditiously, the test was included in the annex of D 6751, which is a mandatory section of the specification. This means that the specifications for the cold soak filtration test are contained in the body of the D 6751 specification, but the test procedure itself will reside in the annex of D 6751 until such time as it has its own ASTM method number. At that point, it will be balloted to have the new cold soak filtration test method number in the specification and removal of the test in the annex of D 6751.

Over the past six months, the cold soak filtration test method has been improved and more data were gathered on whether adjustments to the specification limits are appropriate.

As chair of the Subcommittee 14 Biodiesel Cleanliness Task Group under which the test is being developed, I have been involved with its progress each step of the way since its inception. Although the cold soak filtration test was successfully balloted into the mandatory annex section of ASTM D 6751, the revised test was also balloted as a separate new test method in Subcommittee 14. This ballot was successful and will move on to the Main D02 Committee ballot this fall. The expectation is that when this new test method passes the Main Committee D02 ballot and receives a new test method number, the new test method number will be balloted in ASTM D 6751 to replace that in the annex.

What does all this mean? We now have specifications for up to B5 in home heating oil in ASTM D 396, for up to B5 in diesel fuel in D 975, and for up to B20 in the new D 7467

This has huge implications for state and regulatory agencies in the United States as there are numerous pieces of U.S. legislation that have incentives for biodiesel blends. This also has positive implications for the same reasons for other countries that use ASTM standards. This is a positive thing for original equipment manufacturers that are looking for standards to facilitate embracing biodiesel blends with their vehicles to a greater degree. It is also a positive for petroleum companies that want to ensure there are blend specifications in place which will maintain the integrity of their brand.

The next step will be ensuring that these blend standards are utilized and the testing is done to ensure compliance. However, the first step is getting the specifications in place, which is a great accomplishment.

Stu Porter is the manager of business development and projects for BBI Biofuels Canada. Reach him at or (519) 312-2191.
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