Pioneer Press reports that the Minnesota Trucking Association has asked Gov. Tim Pawlenty for an emergency waiver of the state’s 2-month-old biodiesel mandate as an apparent spate of clogged fuel filters hits trucks in the state. Minnesota requires that diesel fuel sold in the state contain 2% biodiesel (B2).
Minnesota’s largest refiner, Flint Hills Resources in Rosemount, this week quit delivering certain cold-weather biodiesel blends for greater Minnesota.
“We have members that are going ballistic over this,” said John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, on Thursday. “Now, we do not know for certain that it is the biodiesel causing the problem, and we are trying to make sure that we have our data. But all the evidence we have gathered points to biodiesel being the culprit.”
Bruce Gordon, with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said, “We have received complaints that fuel filters are reportedly clogging, especially in colder weather, and we know that not everyone is experiencing the problem.”
“There’s not an obvious cause of the problem, nor is there a simple answer,” Gordon added. “Some are speculating that the problem is caused by the biodiesel portion of the fuel, but we don't know that for sure.”
Initial test results on 18 fuel samples showed that four failed a cold-weather test, but did not identify the cause of the failure.
Testing done by Flint Hills Resources, which refines half of Minnesota’s gasoline and diesel fuel, determined that some of the biodiesel is fairly high in glycerin.
“At certain glycerin levels, there appears to be a waxy substance forming at temperatures of zero to minus-10. What we've determined is, if we use a biodiesel that’s lower in glycerin, we don’t see this problem in colder weather.”
As a result, on Wednesday Flint Hills quit using soybean-based biodiesel, and switched to a biodiesel with far lower glycerin levels. But it also stopped distributing certain biodiesel-blended fuels around greater Minnesota, because it wasn’t confident of the fuel’s performance.
The episode has stunned Minnesota’s soybean growers, who have spent the week scrambling for technical advice. They envisioned biodiesel as a clean, green alternative fuel that would deliver rich benefits, and worked to make Minnesota the first—and only—state to require a biodiesel blend in every gallon of diesel sold.
But now, farm groups are willing to have state officials waive the law temporarily, if it would get to the bottom of the problem. Minnesota is the nation’s leading biodiesel producer.
Update. (AP) The state Department of Commerce has suspended the B2 mandate for three weeks. During the 21-day vairance, stations can sell unblended diesel. The Commerce Department says the glitch may stem from biodiesel that doesn’t meet fuel specifications, and that fuel will be removed during the temporary suspension.