Just the news the biodiesel industry does not want to hear. The US National Biodisel Board surveyed biodiesel pumps across the US between November 2005 and July this year and found that one third (my emphasis) of biodiesel sampled did not meet biodiesel fuel standards.
Biodiesel is very much the preserve of enthusisasts in the US. Diesel as a fuel seems to be fighting an up hill battle against the entrenched gasoline-driven automotive industry. The last thing the biodiesel producers want to do is had a story like this to the gasoline lobby…
In a news release on off-spec biodiesel the US the NBB says:
A national fuel quality testing project, co-funded by NBB and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, found that one-third of biodiesel samples pulled between November 2005 and July 2006 were out of spec for incomplete processing.
NBB views these results as unacceptable. This underscores the need for enforcement agencies to take action against those who aren't producing biodiesel that meets the existing standard, ASTM D-6751.
There were problems in Minnesota last year where filters were clogged by off-spec biodiesel, but all the fuel tested in the state passed the ASTM standard, says the NBB.
The NBB has an online Fuel Quality Enforcement Guide to help producers meet the required standards.
Looking at gasoline from the point of view of an integrated oil-to-petrochemicals company like Exxon or Shell, one of the great things about it is that it can contain a wide range of carbon-based petrochemicals. As long as it burns at in the right way and at the right temperature its OK.
But despite this formulation flexibility, for the user, gas seems to be pretty much identical, tank to tank and that's because it always meets the standard. It is produced using repeatable processes that are largely automated.
One of the difficulties that biodiesel producers face is small scale, batch processing with variable feeds. The only way they'll be able to produce biodiesel to the same standard every time is with a rigorous approach to finding out what is really in their raw materials and monitoring the reactions closely to make sure they really are going like they should. Having the courage, cash and ability to junk bad lots, is also important to ensure that consistent product is produced.
It's going to be hard, big oil will use any weapons to defend itself against anything it thinks is a threat to itself (look at Proposition 87 in California).
To the chase now. If biodiesel is going to make it big time in the future then the biodiesel industry will need to drum the people who make consistently bad biodiesel out of the club. They will need to heavily promote some kind of badge that the consistent producers get and they'll have to get that into a standard that becomes the industry norm for biodiesel and which states demand from their suppliers. Is that too soft or too harsh? Let me know.For more discussion on this go to the Biofuel and SVO Forum.
picture from www.istockphoto.com