Cold Weather + Green Fuel = Yellow Bus Failure

UPDATE:

Lab tests show the problem was may be caused by paraffin wax – a derivative of Diesel Fuel. See this report:

http://nbb.grassroots.com/resources/BloomingtonBusReport.pdf

This bus design does not allow for heating of the filter by the engine.

h/t to Kum Dullison

UPDATE2: There is new information, from E.M. Smith in comments, citing that possibility of  “methylester that solidifies at >10F vs Paraffin wax” could be a contributor. The lab did not test for that, so the question of fuel quality remains unresolved.

==========================================

Excerpts from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 16th 2009

Biodiesel fuel woes close Bloomington schools

eco-schoolbus

“All schools in the Bloomington School District (Minnesota) will be closed  today after state-required biodiesel fuel clogged in school buses Thursday morning and left dozens of students stranded in frigid weather, the district said late Thursday.

Rick Kaufman, the district’s spokesman, said elements in the biodiesel fuel that turn into a gel-like substance at temperatures below 10 degrees  clogged about a dozen district buses Thursday morning. Some buses weren’t able to operate at all and others experienced problems while picking up students, he said.

We had students at bus stops longer than we think is acceptable, and that’s too dangerous in these types of temperatures,” Kaufman said.”

. . .

The decision to close school today came after district officials consulted with several neighboring districts that were experiencing similar problems. Bloomington staffers tried to get a waiver to bypass the state requirement and use pure diesel fuel, but they weren’t able to do so in enough time, Kaufman said. They also decided against scheduling a two-hour delay because the temperatures weren’t expected to rise enough that the problem would be eliminated.

In 2005, a new requirement went into effect that all diesel fuel sold in Minnesota had to contain 2 percent biodiesel. Kaufman said that some school districts keep their buses in temperature-controlled garages, and that the First Student bus service, which contracts with several metro-area school districts, keeps its buses in garages or idles them through the night.

Meanwhile, in other news:

Minnesota Boosts Biodiesel Initiative from 2 to 20%

(h/t to Popular Technology)

Advertisements

130 thoughts on “Cold Weather + Green Fuel = Yellow Bus Failure

  1. “or idles them through the night.”
    Now that is a clever way to limit GHGs – mandate biofuels and then run them longer!!!

  2. All they need to do is light a small fire under the busses to melt the fuel, Just like the russians do in siberia!

  3. This is probably something that could be resolved by a clever mechanic. There are inline fuel warmers on the market, and I imagine probably a product to keep the tank warm as well.

  4. So in order to save fuel = energy, the buses idle ALL night or live in temperature controlled = heated garages. Great fuel savings !! but then in this era of “Global Warming”, what official could have forseen cold temperatures during winter in Minnesota ? – sarcasm off. It seems that the Law of Unintended Consequences turns every attempt to change what already works around to bite the originator in the rear.

  5. There’s nothing like carrying out a risk assessment before implementing a policy that could put children’s lives at risk. But politicians can’t worry about chidren’s safety when they’ve got to save the planet.

  6. In defense of Bio-Diesel regular diesel will also gel at about 12F due to the paraffin content.(Based on Number 2 Diesel), now the article does not quantify it but being in the US I suspect the temperature was 10F were occuring as well due to the statement ” …because the temperatures weren’t expected to rise enough that the problem would be eliminated”
    How much heating gas or oil is used to heat the storage spaces for buses, or leave them running all-night so that they can use biofuel?
    I guess bio-fuels were engineered for a warmer world.

  7. In defense of Bio-Diesel regular diesel will also gel at about 12F due to the paraffin content.(Based on Number 2 Diesel), now the article does not quantify it but being in the US I suspect the temperature was less than 10F so it was cold enough even for the regular diesel to gel. The introduction of Biodielsel raises the Gel temperature to 20-30F approx. depending on the blended grade, so using the article as a accurate account I suspect that the real story was fuel problems at temperatures greater than 10F were occuring as well due to the statement ” …because the temperatures weren’t expected to rise enough that the problem would be eliminated”
    How much heating gas or oil is used to heat the storage spaces for buses, or leave them running all-night so that they can use biofuel?
    I guess bio-fuels were engineered for a warmer world.
    (Repost due to my irresponsible use of HTML tag identifiers causing a section of my post to be treated as a really big html tag)

  8. The image would need to be labeled “Archive” or similiar so we know it is not what it appears to be. Unless Minnesota school buses are labeled in French.

  9. …… “keeps its buses in garages or idles them through the night.”…..
    Idles them through the night!!!…. I thought they where supposed to be cutting down on fuel consumption and CO2 production…. This is bloody farcical….. I’ve truly fallen through the looking glass…. The Mad Hatter is running the ministry for energy and environment.

  10. This is the big disadvantage of mixing conventional fuel with bio fuels and a well known problem.
    Bus companies transporting people to the winters ports centers in Austria and Switzerland using a bio diesel fuel mix encountered similar problems years ago.
    In the case of bio diesel low temperatures cause gelling of the fuel lines, the filters and the injectors and in some cases it even destroys the fuel pump.
    If these buses would have been converted to drive on 100% bio diesel, an electric heating system would have been installed to keep the oil liquid at low temperatures.
    We have also encountered problems with gasoline that was mixed with ethanol which contains a high percentage of water.
    Another problem with ethanol is the lower flame point of such a fuel mix.
    It makes the fuel vapor more vulnerable for static electricity igniting the vapor causing possible fire and explosions. This is a serious safety aspect.
    What have we learned from these experiments?
    DO YOUR HOME WORK FIRST AND LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES MADE BY OTHERS.
    A little desk top research works wonders.

