Minnesota lifts biodiesel mandate for No.1

By Nicholas Zeman | December 21, 2009
Posted January 13, 2010

Citing a "fallout" problem that is only happening in No. 1 diesel fuel, which contains biodiesel percentages by law in the state, Minnesota has lifted its renewable fuel requirement for the winter months. "They say it's only happening in No. 1," Kelly Strebig told Biodiesel Magazine. Strebig mans the "biodiesel helpline" at the University of Minnesota's Center for Diesel Research in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

No. 1 fuel has a much lower cloud point than No. 2, which is the reason it is used straight or in blends with No. 2 during the winter months in cold climates. Hoon Ge, a fuel consultant with MEG Corp, said No. 1 with 5 percent biodiesel should perform down to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but he saw issues with samples of No. 1 B5 at minus 10 degrees. Even the red dye No. 2 B5 with cold flow additives was performing at that temperature. "If you would have told me a month ago that No. 1 and 5 percent biodiesel would be having issues at minus 10 degrees, I would not have believed it," Ge said, adding that there will be a meeting at the end of the month to further resolve the issue.

"I don't really understand this," Strebig said. "I was involved in tests of B50 and No.1 at the university at temperatures lower than what we are experiencing now, and we didn't have any problems-so I don't know if it has something to do with ultra low sulfur diesel, or what."

The temporary waiver of the biodiesel requirement could have more of an impact on renewable fuels sales in northern Minnesota that is often much colder than the Twin Cities. "All of the school buses have gone to using No.2 year round, so I think that it will have less of an effect there," Strebig says.

The waiver, which will become effective Friday, January 15 through March 31, was issued in response to concerns from the Minnesota Biodiesel Council and the Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association that the mix of 5 percent biodiesel with No.1 diesel fuel could lead to clogged filters in extreme cold weather, said the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which wields the power to perform such a move. "The effective date allows petroleum wholesalers to make any necessary operational adjustments to ensure consistent supply. The B5 mandate still applies to No. 2 diesel fuel."

James Pearson, deputy commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said, "Minnesota's fuel quality policies ensure a strong renewable fuel industry. Our action today is in response to concerns raised by some consumers. The waiver will relieve some of the pressure felt by suppliers and consumers while we get to the bottom of any issues."
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