Biodiesel Needs/Deserves Support
Although he supports the commitment to quality the industry has made, Marttinen remains concerned that low quality biodiesel could have a negative impact on clean diesel technologies such as his company has developed. "Modern electronic controls are sufficient to correct the behavior of the engine in regards to the fuel, but mechanical parts of fuel injection and catalysts are not able to handle low quality bio blends," he said. "With first generation biodiesel, we do not recommend blends over 5 percent and then only from a list of biodiesel suppliers committed to BQ9000."
John Deere started using biodiesel at the B2 biodiesel blend in factory fills about eight years ago before transitioning to B5. "If you put good, high quality biodiesel in the tractor, we don't worry about the blend; however, if it is above B5, we recommend additives be used," said Don Borgman, director, industry relations, John Deere. "Biodiesel does have different characteristics from diesel fuel, and if water gets in the storage tank, you get opportunity for corrosion and bacterial growth. You need to treat it so you don't get microbial deposits."
Borgman also congratulated the National Biodiesel Board and its efforts and success in enhancing quality control. "They had some immature plants without the quality control needed, and they went to work on that," he said. "We don't see one iota more quality issues with biodiesel today than we do with regular diesel."
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
Kevin Lockart, energy consultant, Ag-Land FS, is an enthusiastic, indeed, evangelical supporter of biodiesel. As a distributor and user of biodiesel, Ag-Land FS has embraced the fuel and addressed concerns in an aggressive manner. The company purchases all of its biodiesel from REG, a BQ9000 supplier. However, Lockart argued a quality supply is not enough, due in part to those differences to which Marttinen referred. In particular, the affinity of biofuel for water, a quality shared ironically, by Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) creates problems in extended storage.
"We address the water problem through additives, but another problem is clean tanks," said Lockart. "If you are considering going to biodiesel, tank cleaning is step number one. You can't put biodiesel in a dirty tank and then blame your problems on the fuel. We recommend it for ULSD as well."
Ag-Land FS takes this concern seriously enough that they won't sell biodiesel to a commercial customer who won't allow Ag-Land FS to clean the tank first. They also recommend tank cleaning to farm customers.