  11. Governor Tim Pawlenty: “Increasing the level of biodiesel in diesel fuel means that more of our energy will come from farm fields rather than oil fields…”
    So, assuming for the moment that we could get all the oil we needed from biofuels {humor me for a moment}, where then will we get our food once we’re energy independent? I know! We’ll import it! What a terrific idea. We can go from being the breadbasket to the world to being the basket case to the world. Will anyone then be able to connect the dots to worldwide famine?

  12. I seriously doubt that the boneheaded policymakers were not informed of the drawbacks of biodiesel.
    But wanting to be greener than the next state….
    And that was with only a 2% biodiesel concentration.

  13. I Scandinavia we routinely use “winter diesel” during the cold season, i e you mix in some kerosene to prevent gelling. I imagine this would work with biodiesel as well. Though there probably isn’t such a thing as biokerosene.

  14. A passenger airplane recently crashed short on approach – due to fuel starvation. Condensed water in the filters as a result of flying through extra cold air was considered likely. But there was no proof of this cause.
    Hmmm… Could it be they’ve been trying out biodiesel in jet fuel? Hope not, but any thoughts?

  15. I have been running biodiesel and straight vegetable oil (and many other exotic fuel blends) since long before they were trendy. Try about 1970 for alcohol blends and about 1980 for funny Diesel.
    All these problems are easily solved. All of them are typically not solved and the solutions ignored because you have to know something about fuel; and frankly, folks expect to turn the key and go.
    The Problem: The methyl-ester of fatty acids (classical biodiesel) crystalizes or clouds at much higher temperatures than petroleum Diesel. The crystals will clog a fuel filter. This can start happening as warm as 40F, but is usually not a problem until about 20F. Then it gels. The gel stage clogs everything else at about 20F. Notice that these are positive temperatures.
    This can be reduced some by blending in a lot of #2 or #1 Diesel. That is the only reason these busses were working below freezing at all, they only had 2% of biodiesel. If the biodiesel is made from animal fats, the cloud and gel points will be much higher.
    For regular #2 Diesel the cloud point is about 20F and the gel point about 0F. This varies somewhat with the season and the local refiner (i.e. in Phoenix they don’t remove waxes in summer, but in Wisconsin they will, especially in winter!) For #1 Diesel (which is basically kerosene) you are good down to Alaska temps… but at below -40 you have problems and need fuel heaters anyway.
    See: http://www.filtercouncil.org/techdata/tsbs/91-1R3.pdf
    or:http://www.greentechvt.com/about+contact/gelpoint.htm
    (The first one has 1 bogosity in it. They say to never mix gasoline into Diesel to solve winter issues, yet my Mercedes 240D manual specifically says to do so up to 25%. I’m running 20% RUG [regular unleaded gas] right now.. It depends on your vehicle…)
    The Solutions:
    1) Run #1 Diesel.
    2) Install fuel tank, fuel line, fuel filter, and whatever else heaters.
    3) Don’t run biodiesel in the winter
    4) Only use biodiesel that is not an ester.
    #4 is simple. There are two ways to make animal and plant oils into biofuels. You can react an alcohol, like methanol, with the oil and get a methylester of a fatty acid (prone to gel issues) or you can just dump the fat through a hydrotreater at an oil refinery and get straight alkanes – that is, regular diesel. Both will meet a mandate for biofuels. Esters are warm and fuzzy and you can make them with a tin bucket. The other takes an oil refinery… One ‘feels good’ the other works good.
    So, they can solve this by calling up Conoco or Marathon or whoever and asking for biofuels via hydrotreating and be done.
    They can put about $400 of heaters into the fuel system.
    They can buy real diesel and try to convince politicians that the laws of physics and chemistry ought to override the legislature… Good luck.
    Just running the busses to keep the fuel system hot works for small drops of temperature (excess hot fuel from the engine is bypassed to the fuel tank), but at some ‘oh my god’ temperature, the fuel cools enough from tank to engine to gel anyway. That’s what these folks hit. At that time you must have a heated fuel line, tank, and filter or you are going to stop.
    FWIW, my Mercedes 300TD says to blend up to 50% Kerosene in the winter while the 240D says up to 25% regular gasoline. I’ve tried gasoline in the 300TD and it gets cranky. Follow the individual engine manual (the 300 is turbo charged and has other minor mechanical differences, but it’s enough.)
    I have not yet met a Diesel that didn’t like kerosene or jet fuel in the winter up to about 50% unless the manual says otherwise.
    Even the ‘hard core’ biodiesel and straight vegetable oil folks know to back off the mix proportional to temperature, and go all the way to pure dino Diesel in the way cold, or add a fuel system heater.
    The standard way to test your mix is to put a bottle of it in the fridge or freezer. Come back and check it each hour or two. If it gets cloudy, you ‘have issues’ at that temperature.

