Talking Ploint

By Govindh Jayaraman | May 01, 2004
Most of us understand the importance of standards and quality control. We don't need to be convinced that saving a few cents per gallon is pointless when compared to the cost of damage, downtime and repair to expensive equipment. For this reason, fleet managers and biodiesel users around the world have embraced the American Society for Testing and Measurement's Standard for BioDiesel (ASTM D6751).

What is less obvious, however, is the manner in which fleet managers should regulate whether or not the fuel they are receiving actually meets this standard. In fact, it is more likely for fleet managers and purchasers of biodiesel to operate on faith alone and simply assume that the product they are purchasing from fuel distributors is indeed high-quality biodiesel.

The reason behind this faith is largely based on the fact that fuel distributors have a long history of selling petroleum products, and these products are subject to significant long-term testing to ensure that the fuel being delivered is on-specification (although, even then, occasional problems occur and sub-grade fuel can make its way into the marketplace).

In the case of biodiesel however, most purchasers acquire fuel from organizations that have done little to no testing of the fuel. Many organizations that distribute biodiesel have only a rudimentary understanding of the value of Chain of Custody tracking and Materials Handling Specifications. Furthermore, most distributors and producers are not mindful of the key fact that biodiesel can be produced on specification and yet be delivered off specification.

This is where quality control programs like BQ-9000 and Certified: BioDiesel Driven come into play. Both programs were unveiled over the last year, and both are designed to ensure that only high-quality biodiesel finds its way into the marketplace. But which one should you use? Which of these programs is worth including in the upcoming drafting of a tender call?

First of all, it is important to understand that BQ-9000 does not certify that the fuel conforms to ASTM D6751. Rather the program verifies and confirms by ways of independent audit that the organization involved in biodiesel distribution is indeed measuring the quality of the fuel in their distribution network and is taking care to ensure only high-quality fuel makes it to market.

Certified: BioDiesel Driven confirms that biodiesel producers, marketers, distributors and agents are distributing fuel that adheres to the specifications of the ASTM D6751. This is accomplished by random and independent testing of the biodiesel fuel being distributed by the company in question. This threat of random testing without warning increases the level of vigilance toward product quality by Certified: BioDiesel Driven partners.

Under the Certified: BioDiesel Driven program, fuel purchasers are assured of the highest quality product. The program includes strict Materials Handling Specifications such as moisture and contaminant mitigation, additive regimens, transportation guidelines and cold-weather handling protocols. Additionally, the fuel is delivered under the care and protection of a Chain of Custody program by agents that are highly trained in the particular issues of biodiesel fuel delivery.

The Certified: BioDiesel Driven helps to ensure that bad biodiesel never reaches a vehicle's tank.

Certified: BioDiesel Driven status is difficult to reach, requiring three levels of testing over six months in a pre-certification phase and monthly random testing thereafter. Certification requires a significant commitment to quality from biodiesel producers, marketers and distributors. Becoming certified under the BioDiesel Driven program may be more easily achieved by companies already conforming to BQ-9000; however, BQ-9000 accreditation does not guarantee that the fuel will pass Certified: BioDiesel Driven qualification standards.

There is no question that fleet managers seeking to protect their investments would be well served to ensure that they only accept Certified: BioDiesel Driven fuel. Producers, marketers and distributors seeking to distribute high-quality fuel to standards-savvy clients would be in a good position to gain Certified: BioDiesel Driven status if they are already BQ-9000 accredited.

It's clear that Certified: BioDiesel Driven and BQ-9000 programs compliment one another in ensuring that only high-quality biodiesel reaches the marketplace. By accepting nothing less, we will be helping to protect the burgeoning biodiesel industry and its greatest advocates-the customers.

Govindh Jayaraman is president of Topia Energy Inc. and The Green Incubator Inc., the company administering Certified: BioDiesel Driven. The company is based in Ottawa, Ontario. Jayaraman can be reached at [email protected]
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