NBB In Sight

Fuel Quality: A Recipe for Success Part I of II
By Joe Jobe | November 10, 2006
A new National Biodiesel Board (NBB) member recently told me that of all the challenges he faced in starting his business, producing fuel to the ASTM standard was unexpectedly the toughest. He compared it to cooking a difficult soufflé. Sometimes it comes out perfectly. Other times it doesn't. Knowing which step went wrong doesn't always come easily.

Producing on-spec fuel can be more challenging than many people realize. However, achieving the standard on every batch of biodiesel is critical to protect consumers, maintain the integrity of the nation's fuel supply and defend the reputation of biodiesel as a high-quality, high-performance fuel.

Quality was the overriding theme of the 2006 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in San Diego, Calif., with an appeal to the industry to avoid a "false start." The NBB laid out a 2006 plan for quality that included BQ-9000 as the centerpiece, coupled with strong outreach and compliance efforts. That plan has produced measurable results.

In February, four companies had been BQ-9000 approved. Now there are 14, and we expect 20 to 25 companies will be approved by the 2007 National Biodiesel Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

At our June board meeting, NBB members approved a comprehensive fuel quality policy that directs the NBB to work diligently with all state and federal agencies with authority to regulate fuel and enforce quality. The NBB also completed phase one and two of an outreach program funded by the United Soybean Board. The NBB's Weights and Measures Outreach Program has made contact with every state to engage them in monitoring fuel quality. States such as Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota and Missouri now test biodiesel at the plant. A comprehensive database has been developed that shows the laws, regulations, testing programs and status of biodiesel-quality regulation in each state. This database is part of a new fuel-quality movement, which was launched this month on a publicly available area of the NBB's Web site. The site provides guidance on actions that can be taken by anyone who is having quality problems with biodiesel.

Additionally, the NBB has set up webinars for regional National Conference on Weights and Measures Inc. associations, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the Federation of Tax Administrators.

At the federal level, the NBB has met several times with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which also has authority in fuel-quality regulation. The NBB is working with the service to encourage the development of an IRS testing program that would ensure that any company applying for its IRS Form 637 producer registration-required to receive the tax credit-has the ability to produce biodiesel that meets ASTM D 6751.

Naturally, fuel quality doesn't stop at the plant gates. Handlers of the fuel have a critical role to play. The NBB hosted five fuel-management seminars this fall, which covered issues such as the new ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) rules, cold flow, contaminants and BQ-9000.

It is not easy for start-ups to find a process to yield that perfect soufflé every time. A quick Web search reveals that the word "soufflé" comes from the French verb "souffler," which means to "blow up." A quality product, produced every time, will prevent our industry from doing just that.
 
 
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