NBB welcomes new biodiesel blend specifications

By | November 13, 2008
Biodiesel is reaching new heights as a proven fuel, bolstered by new quality specifications for biodiesel blends published by ASTM International. Biodiesel producers, petroleum and engine companies, vehicle manufacturers, pipeline operators, fleets and consumers will benefit from new biodiesel blend specifications, using them for fuel preparation, quality checking, engine design, and bid and purchasing contracts. Key National Biodiesel Board personnel have worked the past few years to make this a reality.

ASTM International, one of the largest and most highly regarded standards development organizations in the world, has officially published the highly anticipated biodiesel blend specifications for general use on its Web site, www.astm.org.

Steve Howell, technical director for the NBB and chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force, has been NBB's liaison in this process and is responsible for much of the work needed by ASTM to adopt biodiesel specifications since the fuel's inception. He noted that the specifications are set on a performance basis for a diesel engine, not on the feedstock or the production process. "These specifications combine the input of engine interests, petroleum interests and biodiesel interests, as well as government and military representatives, researchers and academics," Howell said. "It took cooperation and a lot of data and information sharing between all those parties to reach consensus. This is an important achievement for the biodiesel industry that will help move us forward."

Bob McCormick, principal engineer on fuels performance at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said, "The new ASTM standards for biodiesel blends are the result of years of negotiation between the various parties at ASTM and years of research on how the properties of biodiesel blends affect engine performance. NREL has conducted extensive research over the past four years to support development of these standards, which we believe will lead to an expansion of markets for biodiesel while at the same time ensuring that users have trouble-free performance."

The research was jointly supported by the U.S. DOE and the NBB under a cooperative research and development agreement. The new biodiesel blend specifications include: ASTM D 975-08a, Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils, revised to include requirements for up to 5 percent biodiesel; ASTM D 396-08b, Specification for Fuel Oils, for home heating and boiler applications, revised to include requirements for up to 5 percent biodiesel; and ASTM D 7467-08, Specification for Diesel Fuel Oil, Biodiesel Blend (B6 to 20), a completely new specification that covers finished fuel blends of between B6 and B20.

ASTM International also approved some updates to the existing ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D 6751, which is designed to control pure biodiesel product quality prior to blending with conventional diesel fuel.

The official publication of the new biodiesel blend specifications is welcome news to automakers and engine manufacturers, who have been requesting a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends for several years. Some companies, such as Chrysler LLC, stated that the need for that specification was the single greatest hurdle preventing their full-scale acceptance of B20 use in their diesel vehicles. Chrysler was instrumental in working with the ASTM task force toward B20 specification development and approval, having supported fleet use of B20 in its Dodge Ram diesel pickups since January 2006.

Biodiesel producers are also cognizant of the many benefits the new biodiesel blend standards hold for the industry. FutureFuel Chemical Co. is one of the 30 companies currently certified as a BQ-9000 accredited biodiesel producer. "FutureFuel expects the increased support of key stakeholders, such as engine and vehicle manufacturers and fuel refiners, resulting from the new blend standards to generate continued robust growth in our biodiesel sales," said Joan McKinney of FutureFuel Chemical Co.

The biodiesel industry's BQ-9000 program couples the foundations of universally accepted quality management systems with the ASTM product specifications, and has become the premier quality designation in the industry.

The ASTM International biodiesel standards can be purchased from ASTM Customer Service at service@astm.org, (610) 832-9585 or www.astm.org.
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