ASTM ponders biodiesel grade for extreme cold

By | February 23, 2010
Biodiesel is at work around the country, year round, in extreme weather. School buses in Michigan rely on biodiesel blends to transport students safely to and from school, and biodiesel does the job.

As the industry becomes more sophisticated and as new variations of ultra-low sulfur diesel are introduced in the marketplace, technical experts monitor and evaluate isolated performance variations. The ASTM process is designed to allow for specifications to be refined as new opportunities and considerations arise.

ASTM is currently discussing ballots for changes to the biodiesel specification, D6751. These changes are designed to address isolated instances of filter clogging above the cloud point, primarily with above-ground tank dispenser filters (not vehicles), with some blends of biodiesel and types of petrodiesel in very cold weather. The group will determine if changes are needed within the biodiesel specification, D6751, and if so, whether they should be made to all biodiesel, or whether the changes should be made to a new, separate grade of biodiesel. A potential new biodiesel grade would be intended to be used in extremely cold weather, similar to the No. 1 and No. 2 grades for petrodiesel.

"From the discussions, it seems likely that a new grade of biodiesel will be proposed, and that new grade will have a lower cold soak filtration requirement and more stringent controls of minor components such as mono-palmatin or mono-stearin," said NBB Technical Director Steve Howell. "This is potentially the most significant change to the biodiesel specification since the cold soak tests were adopted. Biodiesel stakeholders need to be involved with ASTM to be a part of the discussion. I strongly urge you to have your opinions count by being active in the NBB Technical Committee and by joining ASTM, and voting."

The exact form of the ballot and its limits will be determined through consensus negotiations of the members of the ASTM Filter Clogging Work Group and the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. The ballot will most likely be presented and voted on by the entire Subcommittee E this spring with adjudication of the results at the June ASTM meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Changes could make their way to a final D02 Main Committee vote in the fall.

According to its Web site, ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world, a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. The organization was formed more than a century ago, when a forward-thinking group of engineers and scientists got together to address frequent rail breaks in the burgeoning railroad industry. Their work led to standardization on the steel used in rail construction, ultimately improving railroad safety for the public. As the century progressed and new industrial, governmental and environmental developments created new standardization requirements, ASTM answered the call with consensus standards that have made products and services safer, better and more cost effective.
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