  16. The old trick used in the sub-tropical UK was to place an electric light bulb under the engine bay & allow the heat from it to take the chill factor off the oil & water. Not possible now incandescent light bulbs are to be banned!
    If the US?? & Europe are serious about reducing car emission among many other things, why do they not regulate the way the Scandinavian countries do by making ALL car manufacturers add COMPULSORY electric heating systems to their cars so that a mains plug in can heat all the oil & water to running temperatures thus saving fuel, most of which is burnt in the all too common short journey to & from work where the cars’ engines get warm just in time to be shut off! Is this the same in the colder parts of the US?
    It concerns me that people go on about reliable & renewable fuel supplies when these are based upon crops. Crops can fail you know! With reduced CO2 down to around 200ppm then crops will fail according to some in the know. With a reduced solar output crops will fail too, making a reliable & renewable fuel supply somewhat less than reliable & renewable unless GM to resist cold/heat/dry/wet/reduced solar/disease. A tall order indeed!
    Very impressive Inauguration yesterday, well done USA. I sincerely hope President Obama has the wisdom to chose his wise counsel wisely! Otherwise America will go the way of Europe, over regulated, restricted freedom & choice, lifestyles dictated by Political Correctness, etc., & Green/Marxist stupidity, with all that that will consequently engender with
    the American people!
    BTW it was jolly cold again last night here in the West Country! I expect the Met Office are praying for some warming to get their forecast to average out right for a mild or milder than usual winter, as my wife chisels the ice of her car’s windscreen(shield). Way off target so far.

  17. I was disappointed to hear Obama say yesterday that we should get our fuel in the future from wind, sun and the LAND, that is more biodiesel.

  18. I’m a fan of biodiesel, and I just wonder if the same thing would have happened to regular diesel fuel? I’m not positive this is a fair judgement of biodiesel.

  19. Roger Clague (01:52:02) :
    I was disappointed to hear Obama say yesterday that we should get our fuel in the future from wind, sun and the LAND, that is more biodiesel.

    I didn’t hear that in the inauguration speech, do you have a reference?
    Running engines through the night to prevent fuel clogging, heated wind generator blades to prevent icing, stupid is as stupid does.
    We need to get realistic about emissions and start generating electricity from that renewable resource – rubbish.
    10 years ago I visited a facility which generated a megawatt from 40 car tyres an hour. The pyrolysis technique kept so2 and co2 emissions within the then in force E.U. guidelines for small scale plant. It is currently legislated off the grid.

  20. Perhaps the answer is to allow the planet to heat up enough where we won’t ever have a cold temperature problem again.

  21. tallbloke (02:57:30) ~ Roger Clague (01:52:02) :
    “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. …”
    (From the transcript in the NYTimes “Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address”.)

  22. I was also disappointed Roger.
    Here is the transcript from cnn of Obama’s address yesterday.
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/20/obama.politics/index.html
    “For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

  23. “MattN (02:54:02) :
    I’m a fan of biodiesel, and I just wonder if the same thing would have happened to regular diesel fuel? I’m not positive this is a fair judgement of biodiesel.”
    Read E.M.Smith’s (01:00:38) response. But basically the answer is yes, regular diesel will also have issues in cold wether depending on the grade but at lower temperatures than the biodiesel, much lower for some grades.
    Alan the Brit (01:51:19) :In the US you can buy cars with block heaters and I assume in areas that benefit from these the dealers order them that way, In other areas it would require a special order. I do not know that they are mandated, but they may be in states like Minnesota. I do not know if diesel cars have factory options for tank and fuel line heaters, never lived in a place cold enough to need them or owned a diesel for that matter.

  24. Umm, does this mean global warming is responsible for the failure of the public school system? We have a lot of home schoolers in New Hampshire. I bet some of the Minnesotan home schoolers that day had a special science component about biodiesel and a social science reminder about the political law of unintended consequences.

  25. tallbloke (02:57:30) :
    Roger Clague (01:52:02) :
    I was disappointed to hear Obama say yesterday that we should get our fuel in the future from wind, sun and the LAND, that is more biodiesel.
    I didn’t hear that in the inauguration speech, do you have a reference?

    Here’s the text – it’s about 1/3 of the way down, starting with “For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”
    Text of President Barack Obama’s inaugural address
    Another thing he says that caught my eye in the same paragraph is “We will restore science to its rightful place…”. I’m not sure what he meant by that, but it makes me uneasy. I can only hope he knows the difference between science and dogma.

  26. Tallbloke
    TO…
    “was disappointed to hear Obama say yesterday that we should get our fuel in the future from wind, sun and the LAND,”
    “I didn’t hear that…”
    My newspaper wrote he actually said the “soil” in place of the land. The rest is substantially accurate.

  27. Refiners in cold climates make winter diesel, with lower a “cloud point” that ensures it will flow at cold temperatures. It costs more to remove the wax that determines the cloud point, but to truckers and refiners alike the requirement is obvious. The market demands it on a seasonal basis and no sane refiner would attempt to sell summer diesel into a winter diesel market.
    Seems like no one told the biodiesel suppliers that the real world includes the laws of physics and chemistry, regardless of what the legislated world includes.

  28. All diesel fuel blends “gel” at low temperatures. A 2% blend of biodiesel changes the gel temp only slightly.
    In order to burn diesel during the winter, it must be blended with No.1 diesel (kerosene). The fact that the buses in Minnesota are having the problem is because their fuel supplier did not add enough kerosene to the fuel. Biodiesel is not the culprit.

