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Biodiesel OK to use in the winter, marketers say
[January 08, 2007]

Biodiesel OK to use in the winter, marketers say

(Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 8--WATERLOO -- Biodiesel supporters are out to dispel myths that the fuel should be avoided during the winter.

Despite the rise in soybean-based biodiesel sales the last several years, the National Biodiesel Board says plenty of people avoid purchasing the fuel this time of year because they think it doesn't perform well in cold weather. Reasons include the fear of the unknown and last year's bout with poor-quality biodiesel in Minnesota, officials said.

Grant Kimberly, director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association, says biodiesel is safe year-round. The association will host a meeting today, featuring experts on the subject, to prove it.

The meeting, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo, will focus on the best management practices for handling, storing and blending biodiesel, with an emphasis on the winter months. It's the first of four seminars to be held throughout the state, and the only one in Northeast Iowa. All diesel users, blenders and marketers are encouraged to attend.

"There's still some (skeptics) out there. There's even some farmers that don't like ethanol," Kimberly said. "We're always trying to educate (consumers) that biodiesel will work successfully in the wintertime."

Diesel fuels are on the heavy end of a barrel of crude oil. It gives diesel its high power, but also causes problems in cold weather. The fuel can crystallize or gel, which can cause a vehicle's fuel filter to plug, cutting off the supply to the engine. Depending on the grade of diesel, gelling temperatures can vary from around 40 degrees to well below zero.

The association says a B20 blend -- 20 percent pure biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum-based diesel -- or lower can be successfully used in cold weather. The precautions taken to ensure adequate performance with biodiesel as the mercury dips is no different than what normally would be done to No. 2 conventional diesel, the most widely used grade, supporters said.

Common winterizing practices include adding No. 1 diesel, which has a lower gel point than No. 2 diesel, making sure biodiesel is warm prior to blending with conventional diesel to insure proper dilution and adding winterizing agents to the fuel.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said poor-quality biodiesel that didn't meet industry specifications was sold in Minnesota last winter, causing trouble for truckers and motorists. It further perpetuated the myth that the fuel should be avoided in the winter, he said, which isn't the case.

Between November 2005 and July 2006, the National Biodiesel Board said one-third of all biodiesel samples tested nationwide contained too much glycerin, which turns waxy and increases the chances of gelling in the winter.

Shaw believes the problems are being solved and overall success of the fuel should speak for itself. More than 60 million miles have been logged with biodiesel, the association says, along with more then 500 truck fleets and more than half of Iowa's farmers successfully using it.

"When on-spec biodiesel is properly blended it will work in the winter. We emphasize quality to the public," Shaw said.

Biodiesel use has steadily grown this decade, from 500,000 gallons nationwide in 1999 to 25 million in 2004. Usage jumped to 75 million gallons in 2005, with estimates of doubling or tripling that figure last year.

Officials hope today's meeting and others around the state will alleviate fears and increase usage.

The Fredericksburg Farmers Cooperative, with four other Northeast Iowa locations, buys 20 tankers of pure soy biodiesel a year. Almost all the diesel the co-op sells is blended with biodiesel. One of its storage tanks is in a heated building, so the soy-based fuel can be blended year round.

"Some still won't use it in the winter. One myth is it has a lot of water," said Steve Neuendorf, co-op petroleum department manager. "If you keep tanks clean and change filters, you won't have any problems."

While the soybean association recommends B20 or less for winter use, Shaw said Yellowstone National Park uses B100 in all of its diesel vehicles, even in the winter. If that doesn't convince people biodiesel is OK to use in the winter, nothing will, he said.

"It tends to get a little cold and snowy in Yellowstone," Shaw said.

Contact Matthew Wilde at (319) 291-1579 or [email protected]

Copyright (c) 2007, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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