Standards groups seek uniformity

By Jerry W. Kram | June 21, 2007
A flotilla of national and international organizations establishes and monitors quality standards for biofuels, including biodiesel. As the biodiesel industry continues to grow and mature, two major organizations that set quality standards for biodiesel-the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and ASTM International in the United States-are examining some of their differences to see if they can be harmonized.

There is an incredibly strong international push toward harmonized standards for all renewable fuels, said Stu Porter, biodiesel technical analyst for Ontario-based BBI Biofuels Canada. Given the current differences between CEN and ASTM, harmonization will be a long haul. "We are working toward some consistency of treatment," Porter said. "From an international trade aspect, the closer the specifications are to being the same, the simpler international trade becomes." Porter, also the chairman of the Oxidation Stability and Biodiesel Cleanliness task groups at ASTM, was recently invited to give an update on ASTM biodiesel test method developments to CEN Working Group 19.

Porter said the European biodiesel industry has focused in the past on a single feedstock: rapeseed oil. Meanwhile, the U.S. industry uses a more diverse variety of feedstocks, including soybean oil, animal fat and waste grease. "The United States wanted its standard to be more feedstock-neutral," Porter said.

CEN 14214 was the first biodiesel specification to be created. "The ASTM D 6751 [biodiesel specification] is the new kid on the block," Porter said. "CEN had its specification before biodiesel was even a consideration for ASTM." As the global biodiesel industry continues to work closely with engine manufacturers on biodiesel quality considerations, there has been movement toward harmonizing CEN 14214 with the ASTM D 6751 biodiesel standard.

Some important parts of the standard have already been harmonized. Both organizations now use the same acid number and metal specifications, and ASTM D 6751 now contains an oxidative stability specification "The specifications are much, much closer than they used to be," Porter said.

However, there are still many differences that need to be worked out. CEN's oxidative stability test is a six-hour test, as opposed to the three-hour ASTM test. CEN 14214 applies to B100, whereas ASTM D 6751 doesn't. The European standards have separate maximums for mono-, di- and triglycerides, whereas the ASTM standard only has a bound-glycerin standard. ASTM is developing new rules for particulates that form above the fuel's cloud point. In addition, Porter said CEN is looking at expanding its iodine number spec as it has largely been superseded by the oxidative stability spec. "The key thing is that they are getting much, much closer," he said.

Other national and international standards organizations-including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), International Standards Organization (ISO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)-have also been involved in meetings and consultations about increasing international trade in biofuels. To that end, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United States and the European Union have established an International Biofuels Forum to "meet regularly to discuss ways to promote the sustained use and production of biofuels around the globe."

In May, the ANSI held the inaugural meeting of its Biofuels Standards Panel. Two breakout sessions reviewed the biofuels standardization needs from the field to the plant, and from the plant to end use. Speakers in both sessions addressed various challenges to biofuels standardization, including the many differences in feedstocks, the methods of harvesting and preprocessing those feedstocks, and transportation, among other things.
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