  29. Here’s another one.
    Compact Fluorescent light Bulbs might emit harmful levels of UV light (in addition to containing potentially dangerous mercury levels).
    This is still being studied and might turn out to be safe as long as you are not too close for long periods of time. But the law of unintended consequences should always be in play for these green products since emotion rather than logic drives most of these decisions.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7661462.stm

  30. Tallbloke said
    “I was disappointed to hear Obama say yesterday that we should get our fuel in the future from wind, sun and the LAND, that is more biodiesel.
    I didn’t hear that in the inauguration speech, do you have a reference?”
    I fell asleep after the first five minutes of waffle and rhetoric as he sounds exactly like Tony Blair-however before I did I’m sure I heard Obama say the word ‘soil’ rather than land. My immediate reaction was using heat pumps to extract warmth from the soil but perhaps he did mean bio fuel.
    I entirely agree about burning rubbish-however most greens are against it as they think that will encourage people to treat it as disposable rather than recyclable.
    TonyB

  31. As a long time diesel and heavy duty mechanic, I can say with authority that the biodiesel content would not have made any difference in this specific case. As has been said by others already, diesel fuel can be big trouble in very low temps: Not to mention the engine and transmission oils! That is why all truckers leave their engine idling when up north. 50% kerosene (max!) is and should be the only solution to the high gel point issue, though that leads to wear and very poor fuel economy. Additives help, but only barely. Gasoline can destroy a diesel fuel system very quickly and is no longer a suitable choice. I can see that the maintenance guys looking after these buses probably just told the managers there that they could get them running, but it will take a lot of time, going around with Tiger torches, and likely will cause 25% of them to break. Not worth the effort. I would hazard a guess that up until they mandated environmental practises, they left them idling overnight when the temps were low. Just a guess though. Just a personal note, I also tried biodiesel but abandoned it after my fuel lines started dissolving. Any diesel before 1996 will have that issue. Some even newer.
    Finally a topic I am an authority on! LOL
    Cheers all!

  32. E.M.Smith:
    What about the new clean burning diesels? Can those burn kerosene or jet fuel without damaging the engine or some other important system?
    Thanks

  33. A simple fix: change the school year so that the kids attend from March through November, rather than September through May.

  34. GeoS (00:49:36) :Hmmm… Could it be they’ve been trying out biodiesel in jet fuel? Hope not, but any thoughts?
    Its been tested: http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_7800000/newsid_7806100/7806107.stm
    in fact “The International Air Transport Association says it wants a 10th of plane fuel to come from bio fuels by 2017. ”
    Its a good trick the airlines come under political pressure to cut CO2 so they make promises and invest a few £€$ in research and hope the science and politics will have moved on by time 2017 comes, think thats a good bet.
    Think Richard Branson is putting big money into researching it.

  35. Just to further clarify one point my wife has reminded me of: The fuel system in most diesels returns heated fuel to the fuel tank thus keeping the fuel system warm while running. No need for expensive fuel line heaters if you leave it idling. Diesels sip a tiny amount of fuel at idle, unlike gasoline engines, and can be idled for days and days. I once had to idle the Jetta while waiting 30 hours stuck in a snow drift @ -40! Damned fine car…
    Smart lady my Mrs!

  36. tallbloke (02:57:30) :
    “….a reference?”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/obama_inauguration/7840646.stm
    “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”
    I love this blog. As quoted previously- “Change we already got used to.”
    There are also generating plants that burn elephant grass, both online and in the pipeline(pun intended)….
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article563622.ece
    http://www.carboncommentary.com/2007/09/15/6
    …and one for Alan the Brit-
    http://www.bical.net/news_the-grass-could-be-greener-for-farmers-new-%E2%80%98energy-crop%E2%80%99-opportunities-in-the-south-west_28_03112008.htm

  37. Alan the Brit (and any other Brits reading this)
    I also live in the West country and am trying to find out if it is unusually cold this winter here (for non Brits the west country is a peninsula sticking into the Atlantic and English channel and is generally considered to be the warmest winter place in the UK)
    Do you live anywhere near the coast, as down here in South Devon some are saying it is the coldest on the coast for thirty years-not the offical Met office 10 years- and certainly we are doing an awful lot of ice scraping from car windscreens this year-normally a very rare event.
    I believe the seas surrounding the West country are unusually cold this year which means our free radiator is not doing its usual job by keeping us 2 or 3 degrees C warmer than inland. Anyone got any stats to back up this anecdotal evidence?
    TonyB

  38. I’ve noticed in Calgary that many of the bus companies also idle their vehicles overnight when the temperatures drop to the -20 C range. During high gas prices, just think of the dollars going up to make sure these vehicles were running the next morning. Multiply that by all the areas that do that, and a cold night is just watching tax money go up in smoke. There has got to be a better and cheaper way.

  39. ASTM (The American Society for Testing and Materials) regulates specifications for diesel fuel. The standard for diesel fuel is ASTM D975 Standard Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils. In this standard is Annex X.4 TENTH PERCENTILE MINIMUM AMBIENT AIR TEMPERATURES FOR THE UNITED STATES
    (EXCEPT HAWAII). FIG. X4.4 January—10th Percentile Minimum Ambient Air Temperatures shows that for Minnisota, the maximum cloud point for No. 2 Diesel fuel is -34C, which is well below the cloud point achievable with biodiesel as a blend component.
    Suppliers of diesel fuel in these areas should comment on what they do to reduce the Cloud Point of diesel fuel to meet this standard. The Cloud Point, and its function equivalent, the Cold Filter Plugging Point (a self evident test name) are tests used to predice the minimum temperature at which a fuel will flow in diesel equipment under ambient (in this case very cold) conditions.

