ASTM approves new biodiesel blend standards

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 17, 2008
Web exclusive posted June 24, 2008 at 1:47 p.m. CST

New ASTM standards for biodiesel were approved June 19 at an ASTM International meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. The changes will take effect within three to five months once the final standards are published.

Three provisions were approved. The conventional petrodiesel specification (ASTM D 975) can now contain up to 5 percent biodiesel. Don Scott, technology and regulatory engineer for the National Biodiesel Board, said the updated standard means No. 2 diesel can now include B5 and still be considered the same fuel without labeling the blend.

The second change added a cold filtration test to the B100 specification (ASTM D 6751). The additional test should assure buyers that the B100 won't contain certain precipitates that can cause filter plugging in cold weather. While there was initial concern about the additional cold filtration test, Scott said, "Everyone's comfortable they can meet the specs, and the biodiesel will be a better product."

The third change created specifications for blends between B6 and B20 for on- and off-road diesel. The new specifications will allow the testing of a biodiesel blend against the ASTM numbers for physical verification of quality, rather than relying solely upon the paperwork, Scott explained. The new ASTM standards will also provide original engine manufacturers (OEM) with specifications for engine testing, possibly resulting in OEM approval of higher blends. Nearly all major automakers in the United States currently accept the use of at least B5, while Cummins, New Holland and Caterpillar are already accepting B20 or higher, according to the NBB. Several more companies are expected to raise their acceptance to B20 with the approval of the new standards.

"It is quite remarkable that the big oil companies and engine makers on the committee have now joined forces with the biodiesel industry to help approve these standards," said Steve Howell, chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. Howell was presented with an award of appreciation from ASTM for his dedication in leading the effort at the Vancouver meeting.

More than five years of research and consultation with the ASTM fuel experts went into the new standards. "We addressed the issues and concerns with solid, scientific research," said Joe Jobe, chief executive officer of the NBB. "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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