ASTM efforts provide backbone for OEM biodiesel support

By NBB | August 26, 2013

The ASTM Biodiesel Task Force has been pretty quiet lately, and that’s good news for consumers. The past 20 years of intense National Biodiesel Board activity conducting testing and improving the specifications is having the desired effect of providing a fuel that users are confident in.

Most don’t realize the tremendous amount of research and testing it takes to secure an ASTM fuel standard, which virtually every petroleum and engine company votes on. Over the years, NBB has invested millions of dollars in research to address questions and concerns expressed by the engine and vehicle manufacturers, by the petroleum industry, by regulators, and by the user community. Some of these changes were made to address problems that were observed in the field, while other changes were needed to bolster the overall confidence of OEMs. The evolution in new diesel engines and aftertreatment exhaust systems led to the addition of specifications to protect diesel oxidation catalyst and particulate traps, and other changes were because of the move to ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel.

Over the past two years, both with biodiesel production exceeding 1 billion gallons, problems from the field have been no more than those of conventional petrodiesel alone—maybe even less. All the research, testing and specification work by NBB has resulted in wide-scale support from the engine and vehicle community. More than 75 percent of the OEMs doing business in the U.S. now support B20 in all or part of their product line—including the recently released 2013 Chevy Cruze diesel passenger car, the new 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 diesel pickup truck, and the Ford F250 pickup truck.

The good news for biodiesel producers is that NBB is continuing to conduct research and testing to address questions raised as engines, vehicles and base diesel fuel change to meet ever-increasing U.S. EPA emissions and fuel economy requirements—and the remaining questions from OEMs that haven’t issued B20 support yet. Current testing includes research to ensure the metals specifications have been set correctly for the full useful life of the new diesel aftertreatment system catalysts for the 435,000-mile EPA lifetime certification values each OEM must meet.

Working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, additional information is being researched on advice for applications where fuel is stored for more than a year, to gain additional information on cold flow properties, and to confirm the performance of the new No. 1-B biodiesel grade in extremely cold weather. The NBB and the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force are also monitoring issues and problems being experienced with ULSD containing no biodiesel, such as reports of internal injector coking with some new high-pressure common rail fuel injection systems, and of corrosion in some fuel station tanks.  

NBB believes this ongoing work with the OEMs and petroleum industry will be even more important as the U.S. embarks on efforts to reintroduce the diesel passenger car to the U.S. market. As OEMs work to meet ever-increasing fuel economy standards, these new passenger cars, such as the B20-approved Chevy Cruze, will grow in popularity. The new generation of diesel passenger cars is clean, quiet and powerful. They get comparable mileage to gasoline-electric hybrids, often at a lower price, and with new emissions catalysts they are as clean as or cleaner than natural gas vehicles. If you haven’t driven a new diesel car lately, you should!  

Users and biodiesel producers alike can take comfort in the fact that NBB is working cooperatively with engine and vehicle manufacturers to make sure the biodiesel blends will work as well in these new diesel passenger cars as conventional petroleum diesel, if not better.

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