This is a test: Maintaining fuel quality throughout the supply chain
The industry's production capacity and distribution infrastructure continues to rapidly increase. With explosive growth comes the challenge of maintaining fuel quality from the producer to the end user. Biodiesel stakeholders realize the importance of fuel quality and are becoming more involved in petroleum outreach. It is important to recognize that each link in the supply chain is critical. Producers and marketers must keep biodiesel and biodiesel blends on specification all the way through to the consumer.
For biodiesel manufacturers, there is no substitute for testing when it comes to ensuring quality. In fact, no product should leave the production plant that isn't accompanied by a certificate of analysis based on actual test results. All biodiesel producers should strongly consider a laboratory cross-check program like those offered by ASTM International or the Alberta Research Council. The next step, one of growing interest to consumers, is BQ-9000 accredited producer certification. Granted, this doesn't come without cost or some effort, but keeping off-spec biodiesel from entering the marketplace is critical to building consumer confidence in biodiesel. The stakes are too high to ignore these steps.
For biodiesel distributors, the "trust but verify" method is key. Partner with reputable biodiesel producers, request a certificate of analysis and periodically test retain samples. Testing samples for total and free glycerin, acid number, flash point, and water and sediment serve as a good check to help ensure that the product entering the system is meeting ASTM D 6751 specification. In addition, a marketer's ultimate responsibility lies in the ability to create biodiesel blends at the levels customers require. Regular calibration of blending equipment and blend level testing helps prevent B20 from going out the door as B30 or B2.
Some testing service providers can be found in Biodiesel Magazine's annual Biodiesel Industry Directory at www.biodieselindustrydirectory.com. More information on BQ-9000 is available at www.BQ-9000.org. Fuel distributors can become certified under this voluntary quality control program, as well.
Every biodiesel producer and marketer should recognize their role in helping to promote the commercial success and public acceptance of biodiesel. This requires commitment, which is critical to enjoying a successful, sustained foothold in the liquid fuels business.
Leland Tong is chairman of the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission, and Paul Nazzaro is National Biodiesel Board petroleum liaison.