New FAME meter tests down to 1 ppm

By Ron Kotrba | May 19, 2010
Posted May 28, 2010

Kam Controls Inc. of Houston, Texas, has successfully conducted a test of its upcoming in-line fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) detector-the Kam FAME Meter. The test, conducted in the lab with jet fuel contaminated with varying amounts of FAME, confirms the accuracy, stability and repeatability of the science and electronics behind the detector.

Accurate detection of FAME levels is critical for aviation safety. Recently the management agency for NATO's largest European pipeline (CEPMA), supplying both NATO and civilian airports, announced all clients must provide proof that deliveries satisfy current mandates of less than 5 parts per million (ppm) of FAME.

The Kam FAME Meter is of particular importance in these efforts because it installs in-line, providing real-time accurate data. Current methods for measuring FAME require time-consuming sampling and laboratory testing, which comes at great expense due to demurrage, storage, man-hours and more.

Kam Mohajer, president of Kam Controls, said the device uses patent-pending optical technology. "We use one wave length that is absorbed equally by both the jet fuel and the FAME, and another wavelength that is only absorbed by FAME, which is used as reference and it automatically recalibrates and adjusts," Mohajer told Biodiesel Magazine.

He said some of the optics involved are also used by astronomers to study the cosmos, which is why the prototype cost over $170,000.

By the fourth quarter, however, when Kam Controls expects the product to be commercially available, Mohajer said the price tag would be between $30,000 and $40,000.

Two different models will be available, a flow-through version for pipeline operators and a laboratory model, Mohajer said, adding that all of the major oil companies have volunteered to test the equipment as part of the validation and certification process.

Tests of the Kam Fame Meter were conducted in the 100, 200, 300, and 500 ppm range. "We found the stability and the repeatability of the instrument to be very good, and suitable to measure FAME concentrations from 1ppm and higher," Mohajer said. "The response time was instantaneous. In short, we are confident that we will be able to measure the FAME from 1 ppm and higher with a great degree of precision."

Predicted accuracy will be plus or minus 1 percent of full scale, i.e., for a scale measuring 1 ppm to100 ppm, accuracy will be plus or minus 1 ppm; for a scale measuring zero to 200 ppm, accuracy will be plus or minus 2 ppm.

Contamination of jet fuel with FAME is a direct result of transporting biodiesel in product tankers or in multi-product pipelines. FAME can adhere to the walls of the tank or pipeline, in addition to manifolds and elsewhere. When jet fuel is transported after biodiesel in either a product tanker or pipeline, it can release the FAME that has been left behind. This contamination is of particular concern to producers, shippers, and consumers of jet fuel.

According to a Special Air Worthiness Information Bulletin issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in August 2009, "At high enough concentrations, FAME can impact the thermal stability of the fuel that could lead to coke deposits in the fuel system. FAME contamination can also impact the freezing point of jet fuel resulting in gelling of the fuel. These conditions can result in engine operability problems, and possible engine flameout."

In addition, the product can be used to confirm compliance with government mandates for minimum biodiesel percentages within blended diesels.
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