Iowa lab becomes the first-ever BQ-9000 site

By Luke Geiver | July 13, 2010
Posted Aug. 10, 2010

The Iowa Central Fuel Testing Laboratory is the first to reach gold. The Fort Dodge-based facility is now the first-ever BQ-9000 accredited laboratory after completing roughly ten months of certification. Overseen by the Independent National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission, BQ-9000 is a voluntary, gold standard fuel assurance program for producers and marketers. For a producer, the program means the production company is using the system to monitor the quality of their biodiesel, including: sampling, testing, storage, retain samples and shipping.

"Biodiesel producers should just think of us as any other fuel testing laboratory. Send us a couple liters of sample (more or less depending on the tests wanted) and expect results within a few days for all the ASTM D6751 tests," said Don Heck, ICTL director. The Iowa facility, located on the campus of Iowa Central Community College, is however, not the average testing laboratory. People don't necessarily associate a community college with state-of-the-art laboratories, Heck said, but the new accreditation backs that up. With the support of Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, along with Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, the facility was able to secure more than $2 million in funding.

One of the main benefits from the new testing facility is the partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture's Weights and Measures Bureau; the department responsible for ensuring fuel standards remain high. "The partnership is unique as many in the biofuel industry and many in the quality control industry recognize the need for efficient fuel quality testing, but the resources aren't always there," Heck said. "Our partnership gives a low-cost solution that allows for an expanded testing program by the state."

While the lab is already helping special projects with standard instruments, the facility also offers "uncommon" instruments like a gas chromatograph coupled with a mass spectrometer. "We purchased that to help out with special projects like filter residue testing." Heck said ICTL has also helped a group from Iowa State University identify some compounds in their samples of green diesel which in turn helped them trouble-shoot their production process. "We not only want to provide routine testing but we also want to provide additional lab support for those in the renewable fuels industry who can benefit from it."

The facility also tests blends under the specs D7467 and diesel specs D975, and is currently working on instrumentation for ethanol testing. To finish the 10 month certification process, Heck said the ICTL brought in an outside consultant to help with the Quality Manual, a document outlining the program. The manual includes procedures on how to handle documents, receive and process samples, record and manage data, maintain and calibrate instruments and how to address problems, according to Heck. "All in all it was a fair amount of extra work, but a very do-able program for us," he said.

ICCC vice president, James Kersten said the school's relationship with several groups including the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Biodiesel Board, National Biodiesel Board, along with state and federal governments, is a key to the success of the facility. "Without the help of all those folks, the lab would not be a reality."
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