ASTM approves blend specifications

By | July 14, 2008
In June, the ASTM International D02 Main Committee approved a trio of long-awaited ASTM specifications for biodiesel. After more than five years of extensive research and subsequent balloting by the ASTM fuel experts in the blended fuel balloting process, ASTM voted to approve three key sets of biodiesel specifications that should significantly bolster automaker support and consumer demand for biodiesel. Steve Howell, NBB technical director and chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force, was instrumental in this achievement (see "NBB technical associates awarded").

The first is a new specification for blends of between 6 percent biodiesel (B6) to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) for on- and off-road diesel. The second includes changes to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification, ASTM D 6751. The third covers finished specifications to include up to 5 percent biodiesel (B5) in the conventional petroleum diesel specification, ASTM D 975.

Automakers and engine manufacturers have been requesting a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends for several years, with some citing the need for that spec as the single greatest hurdle preventing their full-scale acceptance of B20 use in their diesel vehicles. The new ASTM specifications for B6-B20 blends will aid engine manufacturers in their engine design and testing processes to optimize the performance of vehicles running on biodiesel.

"The new ASTM spec for B6-B20 is a major building block in GM's efforts to elevate biodiesel as part of our overall energy diversity strategy," said John Gaydash, director of marketing for General Motors' fleet and commercial operations. "We are eager to work with the National Biodiesel Board on efforts to continue to ensure biodiesel fuel quality, as well as to increase our support for biodiesel use in our diesel vehicle lineup." Currently, GM accepts the use of B5 in all of its diesel vehicles and offers B20 use as a Special Equipment Option.

Automaker Chrysler LLC was instrumental in working with the ASTM task force toward B20 specification development and approval, having supported fleet use of B20 in its Dodge Ram diesel pickups since January 2006. "This action by the ASTM committee is a milestone in our nation's effort to expand the role of renewable fuels, including biodiesel, in addressing our energy, environmental and economic challenges," said Max Gates, Chrysler's safety and regulatory spokesman. "Chrysler LLC is committed to working with our partners in the transportation industry to build on this action and make biodiesel an alternative available to all of our customers."

The main change to the existing B100 biodiesel blendstock specification was updating cold soak filtration testing to ensure the cloud point is still an accurate indicator of low temperature performance. The new version of the testing has been used successfully to gauge how B100 will perform in low temperatures when blended with petroleum at B20 or lower blends. Incorporating it into ASTM specifications ensures that all producers will use this testing procedure to ensure quality biodiesel.

The approval of ASTM specifications for inclusion of up to B5 in the regular diesel fuel pool also means that biodiesel could soon become more readily available at retail fueling stations nationwide.

"ASTM addressed the issues and concerns with solid, scientific research," said NBB CEO Joe Jobe. "Without the tremendous amount of scientific data provided by independent organizations like Southwest Research Institute, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Coordinating Research Council and others, and the cooperation of the petroleum and engine communities, this would not have been possible."
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