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Minnesota Truckers Seek Emergency Waiver of Biodiesel Rule Over Cold-Weather Clogging

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.



Knowing biodiesels cold-weather limitations, this is exactly the problem NBB and most other diesel interests
did not want to see. NBB, couldn't somebody have been in charge of making sure this launch was seamless?

tom deplume

Biodiesel is not a mature technology and it looks like the transestrefication process still has bugs to be worked out.


Looks more like ester-type biodiesel needs to be restricted to summer blends to me.


More than likely the cause of the clogging issues has more to do with the fact that the biodiesel is pulling all the sludge and junk from the bottom of the tanks and clogging the fuel filters. A 5% biodiesel blend is insuffiencent to gel an entire tank of fuel. We all know that the US has about the worst fuel in the entire world, full of varnishes and gums.


This indicates a problem with biodiesel standards. The US military has agreed to us biodiesel, but not in combat vehicles because of the lack of ASTM standards.

Better to convert the bio oils to a syn gas, then distil it into true synthetic Diesel than to use oils with the glycerine removed.

Normal dino-Diesel No.2 is notorios for gelling in cold weather, hence the use of No.1 Diesel in cold weather.


If the gasification/F-T process wasn't so expensive and lossy, you might have more takers for it.  As it stands, it's probably more reasonable to use that for the crop byproducts (like stalks and leaves) and process the vegetable oils conventionally; what you use would depend on the season.


speaking of diesel no. 2, can someone explain in somewhat layman's terms what's the difference between "regular" diesel and diesel no. 2?


I would guess that the problem that's happening here is that the biodiesel is cleaning out the crud and gook that exists in a normal diesel fuel system.

If you look at the forums for diesel's like (http://www.tdiclub.com/), you'll see lots of talk about how a vehicle that has been burning regular diesel and starts using biodiesel (5% for example) will have to have their fuel filters changed, because the biodiesel solution loosens up and cleans out all the gook that builds up from regular diesel.

This isn't a bad thing about biodiesel, its actually a good thing, but people who are using it for the first time have to be ready for it. The advice to new users of biodiesel (who've been using regular diesel for a while) is to have a spare fuel filter ready during the time they start using a bio blend.

Corey Roman

It is more likely that this problem has occurred as a direct result of producers hurrying one or more of the processes to supply the needs of the demand. It is therefore necessary that we form a non-profit alliance that will set standards among industry producers of biofuels to grade end product rather than rely on random ASTM standards alone. If something is not done now to prevent this it could potentially damage a soon to be billion dollar industry by the "one bad apple ruining the whole bunch" scenario.



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