NBB In Sight

NREL research finds another ULSD/biodiesel benefit
By Joe Jobe | October 13, 2006
Recently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) revealed results that show another way biodiesel can help enhance the performance of ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuels. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is participating in this research through support from the soybean farmer checkoff program.

As the on-highway ULSD mandate goes into effect this month, test data is demonstrating that B5 and B20 may help solve a problem for ULSD use in 2007 ceramic diesel particulate filters. It is well-known that biodiesel helps solve the lubricity problem in ULSD; now there is strong evidence that biodiesel can help make the coming after-treatment devices work better as well.

The U.S. EPA's sulfur reduction in on-road diesel fuel was implemented specifically to allow the use of particulate matter (PM) and NOx catalyst equipment that would otherwise be fouled by the sulfur in diesel fuel. However, surprising results are being discovered with the new diesel particulate filters (DPF), which will be required on all new diesel engines beginning in 2007.

The DPF filters all the particulate matter-or soot-out of the vehicle's exhaust, reducing PM emissions to well below one-tenth of today's levels. The soot trapped on the DPF is burned when the engine is operating at a high-exhaust temperature condition (high speed and load). For some engines, the exhaust never gets hot enough for soot combustion. This causes an increased "back pressure" in the engine exhaust system. The NREL/NBB study has demonstrated that when biodiesel is blended with ULSD at 5 percent or 20 percent, the required temperature for soot combustion is much lower. So, with biodiesel blends, there is less chance of the DPF plugging with soot and having to be cleaned or replaced.

Figure 1 shows the back-pressure phenomenon of ULSD represented in the blue line. B5, represented in red, reduces back pressure significantly; while B20, represented in green, reduces back pressuring even further.

In addition to reducing the back pressure and lubricity issues, emissions data with the new particulate filters show further significant reductions of PM using B20. Figure 2 shows that on this engine, B20 (green) provides a 25 percent reduction in PM over ULSD without the DPF. A surprising discovery was that with the DPF in place, B20 provided an additional 67 percent reduction of PM beyond what the ULSD (blue) provided.

These findings offer dramatic opportunities for biodiesel to further enhance performance in the new diesel engines and the new ULSD fuels. The NBB and original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are gathering additional data to further confirm these findings. The NBB looks forward to continuing work with NREL and the OEMs to forge the technical path forward for the new transportation landscape.
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