After five years of research and balloting, ASTM International D02 Main Committee has approved three sets of biodiesel specifications that alternative fuel advocates hope will generate increased automaker and consumer enthusiasm for biodiesel.

The approved specifications are: changes to the existing B100 biodiesel blend stock specification, finished specifications to include up to 5% biodiesel (B5) in the conventional petrodiesel specification, and a new specification for blends of between 6% biodiesel (B6) to 20% biodiesel (B20) for on- and off- road diesel.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, automakers and engine manufacturers have long sought a finished blend specification for B20 biodiesel blends, and some have labeled the need for the spec as the greatest hurdle preventing the full-scale acceptance of B20 in diesel vehicles.

“The new ASTM specifications for B6-B20 blends will aid engine manufacturers in their engine design and testing processes to optimize the performance of vehicles running on biodiesel,” said Steve Howell, chairman of the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. “The new specifications will also help ensure that only the highest quality biodiesel blends are made available to consumers at the retail pump.”

The B5 approval for the regular diesel fuel pool may mean biodiesel will become more readily available at U.S. retail fueling stations, the National Biodiesel Board said.

“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,” said Chrysler safety and regulatory spokesman Max Gates.

“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 General Motors fleet and commercial operations. “We are eager to work with the National Biodiesel Board on efforts to continue to ensure biodiesel fuel quality, as well as to increase our support for biodiesel use in our diesel vehicle lineup.”

“We have been running our entire fleet on B20 biodiesel blends for the past seven years in order to meet state requirements for alternative fuel use, and because it is the right thing to do to help clean up our environment,” said James Morwood, fleet services manager for the Las Vegas Valley Water District. “In some cases that has meant exceeding the biodiesel blend level recommended by some of the automakers represented in our fleet. It is reassuring to know that those automakers now have the ASTM specifications they have said they need in order for them to fully support B20 use.”

Biodiesel is a renewable alternative to diesel fuel made from plant oils, animal fats, recycled cooking oils or new sources such as algae. Biodiesel blends up to B20 can be used in any diesel engine without modifications, with most major U.S. automakers and manufacturers accepting at least B5 with some accepting B20 or higher.

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