Magellan Drum Farm Project to address storage, oxidation issues

By | April 01, 2006
The oxidative stability of biodiesel is by far the most critical issue in vehicle application of the fuel. In association with the National Biodiesel Board, Magellan Midstream Partners LLP will begin its Drum Farm Project in May, which compares accelerated stability methods to actual storage results, where biodiesel has been contained in 55-gallon steel drums for the duration of a year.

The same fuels that were tested at the bench level were also stored for one year in real-world conditions, which include exposure to seasonal temperature variations in Kansas City, Mo., and periodic exposure to air and agitation. Throughout the storage period, samples are drawn from the drums, and the degree of fuel degradation is assessed.

Because temperature cannot be controlled in open-air storage, water can collect in drums or tanks containing biodiesel, causing the growth of fungus. Also, interaction with the air can easily result in the formation of oligmers-gummy, insoluble compounds that result from the oxidation of methyl esters. "In tests where we left the biodiesel tanks outside for two weeks at a time, you could clearly see that the biodiesel had degraded," said Howard Fang, technical advisor for Cummins Inc.'s fuel and lubes group. He consulted with Rod Lawrence, Magellan Midstream Partners vice chairman, on new procedures for the testing of biodiesel.

Because of the various blends and feedstocks associated with the fuel, increasing stability can be a tedious task. "It is a multi-headed beast we have to slay here," Lawrence said. For instance, there is low-sulfur and ultra-low-sulfur petro-diesel that is blended with biodiesel in different percentages-B5, B10, B20, etc.-and biodiesel refined from different feedstocks also has varying levels of oxidization stability. Fang said the best two agents of promoting biodiesel stability are additization technology and the increased presence of natural antioxidants like vitamin E contained in biodiesel.

The 2006 project is open to all companies that may be interested in evaluating their normal production, the stability of biodiesel made with various feedstocks, and their interactions with petroleum-based fuels, including ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, and the efficacy of stability additives. "The anticipated timeline provides for candidate fuels to be selected in late April and early May," Lawrence said.

All inquiries should be directed to Deanna Angst-Hyland at: [email protected].
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