National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and Minnesota Biodiesel Council (MBC) presented an action plan to the Minnesota Department of Commerce Jan. 11 to increase quality control measures and ensure that only high-grade biodiesel is released into the state’s diesel fuel pool. The recommendations include calling for all biodiesel producers to become accredited under “BQ-9000,” the industry’s quality assurance program.

Minnesota law mandates the state’s diesel fuel supply contain a blend of 2 percent biodiesel (B2). In December, it was confirmed that some biodiesel that did not meet the specification was delivered to some Minnesota terminals. At the same time, some incidents of filter plugging were reported. NBB and MBC worked aggressively with state agencies and petroleum companies to analyze the situation, and determined that out-of-spec biodiesel was responsible for at least some of the filter plugging.

“We want Minnesota truckers, petroleum distributors and other residents to know that we take biodiesel fuel quality extremely seriously,” says NBB CEO Joe Jobe. “We are taking an aggressive stance to ensure that the biodiesel produced and used in the state meets the national specification for the fuel and is trouble-free. Our organizations thank the hundreds of loyal customers in Minnesota and across the nation who successfully use biodiesel in all kinds of climates and conditions.”

NBB and MBC originally called for a temporary waiver from the B2 mandate on Dec. 22 to allow terminals to test their biodiesel and re-supply if necessary. The Department of Commerce put a waiver in place, which is scheduled to end Jan. 13, 2005.

“Although investigations have indicated that other factors unrelated to biodiesel may have led to at least some of the filter plugging reports in Minnesota, there’s no question that off-spec biodiesel can have a severe reaction in cold weather, even in low blends,” says Steve Howell, NBB technical director. “There’s no room for poor quality biodiesel in the marketplace.”

The recommendations include procedures requiring biodiesel companies to provide a certificate of analysis for each batch of fuel. NBB already has in place the voluntary industry quality control program BQ-9000, which accredits companies who adopt quality assurance practices. NBB recommends all biodiesel producers become accredited under the existing BQ-9000 program.

The recommendations also call for strong enforcement procedures from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. This would include suspensions and fines for producers who sell out-of-spec biodiesel.

Biodiesel leaders have worked cooperatively with petroleum terminals and distributors through this process, and will continue to work with them on implementing the practices. “I’ve been very impressed with the level of cooperation and goodwill from the petroleum companies,” says Howell.

“The Minnesota Biodiesel Council and the National Biodiesel Board are committed to doing everything possible to get the biodiesel program back into place as quickly as possible, but we’re even more committed to making sure that the program is implemented in a way that best serves the diesel fuel consumers of Minnesota,” Jobe says.

A Diesel Helpline has been established through the University of Minnesota Center for Diesel Research. Minnesota residents experiencing a problem are urged to call 800-929-3437. The helpline is working to document, confirm and quantify diesel fuel issues.