U.S., Canadian fuel specs differ

By | March 15, 2007
Fuel quality specifications in Canada and the United States are similar, but they differ for those doing business on both sides of the border.

On one side, through the appropriate ASTM committee channels, the U.S. biodiesel industry has been working with those in the petroleum and other relevant industries to adjust the ASTM diesel fuel specification, D 975, to allow up to B5. Technically, this would mean that there would be no distinction to draw between pure hydrocarbon diesel fuel and B5 diesel fuel in the United States. "The B5 in D 975 has passed subcommittee ballot, but it will likely not pass through main committee at ASTM until the end of this year at the earliest," said Stu Porter, biodiesel technical analyst for Ontario-based BBI Biofuels Canada. As U.S. diesel fuel specs evolve to incorporate a small but important percentage of biodiesel, it closes the gap between what distinguishes U.S. and European standards; European diesel is already approved to contain up to B5.

"In Canada on the other hand, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) has opted for separate specifications between petroleum diesel without biodiesel and that which can contain up to B5," Porter told Biodiesel Magazine. "The specification limits are the same, but the classification and specification standard numbers are different." The Canadian spec for on-road low-sulfur diesel fuel with no biodiesel content is CAN/CGSB-3.517, while the on-road low-sulfur diesel fuel spec in which up to B5 can be included is CAN/CGSB-3.520. Where U.S. biodiesel must meet ASTM D 6751, the B100 blended into Canadian on-road diesel fuel can meet either the European (EN 14214) or American protocols. "This was done primarily due to a lack of an oxidation spec in ASTM D 6751 when the CGSB B1 to B5 spec was introduced," Porter said. Since then, however, a three-hour Rancimat test for oxidative stability has been officially incorporated into D 6751. "It has since been decided at CGSB to leave both for market flexibility reasons," he says.

Other biodiesel-related fuel quality activities are underway in Canada. Much like the B20 spec under development for ASTM, Canadian "bio-technocrats" are also working on a B6 to B20 specification. Additionally, a program looking into the quality of biodiesel is ongoing, said Dennis Beattie, senior program officer with the Canadian measurement agency. Beattie said he is working on particular coefficients of expansion that would allow biodiesel to be sold "on a temperature-compensated basis."

Although Canada's biodiesel can meet European or American industry standards, the differences are diminishing between the two, Porter said. EN specs with no ASTM counterparts include EN 14103, which specifies a minimum ester content of 96.5 percent; EN 14111, which caps iodine values at 120; and EN 14103, which disallows more than 12 percent linolenic acid methyl esters.
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