Biodiesel technical progress achieved

Three promising accomplishments by NBB's technical team and NREL
By Ron Kotrba | January 22, 2014

Despite the federal policy uncertainty that is threatening the U.S. biodiesel industry—obviously a major topic of discussion at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in San Diego—one certainty is the progress being made in technical ASTM developments that promise to open new markets, facilitate logistical product movements and assure customers that shelflife of biodiesel does not necessarily have to be a concern to them.

According to Steve Howell with Marc-IV Consulting, also longtime technical director for the National Biodiesel Board who now serves as senior technical advisor, and Scott Fenwick, NBB’s current technical director, the technical data needed to ballot legacy-safe blends of biodiesel-blended heating oil up to B20 has finally been obtained, a necessary step to ballot the measure at ASTM. This will broaden the market opportunities for biodiesel, particularly in the Northeast, for higher biodiesel blends in existing oilheat burners.

In addition, one major limiting factor to shipping biodiesel through pipelines has been concerns of jet engine manufacturers that biodiesel trailback into jet fuel batches would cause contamination and potentially compromise jet fuel quality, putting airline passengers at risk. A 5 ppm limit, a level nearly impossible to detect (although researchers have developed means to do so, click here for more on that), has virtually kept biodiesel out of the pipe, disallowing the cost benefits associated with pipeline product movement.

After years of work testing jet fuel with 400 ppm of biodiesel, a level four times that which is being sought for approval, Howell says a measure to allow up to 100 ppm of biodiesel in jet fuel will be balloted next semester.

Finally, Howell noted at the national event that Golden, Colo.-based NREL has finally concluded a long study that demonstrates antioxidant-dosed biodiesel can remain on-spec for up to three years.

Congratulations to the NBB technical team and NREL for their diligence and fortitude in these efforts. Stay tuned to for more highlights from San Diego, but until then, back to the show!