Wilks' VFA-IR detects FAME down to 500 ppm

By Ron Kotrba | March 23, 2010
Posted April 19, 2010

Wilks Enterprise Inc. announced that its InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer, which has been marketed as a fast, easy way for nontechnical personnel to validate biodiesel blends, can also detect methyl ester content in fuel down to 0.05 percent, or 500 parts per million (ppm).

The company stated that this new application for the InfraSpec VFA-IR is important for nuclear power plants and some pipeline operators to ensure no biodiesel is present in their systems.

"For nuclear power plants, fuel can be stored for as long as 10 years to power their standby diesel generators in case of an electrical power shut down," Wilks Enterprise stated. "Emergency diesel generators supply electrical power to safely shutdown the nuclear reactor in the event of a loss of normal off-site power and supply power to critical items such as cooling pumps for decay heat removal. Biodiesel is a natural food source for microbial growth and while biocides should prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and mold, nuclear power plants cannot risk that microbial growth could clog filters and shut down the [generators]. In cold weather areas, there is also concern that the cold flow properties of biodiesel blended fuel may cause it to gel in cold temperatures and again clog filters. Therefore, it has become necessary for many standby generator operators to determine whether their fuel delivery contains biodiesel."

While Wilks Enterprise is marketing its InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer for pipeline operators to ensure there is no trace biodiesel in certain fuel shipments, the airline industry will only allow up to 5 ppm-a hundred times less than what the InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer can detect-in jet fuel. This, of course, has been a major roadblock in widespread pipeline distribution of biodiesel, and there is a move to approve up to 100 ppm biodiesel in jet fuel. Even so, there is still the need for more sensitive detection methods at reasonable prices.

Sandy Rintoul with Wilks Enterprise told Biodiesel Magazine that the company is conducting tests now to figure out precisely what the margin of error is for the InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer when detecting down to 500 ppm.

When asked what analytical technology might be capable of detecting down to 5 ppm, Rintoul said she doubts infrared technology could detect such minute traces of biodiesel. "That is such a low level, it's next to nothing," she said. "GC (gas chromatography) wouldn't really even be able to get to those levels-and if it could, at what price would it be?"
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