ASTM Approves New Biodiesel Blend Specifications

By Tina Caparella

After five years of extensive research and subsequent balloting by ASTM International, the biodiesel industry finally has three key sets of biodiesel specifications that should significantly bolster automaker support and consumer demand for the alternative fuel.

The biggest change to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification, ASTM D6751, is to include a requirement for a cold soak filtration test as a means to assure buyers that biodiesel won’t contain precipitates that can cause filter-plugging issues in cold weather. Initially there were concerns with the test within the biodiesel industry, including among renderers who produce biodiesel. Last winter, the rendering industry voiced their opposition to the test requirement at the ASTM subcommittee level because animal fats can sometimes test poorly under the procedure even though they are problem-free in cold weather. However, there were not enough votes to sway the subcommittee.

“We based the standards on physical and chemical properties necessary to run well in an engine, not on the specific process used or not on the feedstock that’s used,” said Steve Howell, president of MARC-IV Consulting and chair of the D02 biodiesel task group that developed the specifications. “The spec contains a verbal definition for biodiesel as well as all of its properties.”

The ASTM International D02 Main Committee also approved adding requirements for up to five percent biodiesel to existing ASTM D975, Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils, and a new specification for blends of six percent biodiesel (B6) to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) for on- and off-road diesel.

Automakers and engine manufacturers have been requesting a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends for several years, with some citing the need for that spec as the single greatest hurdle preventing their full-scale acceptance of B20 use in their diesel vehicles. Chrysler, LLC, has worked with the ASTM task force toward B20 specification development and approval and has supported fleet use of B20 in its Dodge Ram diesel pickups since January 2006.

“This action by the ASTM committee is a milestone in our nation’s effort to expand the role of renewable fuels, including biodiesel, in addressing our energy, environmental, and economic challenges,” stated Chrysler Safety and Regulatory spokesman Max Gates. “Chrysler is committed to working with our partners in the transportation industry to build on this action and make biodiesel an alternative available to all of our customers.”

General Motors (GM) is just as pleased with the new blend specification.

“The new ASTM spec for B6 to B20 is a major building block in GM’s efforts to elevate biodiesel as part of our overall energy diversity strategy,” said John Gaydash, director of marketing for GM’s Fleet and Commercial Operations. Currently, GM accepts the use of B5 in all of its diesel vehicles, and offers B20 use as a special equipment option available to government fleets on specific configurations of certain vehicles and trucks.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, the approval of ASTM specifications for inclusion of up to five percent biodiesel (B5) in regular diesel means that biodiesel could soon become more readily available at retail fueling stations nationwide.

The ASTM International D02 Main Committee also approved a fourth set of specifications for adding up to five percent biodiesel in heating oil (ASTM D396), which is gaining popularity in home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast United States.

All four new standards will take effect once they are officially published, which is expected to be three to five months after the approval in June.

Canada Passes Biofuels Bill

Canada’s Senate and House of Commons passed the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Bill C-33, which gives the Canadian government authority to develop regulations for renewable fuels mandating a five percent renewable content in gasoline by 2010 and a two percent renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012.

According to Natural Resources Canada’s GHGenius lifecycle model, the renewable fuels standard will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately four megatons per year, which is the equivalent of taking about one million cars off the road, or a solid line of cars stretching from Montreal, QB, to Vancouver, BC, Canada. Since announcing its renewable fuels requirements in 2006, the Canadian government has committed $2.2 billion over nine years to support a strong domestic renewable fuels sector in Canada.

Case Approves B20 for Construction Equipment

Case Construction Equipment has approved the use of 20 percent biodiesel blends for more than 85 percent of its construction equipment. In 2006, the company approved the use of five percent biodiesel blends for its equipment.

Biodiesel fuels approved for use must comply with ASTM D6751. Case recommends purchasing biodiesel from BQ 9000 accredited suppliers to maintain the quality and consistency of the fuel.