  40. shouldn’t it be “ECOLIARS”? LOL
    not to mention the increased fuel use/GHG emissions, doesn’t idling the engines all night long increase wear?

  41. Alan the Brit (01:51:19) :
    “The old trick used in the sub-tropical UK was……”
    You may try to promote the UK as a liveable part of the world as much as you like but to call it sub-tropical is a bit over the top! Or were you referring to Gibraltar?

  42. So let me see,
    What this means: (and thanks to those who know fuel for the class – it helped!)
    is that since biofuels have a higher cloud point or attract water, and since alternative energy sources need to be de-iced or have the snow melted or brushed off of them, we must use more energy to mitigate the problems.
    Humm, sounds like a loosing green proposition to me!
    Sorry about the long sentence!

  43. Alan the Brit (01:51:19) :
    the US?? & Europe are serious about reducing car emission among many other things, why do they not regulate the way the Scandinavian countries do by making ALL car manufacturers add COMPULSORY electric heating systems to their cars so that a mains plug in can heat all the oil & water to running temperatures thus saving fuel, most of which is burnt in the all too common short journey to & from work where the cars’ engines get warm just in time to be shut off! Is this the same in the colder parts of the US?

    It isn’t compulsory in this Scandinavian country.

  44. Welcome to the world of loggers and farmers. Doesn’t matter what kind of diesel you use. It gels where I live. Heaters are used regularly. Engines are idled all night. Happens all the time. If it gets too cold for even the heaters to work, you go home for the day. Problem solved. Mother nature is in charge here and these folks with generations of wisdom about weather patterns know that eventually it will ungel and you can get back to work. It is just no big deal.

  45. LOL……….
    In 2005, a new requirement went into effect that all diesel fuel sold in Minnesota had to contain 2 percent biodiesel. Kaufman said that some school districts keep their buses in temperature-controlled garages, and that the First Student bus service, which contracts with several metro-area school districts, keeps its buses in garages or idles them through the night.
    LOL………..

  46. D. Quist (23:24:04) : and others wrote about:
    The Law of unintended consequences:
    ————————————————–
    As a professional scientist for over 30 years (Ph.D. Chemistry, 1978), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where bad interpretation of the data (and cover-up sequelae sometimes) didn’t lead to bad things happening.
    The scary thing though, is that the “bad things happening”, since based on flawed data analysis to begin with, were completely unpredictable. Expect more bad things. Some will be amusing, some not.

  47. Tallbloke 02:57:30 and Roger Clague (01:52:02) :
    Thirteenth paragraph (Freudian?) starts with “For everywhere we look…” About the middle “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil [not land] to fuel our cars and run our factories.”
    Back when I lived in the middle of a S. Texas oil field, we used to get a lot of fuel out of our soil. Just drill straight down a few thousand feet. Too expensive now though, between EPA and other government restrictions and taxes, it is cheaper to drill in the Middle East. See the irony here?

  48. tty (00:15:14) :
    “I Scandinavia we routinely use “winter diesel” during the cold season, i e you mix in some kerosene to prevent gelling. I imagine this would work with biodiesel as well. Though there probably isn’t such a thing as biokerosene.”
    tty,
    Yes there is. It’s produced from algae based on Jet A1 specifications.
    http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/04/algae-farm-to-p.html

  49. As mentioned above the issues of gelling of diesel both conventional and bio-diesel are well known to competent mechanics. In the colder parts of the country, it is not only common but absolutely required to leave diesels running continuously to avoid problems during sudden cold snaps. There are anti-gelling additives sold in all the major truck stops in the northern states, and as mentioned above mixing small quantities of regular unleaded gasoline is a simple recommended solution to the problem. The U.S. Army also has documents that recommended if I recall correctly about 10% gasoline mixed with conventional diesel in severe cold weather to avoid gelling.
    In the 1970’s I got caught in a ground blizzard storm in Wyoming, and after I finally found a truck going slow enough that I could keep up with ( I just kept his class A explosives sign centered over my hood as we crept through the blizzard). I pulled into Rocksprings Wyo at 4:00 am. I spent the next 3 days in a motel room with a snow drift inside the room at the base of the door. With the heat on at max the temp in the room never got above 52 deg F. All that time I was serenaded by the sound of idling diesel engines from all the trucks parked around the motel.
    In the local cafe I asked one of the truckers if it would not save them a lot of fuel to only run the engines periodically. He smiled knowingly and nodded, and then said “Yep I thought that too when I first started driving. I shut my tractor off in these kind of conditions and was unable to get it started for a week, until we could pull it into a heated garage and thaw out the fuel and melt the ice off the engine.
    In blizzard conditions if you shut a hot engine off, it will be covered in a 1/2 inch of ice in a matter of minutes as blowing snow gets up on the hot metal and melts then freezes.
    Likewise with ethanol fuels they only have cold weather separation problems if the fuel is wet (ie does not meet specifications), at low ethanol fuel blends. The higher fuel blends like E85 will not separate in cold weather as the greater alcohol content easily carries and holds any trace water. The only time it is an issue is with low ethanol fuel blends which are currently mandated by law.
    Both bio-fuels and conventional fuels have cold weather problems, the only difference is the level of general education regarding the issues. They change gasoline blends in the winter time to improve cold weather starting as normal summer blend also will not start at severe cold temps.
    The supposed issue with fire risk from ethanol content is not a consideration in the real world as the gasoline component in the fuel tank creates an inert mixture that is too rich to burn.
    Bio-fuels have their place if properly applied just like conventional fuels, you need to understand what you are doing, and feel good political mandates are usually the root of the problems.
    I am a strong supporter of bio-fuels (properly used). I have been running on ethanol fuel blends for about 30 years. I also have a car converted to run on E85 that gets nearly the same fuel mileage on E85, and making more power than it did on gasoline, and still passes the IM240 emissions test with flying colors.
    Larry

