Satisfying the End User

By Steven Ross | January 11, 2011

We’re all aware of the challenges and opportunities with biodiesel, including the raw feedstock source, production, distribution and infrastructure. A critical area often overlooked is compatibility and acceptance by end users actually burning the biodiesel: the engine and vehicle manufacturers. As biodiesel becomes increasingly accepted and recognized as an alternative to petroleum diesel, end users in the value chain will want assurances their engines and vehicles won’t see any adverse effects. This includes decreased durability and reliability, increased service requirements, and changes to emissions and performance. They want the guarantee that using biodiesel will be totally transparent to their products and their customers.

How are these assurances given to end users? The answers are, with comprehensive testing at both the engine and full-vehicle levels; and biodiesel testing at all phases and steps of the development process, including pilot plant stage, volume ramp-up, process demonstration and validation, and full production. 

Since the early 1970s, Roush has been associated with performance products and NASCAR racing. Building from that racing heritage, Roush has 35 years of experience as a full-service engineering and product development company in all areas of the transportation, military and other industries. Roush specializes in vehicle and powertrain development and testing, including dynamometer engine testing, chassis rolls and emission testing, and real world mileage accumulation. The 50 Roush dynamometers are capable of running engine performance, durability, fuel economy and other development on virtually any type of fuel. Our climatic chambers and engine dynamometers are capable of engine testing from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 90C (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 194F).  

Roush can generate testing data and engineering feedback for the biodiesel developer or manufacturer very early in their development process. As little as 40 to 80 gallons of biodiesel can be enough to provide directional results and indications on performance, versus conventional diesel fuels. Such small quantities of fuel can be used to demonstrate performance, impact on engine calibrations, power, fuel economy and emissions data, and to identify hardware implications from biofuels. This data can be very valuable at the early stages when formulations are still in the development process.

As producers scale up to process demonstration volumes, testing can continue to develop along with it. With hundreds or thousands of gallons available for testing, Roush can verify quality and performance, and engine dynamometers can then begin to run durability phases, in which the engines can be run longer, from tens to hundreds of hours.

At this phase, additional performance and emissions testing can be achieved. Areas prone to problems associated with the fuel system, such as degradation of fuel injectors and fuel pumps, can be identified. These issues, if undetected and resolved, would become apparent to the customers in the form of increasingly noticeable power loss from the engine.

Roush can easily take an engine that has run for an extended period of time, tear it down to the critical components—valvetrain, bearings, rotating and reciprocating assemblies, fuel systems and more—and compare those to a new engine or one run on petroleum-based diesel. Any difference that might indicate increase or unusual wear is noted, and can be referred to our engineering group and the fuel producer for additional investigation. At this time, new and alternative blends of fuels, including blends such as B10, B20 and higher, can easily be evaluated.

Both at this stage and as increased volume of any given company’s biodiesel is available, real-world on-road testing and performance can become valuable indicators of the fuel quality and equivalency to petroleum diesel. Roush can build proof-of-concept demonstration vehicles containing new hardware or hardware changes for the unique fuels, or take fleets of existing vehicles and run them on biodiesel blends. With our Over-the-Road Testing group, Roush accumulates more than 30 million miles annually on vehicles ranging from cars to light-duty trucks, up to Class-8 commercial trucks. What’s the goal of all this testing? To provide accurate data for good, sound engineering decisions.

In short, the end user will want a diesel fuel that offers all the benefits of biofuels without impacting their products, and no compromises in quality and performance levels. Solid testing data can provide the proof that manufacturers and end customers require.

Author: Steven Ross
Director-Business Development, Roush Industries
(734) 779-7736
[email protected]

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