EC to Investigate U.S. Biodiesel Imports

Anti-subsidy and anti-dumping complaints lodged in late April 2008 by the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) have been heard by the European Commission (EC), which has decided there is sufficient evidence that subsidies to the U.S. biodiesel industry have had an adverse effect on the European biodiesel industry (see “Biofuels Bulletin” in the June 2008 Render). A detailed investigation by the commission will determine whether measures are justified under European Union (EU) trade rules. The EC said it will make its provisional findings by March 13, 2009, at the latest, which it will then present to the EU member states.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB), which represents the U.S. biodiesel industry, said the allegations are baseless and unfounded.

“The European biodiesel industry is not being harmed by U.S. competition,” said Manning Feraci, NBB’s vice president of Federal Affairs. “High feedstock costs, changes to EU member policies, and, in some cases, poor business practices are the true issues facing European biodiesel producers. It is unfortunate that the EBB has found it politically expedient to blame the U.S. biodiesel industry instead of focusing on efforts on the true challenges facing its membership.

“The NBB will not only vigorously defend the interests of the U.S. biodiesel industry, but will employ every tool available to challenge existing EU trade barriers that provide preferential treatment to European biodiesel producers,” Feraci added.

Shortly after the EC’s announcement, EBB released annual biodiesel production statistics for Europe, which showed a much lower growth rate in 2007 compared to previous years. Biodiesel production increased from 4.9 million metric tons (1.3 billion gallons) in 2006 to 5.7 million metric tons (1.5 billion gallons) in 2007, representing a yearly growth of only 16.8 percent compared to 54 percent in 2006 and 65 percent in 2005. Installed plant capacity increased by 55 percent in 2007 to 16 million metric tons (4.3 billion gallons) from the 214 biodiesel plants reported as of July 2008.

Last year, biodiesel accounted for 76 percent of the biofuels consumed in the European Union. Europe remains the world’s largest producer and consumer of biodiesel, according to EBB, producing 68 percent of biodiesel manufactured worldwide in 2007.

Grant Awarded to San Francisco for Grease-to-Biodiesel Facility

The California Energy Commission has awarded the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) a $1 million grant to build the city’s first pilot grease-to-biodiesel production facility.

The facility will be sited at the SFPUC’s Oceanside sewage treatment plant and will attempt to create three grades of biodiesel from some of the 2.5 million gallons of brown grease generated by the city’s restaurants. In November 2007, San Francisco launched a program to collect waste cooking oil from local restaurants that is then sold to biodiesel producers who convert it to biodiesel to fuel the city’s fleet. SFPUC also manages that program. Construction of the brown grease biodiesel facility is expected to be complete by December 2008.

Although more challenging than waste cooking oil, brown grease can be refined and produced into three grades of biodiesel:

• high-grade ASTM certified biodiesel for vehicles;

• lower grade biofuel source for running sewage treatment plant diesel turbines and pumps; and

• rich energy for cogeneration – the process of capturing methane gas at the sewage plant and converting that to heating/electrical needs.

Mississippi State Receives Research Funds

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $200,000 to Mississippi State University (MSU) for research to transform wastewater treatment plant sludge into biodiesel. Funds from the grant will build upon the research that MSU is conducting in the field of renewable, sustainable fuels.

The research will be conducted as part of EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s Regionally Applied Research Effort program. A team led by Dr. Rafael Hernandez and Dr. Todd French will conduct research into microorganisms to extract lipids, which are the fatty substances, from the sludge. It will then be converted into biodiesel. The research team will also evaluate the life cycle energy costs to determine the process’ net energy and environmental effectiveness.

NBB Welcomes Two Board Members

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has elected two new members to its 15-member governing board to replace several departing biodiesel producers.

Greg Hopkins, of U.S. Biofuels, and Scott Johnson, of GEN-X Energy Group, will replace outgoing board members Graham Noyes, Imperium Renewables, and Jake Stewart, Organic Fuels. Since Noyes was serving as secretary, the board elected member Jim Conway, Griffin Industries, as secretary.

Nova Plants Running Strong

In late June, Nova Biosource Fuels, Inc., completed commissioning the third and final 20 million gallon per year production train at its biodiesel facility in Seneca, IL, having run the train at or above capacity using feedstocks with free fatty acid (FFA) levels in excess of 10 percent. As of July 1, 2008, the plant has produced nearly five million gallons of ASTM D6751 biodiesel. Operations are now underway to procure additional feedstock to bring online all three trains simultaneously in preparation for a test run.