  50. Anthony,
    great joke. Of course I missread the “ecoliers” – schoolchildren in French as “ecoliars” – eco menteurs
    Bill

  51. I saw several comments about the real problem with bio-diesel. IMO:They missed the point. The real problem is that bio-diesel, even in its best form is a mode of incredibly inefficient solar. The land area required to fuel anything of consequence is beyond prohibitive and it distracts from solving our real energy needs.
    Here are what my calculations look like.
    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/what-about-algae-biofuel-hype/
    and an earlier version
    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/super-algae-bio-diesel-energy/
    These articles take the best futuristic biofuel numbers and come to the same ‘simple’ conclusion. The energy captured by even the best photosynthesis just isn’t sufficient to take over for our needs.
    If you look at more realistic numbers the area required takes out substantial percentages of the US with good biofuel plants just to make enough fuel to power our cars.

  52. I originally started visiting this site because I found the constant global warming news too depressing. However, I must say that the constant political negativity to anything other than nuclear and coal and oil is having the same effect. I suppose that the switch from whale oil to petro had the same genre of commentators though. Criticism comes easy. Innovation not so much.

  53. To PhilinCalifornia:
    It does not receive much press here in the states but the use of biofuels has already produced catastrophe. It is estimated (by Oxfam) that 30 million more people starved last year as a result of high grain and food commodity prices. The food aid budjet just did not go as far as expected and 75% of the increases were attributed to biofuel production. There were food riots in 14 cities over the price of things like rice and corn meal doubling. There is concern for Orangutan habitat as rain forests in Indonesia are cut down to make way for palm oil plantations to satisfy biofuel demands. The Europeans were so alarmed there is actually talk of backing off the biofuel requirements already written into law. For some reason, “renewable energy” is assumbed to be an environmental and socially benign solution and it is anything but that. I personally think that the damages are already bad enough (and expected to get worse with greater utilization) that you could start a movement to stop the use of food for biofuels or arable land for biofuel production that appeals to social liberals and environmentalists. I’ve often thought of starting a web site called “real consequences” (pun intended) that looked at the true impact of global warming mitigation.

  54. Hi Folks,
    As you can see “government” is involved. Which means there is usually a major big problem ready to occur when there was none.
    Perhaps you remember back in the ‘Seventies the federal government designed a city bus but it apparently did not stand up to the real conditions a bus encountered in normal use, like potholes. Now it looks like they weren’t satisfied with just the bus they want to design what fuels the bus too.
    “Going Green” as determined by the government just might be hazardous to the health of the Earth.I think it is a “sin”to use good agricultural land to make fuel instead of food. Looks like we’re going backwards where at one time crops had to be grown and used to feed the draught animals to do the work, this time mechanical devices.

  55. From what I can see, “restoring science” means having the government get more involved and active in places where government should NOT be involved and/or active. One of the darlings of that side of the aisle is stem cell research, which I also agree should not be financed by government.
    Also, I think it’s pretty obvious that “restoring science” means propagandizing AGW theory right down to pre-school levels, and ignoring “science” altogether to use the word “science” as a tool for social reform… but then I freely admit my bias (against the left).
    I once heard someone talking about their trip to the Soviet Union (80s, I think). Apparently a particular date was scheduled as street-cleaning day. When he was there it was -20C, but they were out there with the water tankers spraying and cleaning the streets. Vehicles were unable to negotiate the slick skating rinks being created, but that’s the way it was. Expect this as government grows.

  56. Gibsho
    I think many of us are interested in altenative fuels (my interest is in wave/tidal power) however most on this site are also pragmatic realists who know we need to provide cost effective energy security. To do that we need to use proven systems that will underpin the majority of our power needs-not just the top up’s that renewables represent. IMHO that means for the next twenty years or so the biggest game in town remains nuclear/coal/oil
    TonyB

