BQ-9000 receives increased support-and scrutiny

By | November 10, 2006
BQ-9000 has gained considerable attention from biodiesel producers and marketers in North America and beyond, over the past two years. Constant scrutiny of the fuel standard has helped define and shape the volunteer quality-assurance program.

At press time, there were 12 BQ-9000 accredited producers and two BQ-9000 certified marketers on board, according to Leland Tong, chairman of the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission (NBAC). Another seven or eight biodiesel producers were in the auditing process, meaning the number of accredited producers could shoot up to 20 by early 2007. An additional six companies were pursuing BQ-9000 certified-marketer status at press time.

In early 2006, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association endorsed BQ-9000, making it a truly North American quality assurance program. Now, Tong told Biodiesel Magazine, there's heightened international interest in the program. The NBAC has received a handful of serious information requests from Australia and Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia. "There's a need for a worldwide certification program," Tong said, adding that the possibility of broadening the reach of BQ-9000 was under evaluation.

BQ-9000 is not a program that is unfamiliar with change. In fact, it has done well by being flexible. Even in early October, revisions to BQ-9000 were on the table. In addition to clarifying certain sections of the program, Tong said the NBAC is likely to start conducting surveillance audits annually, rather than once every two years.

BQ-9000 is designed to help assure that biodiesel is meeting and maintaining the industry standard, ASTM D 6751. It makes testing easier, minimizes redundant testing throughout the production and distribution system, and serves as a fuel-tracking mechanism. It's important to note, however, that BQ-9000 is a company or process certification, not a product certification, said BQ-9000 auditor Kent Bullard.

BQ-9000 has dual appeal for producers and marketers. First, it reduces a company's liability risks by minimizing its chances of producing or distributing off-spec fuel. In turn, that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace, Tong said. In fact, some biodiesel customers, including major government fleet managers, exclusively purchase biodiesel from certified marketers or accredited producers.

Carrying the BQ-9000 badge means little if the program is not adhered to exactingly. Tong said accredited producers and certified marketers that don't play by the book could inadvertently move off-spec fuel into the market. "The possibility always exists," he admitted.

So far, however, there have been no formal allegations of that happening-just unsubstantiated reports-and Tong said he hasn't seen any evidence to support the rumors. Nevertheless, the NBAC chairman told Biodiesel Magazine that the commission is prepared to crack down on accredited producers and certified producers if, and when, such action becomes necessary to protect the program's integrity.

That said, one biodiesel producer views BQ-9000 certification as a minimum process standard. This summer, Ag Processing Inc. (AGP) in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, unveiled its "Gold" standard, an internal biodiesel standard that the company says exceeds the ASTM spec and BQ-9000 quality assurance standards. John Campbell, the company's senior vice president, said BQ-9000 isn't an absolute catch-all for producing ASTM-spec biodiesel, but it is a "good housekeeping, best practices" approach to quality assurance. "BQ-9000 isn't a guarantee that every day, every load is going to meet ASTM specifications," he said. " Only the company can guarantee that."

Tong said the NBAC has no problems with companies that go above and beyond BQ-9000. In fact, the commission encourages it. "There's nothing wrong with more quality control in our industry," Tong said.

For more information about BQ-9000, visit www.bq-9000.org.
 
 
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