Updates to the biodiesel standards published by ASTM International includes specifications for up to 5% biodiesel in the regular diesel fuel pool and creates a new standard that covers finished fuel blends of between 6% (B6) and 20% (B20) biodiesel for both on- and off-road diesel engine use.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, jointly supported the research.

The revised standards were first approved this June, then continued to process review before garnering final approval yesterday. According to ASTM, petroleum corporations, biodiesel manufacturers, engine companies, military representatives, government representatives, researchers and academics participated in the standards' development, as the more than 2,000 members in the ASTM D02 committee reviewed and voted on the standards.

"The specifications define properties and controls critical to the viable use of biodiesel blends in the marketplace,” said Roger Gault, technical director for the Engine Manufacturers Association, who participated in the standards' development. “These standards, when fully enforced, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission pump labeling requirements, will provide engine manufacturers and their customers confidence that the fuels will perform as expected.”

ASTM D975, Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils, was revised to include requirements for up to 5% biodiesel for on- and off- road diesel applications, while the new designation ASTM D7467 covers B6 through B20 biodiesel.

In addition, ASTM D6751, Specification for Biodiesel Fuel Blend Stock (B100) for Middle Distillate Fuels, was amended to include a requirement that controls minor compounds using a new cold soak filterability test. The standard is mandated in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was signed into law by President Bush in December 2007.

“The new ASTM standards for biodiesel blends are the result of years of negotiation between the various parties at ASTM and years of research on how the properties of biodiesel blends affect engine performance,” said Bob McCormick, Principal Engineer on Fuels Performance at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “NREL has conducted extensive research over the past 4 years to support development of these standards, which we believe will lead to an expansion of markets for biodiesel while at the same time ensuring that users have trouble-free performance.”

“Renewable fuels like biodiesel will play a key role in our effort to become more energy independent and address climate change,” said Dawn Fenton, director of policy for The Diesel Technology Forum. “These new national standards come at a critical time, and will be essential to greater use of biodiesel in the years ahead.”

The standards apply to all finished biodiesel blends, regardless of the type of feedstock used to make the fuel, according to the National Biodiesel Board. ASTM defines biodiesel as a "fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100."

"This is the first time that a non-petroleum substance has been formally allowed in a petroleum specification, at least on the diesel side," said Steve Howell, president of MARC-IV Consulting and chair of the ASTM biodiesel task force. "We've had ethanol as part of the gasoline specification for some time, but we've never had biodiesel as part of the diesel fuel specification until now."

According to the National Biodiesel Board, all major automakers and engine manufacturers in the U.S. currently accept the use of at least B5, while approximately 50% of U.S. manufacturers accept B20 blends or higher in at least some of their equipment.

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