Nova has also said the repairs at the Scott biodiesel facility in Greenville, MS, were completed on schedule in mid-June with the plant up and running at near capacity using animal fat with FFA levels of between two and five percent. The plant previously was damaged after a mechanical pump failure.

Pennsylvania Mandates Biodiesel Use

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell signed two pieces of legislation in July that will require fuels in the state contain a percentage of biodiesel and ethanol, and provide the state’s biodiesel producers a financial incentive on the fuel they make.

The biofuel percentage requirements established under House Bill 1202 will go into effect once in-state production reaches certain levels, adding as much as one billion gallons of biofuels to the state’s fuel supply. The law established that all diesel fuel sold at retail must contain:

• two percent biodiesel, once in-state production reaches 40 million gallons;
• five percent biodiesel, once in-state production reaches 100 million gallons;
• 10 percent biodiesel, once in-state production reaches 200 million gallons; and
• 20 percent biodiesel, once in-state production reaches 400 million gallons.

The new law also requires all gasoline sold at retail to contain 10 percent ethanol, once in-state cellulosic ethanol production reaches 350 million gallons. Currently, Pennsylvania has seven biodiesel facilities with a total capacity of 80 million gallons per year. However, current production is only about seven million gallons per year, but is estimated to increase to 50 million gallons per year once the subsidy goes into effect. Estimates also put construction of new or expanded facilities at up to 200 million gallons per year with the new mandate. The state’s first large-scale ethanol plant – a 100 million gallon per year operation – is under construction in Clearfield County.

To help spur in-state production, Special Session Senate Bill 22 allows Pennsylvania to invest $5.3 million in its biodiesel producers annually through June 30, 2011, in the form of a 75 cent per gallon subsidy that will be capped at $1.9 million per year per producer.

Rotterdam to be Site of Renewable Diesel Plant

Neste Oil will build an 800,000 metric ton (217 million gallons) per year plant to produce its NExBTL renewable diesel in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Construction has begun with completion scheduled in 2011. Total cost of the project is $670 million Euro. Neste Oil announced in November 2007 a similar-sized plant to be built in Singapore.

NExBTL renewable diesel is based on Neste Oil’s proprietary technology and can use a range of feedstocks. At its plant in Finland, a mix of palm oil, rapeseed oil, and animal fat is used to produce renewable diesel. The fuel can be used in all diesel engines.

Speedboat Record Shattered on Second Try

On June 27, 2008, Earthrace smashed the world speed record for a powerboat to circumnavigate the globe, completing the journey in 60 days, 23 hours, and 49 minutes, knocking almost 14 days off the previous record. The boat travelled 24,000 nautical miles fueled by biodiesel to demonstrate and draw global attention to the potential for alternative fuel sources.

Earthrace is a 24 meter tri-hull wavepiercer built in New Zealand. She set off from Spain on April 27, 2008, in a second attempt to challenge the world record that has remained unbroken since 1998 when it was set by the British boat, Cable and Wireless Adventurer. Earthrace’s previous attempt last year was met with disasters and obstacles that could not be overcome.

This attempt had its own challenges and obstacles, the most of which were the replacement of the boat’s driveshaft and propeller after hitting sea debris in Palau, encountering monsoon conditions in the Indian Ocean, and bypassing a massive backlog of ships waiting to transit the Panama Canal.

Skipper Pete Bethune, a former oil worker, has dedicated the past six years of his life towards reaching his goal of smashing the record in his boat using biodiesel.

“We’re completely stoked to have achieved something so incredible,” said Bethune. “Earthrace’s success has proved that any form of transport, including marine, can be non-damaging to the environment as well as being high performance.”

Texas Facility Locks In Animal Fat Agreement

GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of GreenHunter Energy, Inc., has entered into a two-year biodiesel toll processing agreement with an unnamed third party for animal fats to be used as a feedstock in the company’s new biodiesel facility in Houston, TX. The agreement is for up to 25 percent of GreenHunter’s 105 million gallon per year production capacity. The first shipment of animal fats arrived via railroad in June.

