Avoid Biodiesel Problems in Colder Weather

With onset of colder temperatures farmers and other fuel users need to follow these guidelines.

Biodiesel fuel use among Iowans has expanded greatly in recent months. Due to Iowa's unpredictable weather, it is important to properly handle and store biodiesel. Like conventional diesel fuel, biodiesel and biodiesel blends should be handled to ensure that equipment runs well. As weather turns colder, users, distributors and blenders of biodiesel must act to prevent future problems.

The Iowa Soybean Association last week published the following guidelines. The information and recommendations come from the staff of the National Biodiesel Board, which gathered this information from researchers and other experts who work with these fuels.

Cold temperature operations

Like diesel fuel, biodiesel requires close attention when being stored, blended and distributed in cold weather. Biodiesel blends up to B20 (a blend containing 20% biodiesel) can be used successfully in cold weather. The first step to successful use of biodiesel in cold weather is to identify cold flow properties or gel points of the fuel in use. If an outside blender is used, make him or her accountable for the winter operability requirements.

Common winterizing practices include adding No. 1 grade diesel or kerosene to the diesel fuel. B100 (pure 100% biodiesel) cannot presently be treated successfully with conventional winter fuel additives. Additives only lower the gel point of petroleum diesel fuel in order to make room for the biodiesel blend. The combination of diesel fuel, biodiesel and a winterizing agent will perform the necessary modification to effectively use up to a B20 biodiesel blend in most cold weather environments.

Storage tank maintenance

When storing biodiesel or petroleum diesel, it is important to follow practical tank management steps to ensure the quality of the fuel. Petroleum-based diesel fuel and biodiesel need to be protected in order for its quality to be maintained. Protecting fuel can be accomplished by following these basic but crucial fuel quality guidelines:

1) Keep storage tank topped off.
2) Monitor and eliminate water or condensation.
3) Obtain access to an analytical lab for future fuel testing or problem-solving.
4) Do not add additives to previously treated fuel; using more additives is not always beneficial. Follow guidelines of reputable fuel distributors.
5) Additives should not be used once a fuel meets or falls below its posted cloud point.
6) Inspect the fill and vapor caps for damage and missing gaskets, be sure to replace when necessary. Consider using a desiccant dryer or filter on vent pipes to limit moisture contamination.
7) Consider replacing generic paper-based fuel pump tank filters with synthetic glass-based biofilters.
8) It is a good idea when storing fuel to have a lab run a microbiological evaluation of the fuel at least once per year to ensure that no contamination exists in the tank.
9) If storage of higher blends (more than B20) is intended beyond six months, it is recommended that you add a fuel stabilizer. Biodiesel requires a specific stabilizer that can be obtained through a reputable, experienced fuel additive supplier.
10) Lastly, be prepared. The ultimate success in purchasing, storing, blending, using and shipping biodiesel starts with knowing what is bought, keeping supply sources accountable for upholding quality and learning about biodiesel basics.

To receive a complete copy of the Biodiesel Fuel Quality and Performance Guide, contact the Iowa Soybean Association at (800) 383-1423 or log on to the ISA Web site at www.iasoybeans.com or www.soybiodiesel.com. More information is also available at www.biodiesel.org.

TAGS: USDA
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