Contentious Canadian biodiesel report issued

By Nicholas Zeman | January 19, 2010
Posted February 3, 2010

Imperial Oil, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute and Natural Resources Canada have issued a report on biodiesel performance and quality, preparing for-or delaying-the implementation of a possible federal Canadian blend mandate. The study was not endorsed by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and information suggests the research focused on issues to which the answers are already known.

The key "technical outcomes" of the research were that long-term furnace performance was "negligibly impacted by fuel up to B10, that mono-glycerides had a "deleterious impact" on the low temperature operability of filters in fuel handling systems and need to be limited, and that "long-term stability of renewable diesel fuel can be assured via the use of commercially available oxidation control additives."

A source close to the CRFA indicated that this study, led by an oil company under Canada's National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative, was basically a delay tactic meant to inhibit the implementation of a biodiesel mandate and work toward the adoption of a B100 quality spec that would be the most stringent in the world. In addition, the source said that biodiesel is often blamed for the "shortcomings of ultra-low sulfur diesel."

"We have complete confidence that biodiesel will more than satisfy the strongest doubters when it comes to technical feasibility when all the evidence has been collected," said Gordon Quaiattini, President of the CRFA. "It is important to remember that on-road performance was also questioned at one point and in the final report issued in 2009, those questions were put firmly to bed. By June, a further half dozen demonstration projects for off-road performance will have been completed. All feedback to date has been positive and we look forward to the mandate proceeding without delay."

The Canadian Trucking Association also participated in the study and spoke with Biodiesel Magazine about its stance on the renewable fuel, saying the report provided valuable information but more work was needed before a government-imposed mandate took effect. "We're not particularly opposed to biodiesel and we have no love for the oil companies or anything," said Doug Switzer, vice president of public affairs for the Canadian Trucking Association. "We just have a lot of questions that we feel need to be answered before a blend requirement [is implemented]."

Switzer said that CTA viewed "biodiesel" as a brand that covered a wide variety of products, some of which have superior quality and performance characteristics. He added that Canada needs a comprehensive national standard for biodiesel fuel and not a "hodgepodge" of ASTM and EU guidelines that assure a consistent, high-quality renewable fuel at the nation's pumps. "Having nine out of 10 issues covered isn't good enough," he said. "That is why we have been involved with this research."

Others stakeholders disagree and do not believe that the Canadian General Standards Board needs its own biodiesel quality standard, and say the existing ASTM channels are more than sufficient for addressing any potential quality-related biodiesel issues.

"The Government of Canada supports biofuels and other alternative fuels as part of our commitment to reducing Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020," the Minister's office of Natural Resources Canada said. "Our government is working closely with industry partners to allow for the integration of renewable diesel in the Canadian fuel market by 2011 or earlier, subject to technical feasibility."

NRC added that this round of testing is intended to determine the safety and effectiveness of renewable diesel in all applications under typical Canadian conditions. "We will be guided by the results of this testing and only after successful demonstrations would the federal government move forward with its intention to regulate renewable fuel content in the diesel pool," NRC said.

The full report can be viewed at

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