Job No. 1

In his editor's note from the Summer 2019 print edition of Biodiesel Magazine, Ron Kotrba discusses the contents of the issue and the importance of fuel quality.
By Ron Kotrba | July 15, 2019

Many of you will remember the old Ford Motor Co. slogan from the 1980s, “Quality is Job One.” I sure do. The genius ad campaign kept recurring in my mind as I put this issue of Biodiesel Magazine together, specifically when writing my page-20 feature, “Diesel’s Fuel Quality Imperative.” In particular, I kept thinking how the diesel fuel supply chain should really take note of that old Ford slogan. I attended several conferences recently where the issue of diesel fuel quality has been brought up time and time again, in numerous presentations by multiple stakeholders.

Over the past several months, I held extensive interviews with many experts on this topic to dig deep into the issue. The resulting article is my attempt to delineate what the problem is (poor quality diesel fuel); why this is a problem (new engine technologies have low tolerances for impurities); who is to blame (it depends on who you ask); what can be done about it (the jury is still out on whether fuel specifications must be modified or if better downstream housekeeping can solve the issues); and what interim solutions can be helpful (volunteer quality programs such as Top Tier and better storage, handling and dispensing housekeeping procedures).

Interestingly, as the National Biodiesel Board’s technical director Scott Fenwick points out to me, with all of the identified problems in today’s diesel fuel—moisture content, stability, metals, particulate contaminants, and cold flow—biodiesel actually has a specification and limits to address most of those, while diesel fuel does not. “Even though biodiesel is a relatively small component in the finished fuel, it’s the only component that has a filterability limit in the Cold Soak Filtration Test, a metals content limit, and a stability limit, which are some of the concerns OEMs have today,” Fenwick tells me. “Biodiesel is the only component that begins to address these.” This is important because if high-quality biodiesel is mixed with low-quality diesel fuel, and the resulting blend is poor, which component do you think will get blamed most often? You know the answer. It’s the new kid on the block—biodiesel—even though it’s not so new anymore.

Paul Nazzaro, founder and president of Advanced Fuel Solutions, says nearly two dozen revisions to ASTM D6751 have been implemented since its original publication less than 20 years ago. “The NBB and its champions as the single voice representing the biodiesel industry through the years have driven those improvements,” he says. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a single champion amongst the diesel fuel industry, and each participant has a different opinion and agenda to contribute.” While biodiesel may not be perfect, the industry has remained vigilant in its pursuit of quality and market acceptance. Perhaps biodiesel could teach its bigger, older, fossil-derived brother a thing or two in this respect.

Finally, I would be remiss not to bring attention to one of our most impressive spotlight composites since we launched the section two years ago. Starting on page 12 in “Quality Solutions,” we spotlight a coproduct pioneer and his offerings to help biodiesel producers improve their margins; an analytical instrumentation company and its new, handheld measurement device; a volunteer diesel fuel quality program; a consultative additive supplier; a lab testing company led by a quality guru; a state association working to bridge gaps; and a software company streamlining feedstock collection.

A special thanks to all of our advertisers for doing what you do to support the biodiesel industry and our publication, which serves those same hardworking individuals. Have a great summer! And remember, quality is? You got it. Job No. 1.

Author: Ron Kotrba
Biodiesel Magazine
[email protected]

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