6/2/2005 Clean Air Report - Extensive testing at an Energy Departmentlaboratory contradicts the widely held belief that burning biodieselproduces more nitrogen oxide (NOx) air emissions than traditional diesel,a top lab official reported May 9 at a Society of Automotive Engineers(SAE) conference in Washington, D.C.
Air regulators and environmental groups have been slow to embracebiodiesel, a renewable fuel that substantially lowers hydrocarbon andparticulate matter emissions, because of concern over increases in NOxemissions, a major contributor to ground-level ozone.
An emissions fact sheet on the web site for the national voice of the U.S.biodiesel industry, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), states that NOxemissions increase by 2 percent for B-20 (a blend of 20 percent biodieseland 80 percent diesel). But the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's(NREL) fuels performance manager, Wendy Clark, said that after exhaustivetesting of biodiesel emissions on two 40-foot urban transit buses, NOxemissions were comparable to the buses' diesel-fuel emissions, meaningthey found no increase in NOx emissions.
The dynamometer testing was carried out at NREL's facilities in Golden,CO. The tests on two different buses burning B-20 were repeated becausethe initial results were so surprising, Clark told the SAE conferenceparticipants.
Clark also suggested the biodiesel market could grow to 125 milliongallons in 2006, from the less than 30 million gallons used in 2004. Thenumber could rise to 1.7 billion gallons by 2015 if the current, highdiesel prices are sustained, Clark added. In addition to lowering PM andhydrocarbon emissions, biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oils, alsohas superior lubricity properties.
If oil companies embrace biodiesel as a lubricity additive and blend it ata 1 percent concentration in ultra-low-sulfur diesel, it could mean a 450million-gallon market. If an energy bill containing a so-called renewablefuels mandate becomes law, Clark predicts it would mean as much as a 900million-gallon market. Refiners would be looking for ways to meet therenewable fuels mandate without having to invest in new and expensiverefinery capacity needed to blend ethanol, the only other viable renewablefuel. Current fuel ethanol production is approximately 3.7 billion gallonsannually.
While less than 30 million gallons of biodiesel were consumed last year inthe U.S., there is production capacity for another 140 million gallons.Also, Clark said, there is another 100 million gallons of new plantcapacity in the development stage, and agricultural processing giant andleading U.S. ethanol producer Archer Daniels Midland is poised to enterthe market. They already have two 30 million-gallon biodiesel plants inGermany.
Biodiesel, which can be made from most vegetable oils as well as wastecooking oils, is sulfur free and, according to the NBB web site, a B-20blend reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 20 percent, carbon monoxideemissions by 12 percent, and particulate matter emissions by 12 percent.Clark said the cost is about 15 cents per gallon more than traditionaldiesel fuel.