  57. “All diesel fuel blends “gel” at low temperatures. A 2% blend of biodiesel changes the gel temp only slightly.
    In order to burn diesel during the winter, it must be blended with No.1 diesel (kerosene). The fact that the buses in Minnesota are having the problem is because their fuel supplier did not add enough kerosene to the fuel. Biodiesel is not the culprit.”
    This is not clear from the report, but it appears that the 2% mandate is only mentioned as “related news”, while the school buses in question were run on pure biodiesel (B100).
    It never occurred to me before, but I guess since Diesel is winterized by adding other non-bio fuels, pure B100 cannot be winterized and still be B100.
    I’ve heard it said up north that just as you don’t want to get old Diesel, i.e. from a low-turnover station, in winter because it’s more likely to be old summer Diesel still, you don’t want to get B100 in winter because lesser grades (B50, B20, etc.) will gel later due to higher D2 content.
    I guess that’s even more significant because the D2 content of B-less-than-100 would also be winterized.
    In addition to the D2 you fill up with already being winterized (unless you happen to go a low-turnover station as mentioned above, or the great mileage causes a tankfull from the fall to be still driven in the winter), of course you also switch your additive (for cetane boost etc.) to the anti-gel winter formula.
    PowerService(tm) is cheap and works well.
    In several Maine winters with often single-digit and slightly negative (deg. F) temperatures in the morning, my Gold TDI has never given me trouble. (30-second glow time and 1+ second cranking, yes. Sometimes even a second crank after letting off too soon. But never a no-start.)
    But there often were mentions of the lack of a heated barn for the school buses, and fear of (or closedown due to) Diesel freezing.
    Perhaps because the crappy US Diesel fuel is well matched to the low-expectation bus engines, the operators don’t have need of additives in the summer, and thus don’t generally know to use them in the winter?
    But I ramble on.
    If you’re forced to use unaldulterated B100 (who even sold that to them?), it ain’t gonna be winterized, and even with a double dose of PowerService(tm), it would still have gelled in those MN temperatures.

  58. Sean (07:45:23) : wrote:
    To PhilinCalifornia:
    It does not receive much press here in the states but the use of biofuels has already produced catastrophe.
    ——————————————-
    Thanks Sean. It might surprise you to learn that I’m actually doing quite a bit of work myself on biofuels. As a researcher, I can see ways forward that could work well in the future. In other words, doing what many people who post on here think – doing right by the planet without sacrificing personal scientific integrity and fouling the name of science. As the field progresses, I will be sure to post updates on areas where there could be real impact against pollution, without the catastrophes (hopefully). As an optimist, I hope that this is what Obama is talking about, and there are enough hints in his language to suggest that he knows that somethingsupwiththat.
    If the cost of saving the planet from carbon dioxide is 40 trillion dollars, what is the cost of the unintended catastrophes ?? Double, triple that ??

  59. This doesn’t sound like a big deal.
    Smith, DaveM and others with diesel knowledge have told us what the problem is. As experience with biodiesel grows the industry will settle on a standard fix. That may be different filters, heaters, or adjustments in the production chain.
    The short answer is to not mix in biodiesel after October or before March. But that may not be a good economic answer for refineries. Manipulating the level may not be practical for them.
    The specific answer is to stop mandating specifics such as 2%. Should it be 2% in Minnesota, perhaps 3% in Wisconsin, and 5% in Michigan?
    Why not set percents by county or town? Or by Zip Code? In fact, it will probably be done. Somewhere a bureau is spending a few million thinking about it.

  60. Below are links to a detailed look at what California is up to on bio-fuels. Here, it is called the Low Carbon Fuel Standard Program. The rules are not yet firm, and public meetings are held regularly. This is a part of the AB 32 Climate Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
    The proposed regulation for diesel fuel (October 2008) would require a 10 percent reduction in CO2 (read: bio-diesel component) by 2020, that is phased in over the years.
    Note that Obama stated he wants a federal law with the same parameters as AB 32.
    http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs_uc_p1.pdf
    and the Air Resources Board website with lots more information:
    http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs.htm#background
    Parts of California also get cold enough to cause bio-diesel problems in winter, e.g. northern parts and in the mountains.
    Roger E. Sowell
    Marina del Rey, California

  61. Philincalifornia:
    Law of unintended consequences.
    I live in Snohomish County, Washington, USA.
    I love this particular stupidity.
    Here is my experience:
    Compact Fluorescent lights (CF) save electricity. OK, that is reasonable. I have them all over the house. I figure that they do save some money.
    Then one day some guy, on some website pointed out that CFs don’t save anything if you live in the north. In summer it is light early in the morning and late in the evening, and the lights are off and you don’t need to heat the house.
    In winter it is cold and dark, and you need to heat the house. Therefore the heat from incandescent lights is good. In his opinion CFs didn’t make any sense. On top of it they contain mercury…
    Then, recently, I finally got the point. It dawned on me that here in Snohomish County, we use hydro power. Roughly 90% of all power comes from hydro, some from cogeneration and the rest is a mix.
    I heat my house with natural gas. That releases CO2. Hydro doesn’t release CO2.
    CFs doesn’t generate a lot of heat. So I use more natural gas to heat my house.
    In other words, using CFs is emitting more CO2, due to my use of natural gas, then if I used incandescent lights.
    Go figure….
    More ridiculous still, our PUD thinks that big hydro dams are not a source of green energy:
    “Our green power sources are:
    Our Jackson Hydroelectric Project, which uses the force of water to turn turbines that generate electricity (not all hydropower facilities are considered green power; usually only smaller ones like ours that have a minimal impact on the environment). ”
    http://www.snopud.com/energy/pwrsource/GreenPower.ashx?p=1925

  62. California now prohibits and limits idling by large trucks (more than 10,000 pounds), as shown in this document. Supposed to keep the air cleaner by not emitting diesel smoke with its known carcinogenic properties.
    Good luck, truckers, in the cold weather when those bio-diesel regulations go into effect.
    http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/truck-idling/factsheet.pdf
    Will there be a boom in pour-point depressants for diesel?
    Roger E. Sowell
    Marina del Rey, California

