Biofuel analysis released by US, Brazil, EU
Feb 28, 2008 3:09 PM
The governments of the United States, Brazil, and the European Union (EU) have released an analysis of current biofuel specifications, according to information from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
In the United States, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 sets a 7.5 billion gallon goal for national biofuel consumption (usually ethanol) by 2012. Brazil, a significant exporter of ethanol, already requires up to a 25 percent blend of ethanol with all gasoline that is sold. The EU has established a bioethanol blend mandate for its member states of 5.75 percent by 2010, and at least 10 percent of all vehicle fuels by 2020, according to the NIST information.
The analysis points out that one potential obstacle to achieving greater efficiency in the global biofuels market is confusion over differing, and sometimes conflicting, standards for characterizing the make-up and properties of biofuels. To clarify the current situation and identify potential roadblocks to improved compatibility, the United States and Brazilian governments and the EC convened a task force of experts from standards developing organizations to compare critical specifications in existing standards used globally (factors such as content, physical characteristics and contaminant levels that govern fuel quality) for pure bioethanol and biodiesel, two key biofuels.
The White Paper published in early February identifies where key specifications in the standards are:
•Similar (and can be considered compatible).
•Different, but could be reconciled in a short period.
•Irreconcilably different as they stand.
The task force found that the three sets of bioethanol and biodiesel standards, and the specifications they contain, share much common ground and, therefore, impose few impediments to biofuel trade. Nine of the 16 ethanol specifications reviewed are “in alignment” and all but one of the remaining specifications could be aligned in the short term, according to the NIST information.
For biodiesel, the report lists six specifications as compatible. It suggests that many of the remaining differences could be handled by blending various types of biodiesel to create an end product that meets regional specifications for fuel quality and emissions.
Recognizing that many of the issues relating to variations in specifications can be traced to different measurement procedures and methods, two metrology institutes, NIST and Brazil’s National Institute of Metrology, Standardization and Industrial Quality (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Normalizacao e Qualidade Industrial or INMETRO), are collaborating on the development of joint measurement standards for bioethanol and biodiesel to complement the efforts of the standards developing organizations.
Initial efforts focus on creating certified reference materials to support development and testing of bioethanol and biodiesel, and analytical measurement methods for source identification (to determine if a fuel comes from a renewable or non-renewable source and the source of origin of biodiesel, for example: soy, palm oil, animal fat, etc.) by the end of 2008.
More information about the analysis, including the 94-page White Paper and a fact sheet, can be found online at nist.gov .
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