Biodiesel Clears Significant Hurdle

Finished specification for renewable fuel blend gets the not from a key standards committee.

Published on: Jun 17, 2008

In the world of fuels, getting into the market requires making sure the finished product meets critical standards. This week biodiesel got a significant boost with the announcement that the American Society of Testing and Materials Subcommittee E voted "overwhelmingly" to recommend the finished specifications of biofuels blends, according to a National Biodiesel Board press announcement.

The subcommittee will recommend the following to the ASTM D02 Main Committee in its final vote later this week:

  • Finished specifications include up to 5% biodiesel in the conventional petrodiesel specification.
  • Changes to the existing B100 - 100% biodiesel - blend stock specification.
  • A new specification for blends between 6% to 20% biodiesel for on- and off-road diesel.

NBB reports that automakers and engine manufacturers have been anticipating the B6-to-B20 specification for more than five years. All three proposals were balloted to the D02 Main Committee for consideration at the semi-annual ASTM International meeting being held in Vancouver, B.C., this week. The Main Committee will render its vote this Thursday, June 19.

"While it's not over until the last vote is cast at the main committee Thursday, passage of these ballots is a sort of 'rite of passage' that the auto and petroleum industries have said they need in order to more fully support and endorse B20 and lower blends," said Steve Howell, Chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. "It is quite remarkable that the big oil companies and engine makers on the committee have now joined forces with the biodiesel industry to help approve these standards."

NBB notes it is rare for an ASTM subcommittee vote to be overturned at the main committee level, and the overwhelming vote count for passage is a promising sign for the Thursday Main Committee vote.

Biodiesel is a domestically produced, renewable alternative to diesel fuel and can be made from vegetable oils, animal fats, recycled cooking oils or new sources such as algae. Biodiesel must be properly processed to meet the approved ASTM specifications regardless of the feedstock used to produce it. Biodiesel blends using B100 meeting ASTM specifications can be used in any diesel engine without modifications, and nearly all major automakers and engine manufacturers in the U.S. currently accept the use of at least B5, with some such as Cummins, New Holland and Caterpillar already accepting blends of B20 or higher. Several more companies are expected to raise their approvals to B20 pending the expected passage of the final ASTM specifications for B6-B20 blends this week.