This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 25, 2008

New Biodiesel Standard Allows Automaker Approval of 20% Blends

ASTM International, one of the largest standards development organizations in the world, has approved a new specification for diesel fuel blends containing 6%-20% biodiesel. According to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), ASTM standards for the 20% biodiesel blends, or B20, are a crucial hurdle for the full acceptance of the use of such blends in diesel vehicles. With the new specification in place, automakers and engine manufacturers can test B20 in their diesel engines and know that consumers will be fueling their vehicle with a fuel of the same quality. Currently, Chrysler LLC supports the use of B20 in its Dodge Ram diesel pickups, but only for use in fleets. Likewise, General Motors Corporation accepts the use of 5% biodiesel blends, or B5, in all its vehicles, but limits the use of B20 to special equipment options available only to government fleets in a limited selection of vehicles. While setting the new B20 standard, ASTM International also made changes to its specifications for B5 and for 100% biodiesel, or B100. See the NBB press release.

Image of a label that says 'B-20 Biodiesel Blend' followed by smaller print that says 'contains biomass-based diesel or biodiesel in quantities between 5 percent and 20 percent.'

The FTC will require pumps with biodiesel blends to carry a blue label, while biomass-based diesel blends will carry an orange label. The somewhat confusing "small print" was required by the energy act.
Credit: Federal Trade Commission

Engine warranty concerns also came into play in a recent effort to create labeling requirements for diesel fuels containing renewable fuel blends. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set labeling requirements that address the blending of biodiesel and other types of biomass-based diesel fuels into diesel fuel. Some companies are converting biomass such as animal fats directly into a liquid with the properties of diesel fuel, a product that blurs the lines between biodiesel and diesel fuel. At first, the FTC proposed to treat all renewable diesel fuels the same, but the NBB warned that not all biomass-based diesel fuels would necessarily meet the ASTM standards required by automakers for diesel fuels. On the other hand, biomass-based diesel fuels that meet ASTM standards could be used in much higher concentrations than biodiesel, which is usually limited to 20% biodiesel blends for standard diesel vehicles. Considering those comments, the FTC decided to set separate labeling requirements for biodiesel blends and biomass-based diesel fuel blends. See the FTC press release and the final ruling (PDF 213 KB). Download Adobe Reader.