DETROIT, Mich. -- Manufacturers, policy makers, regulators and biodiesel industry representatives met on Monday, March 12, for a Biodiesel Summit to identify and remove barriers to widespread acceptance of biodiesel blends of up to 20 percent by volume (B20) by engine and vehicle manufacturers.

DaimlerChrysler, a sponsor of the B20 Summit, challenged the group to come up with a viable fuel standard for the B20 finished blend.

"Biodiesel represents a huge opportunity to address some of our nation's toughest energy, environmental and economic challenges," said Deborah Morrissett, DaimlerChrysler's VP of Regulatory Affairs. "We know this is the right thing to do -- so the goal now is to develop a national B20 standard that can be universally applied to all diesel vehicles, both on road and in production, to confidently support higher blends of biodiesel such as B20."

A major step toward full B20 support is finalization of a defined B20 American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specification. The ASTM B20 specification moved closer to reality in recent months when the group approved new limits in ASTM D 6751, the existing standard for pure (B100) biodiesel, for oxidation stability and other parameters needed for 2007/2010 diesel engines. "The B100 standard has been designed so that it is protective of B20 and lower blends," said Steve Howell, NBB Technical Director and Chairman of the ASTM Task Force on biodiesel standards, "but regulators need us to approve a finished blend standard to hold people to, and engine makers need something they can design to."

The multi-industry Biodiesel Summit group met at the NextEnergy Center, Michigan's alternative and renewable energy business incubator, located in Detroit's TechTown district.

Beyond the final approval of the B20 finished fuel standard, participants identified several areas that need additional study and funding to bolster full B20 support, including:

  • Long-term effects of B20 on emissions control and after-treatment devices
  • Long-term engine durability testing
  • Greater fuel quality monitoring efforts to ensure the fuel standards are being met.

  • "If we want to increase our economic competitiveness, strengthen energy security and help protect the environment, we have to provide customers with more clean, domestically-produced energy options," said Jim Croce, NextEnergy CEO. "Biodiesel has the most immediate potential to succeed. It's sustainable, renewable and doesn't require new invention."

    The biodiesel industry is already looking to the future with the next generation of biodiesel. "Our goals for next generation biodiesel are to optimize biodiesel's fatty acid profile for cold flow and stability, optimize agriculture for higher production of oils and fats from traditional crops, and to develop non-traditional additional crops like micro-algae for biodiesel, or even crops that can be grown on marginal land or using brownfield sites," said Donnell Rehagen, NBB Chief Operations Officer, who spoke at the summit.

    "In my 40-plus years as an agricultural scientist and administrator, I have never experienced such exciting times in agriculture," said Gale Buchanan, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "The era of bioenergy and bioproducts is clearly agriculture's "Grand Challenge" for the 21st Century."

    All major OEMs support B5 and lower blends, provided they are made with biodiesel meeting ASTM D 6751, the existing ASTM standard for pure biodiesel (B100). Use of blends higher than B5 will not necessarily void existing warranties. A growing number of OEMs are also recommending that users purchase biodiesel from BQ-9000 certified companies. BQ-9000 is the biodiesel industry's quality program for biodiesel producers and marketers.

    While full B20 support is the goal, several auto and equipment manufacturers have recognized that the market may not be willing to wait years for it to happen. DaimlerChrysler was the first auto manufacturer to approve the use of B20 by government, military and commercial fleet customers in its 2007 model year Dodge Ram pickup truck. New Holland has also approved the use of B20 in all of its equipment using New Holland engines, becoming the first OEM to announce full formal support for B20 in the engines it produces.

    Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel that is made from domestic resources such as soybean oil or other domestic fats and vegetable oils. B20 and lower blends can be used in any diesel engine with no modifications. Biodiesel significantly cuts harmful environmental emissions, promotes greater energy independence, and boosts our economy.

    SOURCE: National Biodiesel Board.