Low temperatures may be less of a problem in the future for biodiesel users thanks to a recent research project that involved Integrity Biofuels, the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and Purdue University.

Arctic testing in Alaska in early March demonstrated the viability of the Permaflo Biodiesel product that was developed through the joint effort of the three groups. Dr Bernie Tao at Purdue directed the research effort. The Indiana Soybean Alliance provided the funding. Integrity Biofuels (a division of Grammer industries Inc) produced the biodiesel for the Alaska test.

"We were thrilled to be part of this test, because we believe Permaflo biodiesel has a lot of potential," says John S Whittington, Integrity Biofuels vice-president. “The Alaska test was a success. This fuel eliminates one of the biggest biodiesel problems for truckers—the tendency of biodiesel to freeze up and clog fuel filters in low temperatures.

"This is a major breakthrough for biodiesel. The Permaflo test fuel ran perfectly in frigid Alaska temperatures. This technology has proven it can drastically lower the cloud point of biodiesel and eliminate cold weather problems."

Permaflo is a biodiesel product that goes through additional refining to separate saturated from unsaturated methyl esters, which have a lower cloud point. This results in a biodiesel that can handle extreme cold down to -67 degrees F.

Using the process developed at Purdue, Integrity Biofuels produced several thousand gallons of Permaflo biodiesel. In February, 250 gallons of B100 Permaflo fuel was shipped in totes to Anchorage AK. The test was conducted in early March with a bus, pickup truck, and generator.

With coordinating help from the University of Alaska, the test vehicles made a 1300-mile round-trip from Anchorage to the Arctic Circle. Temperatures during the test run dropped as low as -24 degrees F. Despite the cold, the test equipment ran reliably without any fuel-related issues, according to Whittington.

He added that more study is needed before the Permaflo fuel reaches full production. Part of the further development effort will address the economics of the fuel. Currently, pure B100 Permaflo biodiesel would cost several dollars per gallon.

"Economics are a critical factor," Whittington says. “We must get the cost down to make this biodiesel viable for the trucking industry. We are confident that we can do that."