Claiming to be the largest biodiesel refinery in the United States, operations at the facility began in early June. GreenHunter Energy’s Renewable Fuels Campus is a zero emissions facility composed of four predominate components: the 105 million gallon per year biodiesel plant, a 700,000 barrel bulk liquid terminal operation, a 200 million pound per year glycerin distillation system, and a 45,000 barrel per month methanol distillation tower. The biodiesel plant is feedstock neutral.

Taiwan Requires Biodiesel in Fuel

According to The China Post, the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taiwan will require all diesel fuel to be mixed with one percent of biodiesel derived from waste cooking oil beginning July 15, 2008. The move is part of a campaign launched by the new administration led by President Ma Ying-jeou to conserve energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

It is estimated that adding one percent biodiesel will reduce the consumption of diesel in the country by 38.5 million liters (10 million gallons) each year. Any extra costs of the requirement will be absorbed by the energy enterprises, namely the state-run Chinese Petroleum Corp., Taiwan, and the private sector’s Formosa Petrochemical Corp.

The Energy Bureau previously launched a test project using biodiesel in buses and government vehicles in several areas. The pilot project has been using diesel containing two to five percent biodiesel in more than 500 buses in Kaohsiung City and Chiayi County in southern Taiwan since January 2007 that has proven extremely successful.

Biodiesel in Taiwan is generated from waste cooking oil. The country’s Environmental Protection Administration already requires households and restaurants to recycle their waste cooking oil so that it can be processed into biodiesel.

Tyson Updates Biofuels Progress

At an investment conference in early June, Jeff Webster, senior vice president of Tyson Foods’ Renewable Products Division, provided an update on the company’s strategic alliance with ConocoPhillips to convert fat into renewable diesel. The two companies experienced a successful start-up in December 2007 and are now producing 300 to 500 barrels of renewable diesel per day.

“The progress we’ve made in producing renewable diesel helps animal agriculture and does not directly impact the food chain,” Webster stated. “We hope future decisions by Congress regarding investment incentives do not impede our company’s ability to make these contributions.”

Webster also updated Tyson’s participation in Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture with Syntroleum Corporation, to convert low grade, inedible fats and greases into renewable synthetic diesel, jet, and military fuel. Dynamic Fuels has secured preliminary approval for $100 million in tax exempt Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone Bonds to fund the building of the company’s first renewable synthetic fuels facility in Geismar, LA.

Equipment requiring a long lead time has been ordered, process engineering for the project is complete, and final approval for plans were given in mid-July.

The project’s $138 million budget was also approved, which includes the $100 million in GO Zone Bonds. The $38 million balance will be funded through equity contributions in the form of a $19 million per owner cash commitment, of which a total of $13.25 million was delivered on July 11, 2008.

Construction is expected to begin in October 2008 with mechanical completion of the plant expected by year end 2009. Once in operation, the plant will produce about 75 million gallons of renewable synthetic fuel annually.

Waste Oil Producers Recycle for Own Use

Enterprises that generate a significant amount of waste cooking oil are turning what they traditionally dispose of into a fuel being pumped back into company vehicles.

Ukrop’s Super Markets, Inc., in Richmond, VA, has begun recycling the oil from its chicken-frying operation by processing it into biodiesel for its 15 trucks and 45 refrigerated trailers that serve 28 local stores in the area. Ukrop’s expects to produce 50,000 to 65,000 gallons of biodiesel per year in a partnership with RECO Biodiesel, Inc., who will collect the used oil from participating Ukrop’s and process it into the alternative fuel. It will then be blended with petroleum diesel to be pumped into Ukrop’s fleet.

Libby Hill, a Greensboro, NC-based, seafood restaurant, has entered into a partnership with Patriot Biodiesel to refine the waste cooking oil from its 11 area restaurants into biodiesel. Libby Hill estimates the company uses 800,000 to one million pounds of vegetable oil a year, with roughly 10 percent of the oil remaining after cooking. The exchange with Patriot Biodiesel will provide about a third of the needed fuel for Libby Hill’s fleet of five diesel-powered trucks.

Biofuels Bulletin – August 2008 RENDER | back