  63. High temperatures in that area last Thursday and Friday never got anywhere near as high as 10F. Maybe UHI might help them to get to 0 F. I don’t think anyone in Wisconsin would try to use biodiesal in a school bus, but many of those districts wimped out and cancelled due to -40 wind chills. The only unusual thing here is they were already closed Wednesday which last week was a “warm” day.
    I expect a lot more than one Minnesota district closed, I don’t know of any that stayed open in Western and Northern Wisconsin. Perhaps Bloomington was the only area school system silly enough to have diesel in the first place or perhaps other districts leave the diesels running all night which is pretty common with trucks here.

  64. Mister Jones (07:47:17) :”Current run of colder winters = reduced crop yields = less for ‘biodiesel’.
    Anyone care to do the obvious follow up thinking?”
    Uh, Soylent Gold at the filling stations?

  65. I think it is a “sin”to use good agricultural land to make fuel instead of food.

    Your statement implies that the production of bio-fuels reduces total food production.
    That is not the case. In the case of ethanol production from corn for example, all the nutrition and protein of the corn is preserved in the brewing process. Ethanol production uses only the fermentable sugars and starch’s of the source grain. The leftovers distillers dried grain and solubles (DDGS), actually has a higher protein content that the grain it was produced from, thanks to the added nutritional value given by the fermenting yeasts used to produce the alcohol. Each bushel of grain used in the ethanol-making process produces 2.7 gallons of ethanol; 18 pounds of DDGS. The DDGS is in turn, used as a high quality animal feed, and there are also trials to use it as a soil amendment (non-fossil fuel fertilizer).
    In addition, the corn used to produce ethanol is not the sort of corn used as human food, it is field corn, which is essentially an industrial product source for things like animal feed, corn starch production (much of which is used in industrial product manufacturing including production of bio-degradable plastics not food for export).
    The ethanol and biodiesel are methods to provide yet another value added product from existing farm production. Food shortages in the third world are not due to a lack of food production, but supply problems due to high energy costs of transportation, and profiteering by intermediaries. They are also caused by intentional destruction of local food crops to grow industrial crops. Much of the rice shortage which made the news last year was due to the voracious demand for rubber in China resulting in rice plantings being replaced by rubber tree plantations in Asia.
    Although the spike in food prices was “attributed” to bio-fuels, followup studies showed that the majority of those costs increases were driven by higher fuel costs for transportation and speculative buying of foods as commodities investments. Much of that attribution of “food vs fuel” was an intentional marketing campaign by industries which had a vested interest in super cheap corn like Tyson foods that did not like paying fair market value for corn to feed their chickens. They have been buying feed corn for years at costs that barely met cost of production and were in effect being subsidized by the farm price supports programs. Their food vs fuel propaganda campaign was intended, like the global warming propaganda campaign, misdirect the public from the facts and give them an easy scape goat to blame, and preserve their unfair market advantage.
    For example the true market value of the cost of the actual corn in a box of corn flakes is about 5 cents at the corn prices that preceded the spike in food commodities. Even if the cost of corn doubled, the cost of that box of corn flakes should only have increased by 5 cents due to the corn content, not the 25% – 50% some foods saw. Prices of food that did not even use corn increased and it was blamed on biofuel production rather than the costs of energy for production and transportation and speculators bidding up futures contracts much like the housing boom bid up the price of homes.
    The spike in commodities like oil and food spiked as the mortgage market imploded as investors dumped mortgage based investments and scrambled to find an alternative investment to put their money in. Much of that money found its way to the commodities market and bid up prices far above fair market values.
    Larry

  66. Notice that the newspaper, the Star Tribune, is leftist and has declared bankruptcy. Then read the comments to that newspaper’s article and notice the comment ratings are tending to the anti-left/anti-government-control side. Maybe the potential customers aren’t interested in giving them money.

  67. OT, but, the Big List begins. So future generations will know who to blame for “screwing the planet”. It was some AGWer named “Smiths” suggestion, from frustration with all the skeptics, apparently. Guess he didn’t realize how happy we’d be to oblige. LOL!
    Sign the Big List!

  68. Pages 5-9 of this report does a nice job of laying out the refinery solution:
    http://agr.wa.gov/bioenergy/docs/RenewableDieselWhitePaperFINAL.pdf
    This link shows that it’s approved for the biofuels tax credit:
    http://www.dieselnet.com/news/2007/04epa2.php
    A generally well done story about Neste and how they are doing it:
    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/magazine/story?id=51462
    The bottom line is that this is a transient problem as folks learn that all biodiesel is not the same. The bad news is that ‘our leaders’ will be learning this at the expense of parking lots of Diesel users by the side of the road in blizzards. “Lord protect me from my government”…

  69. The problem with renewables, except for hydro, is their extremely low energy density. That means they require hunungous areas of land to produce a real amount of energy. Renewables need hundreds of square miles just to produce the same energy that a 1000 MW power plant can produce on a single sq. mile of area.
    Almost half of the biofuel one produces is needed for its own production.

  70. The problem with renewables, except for hydro, is their extremely low energy density. That means they require hunungous areas of land to produce a real amount of energy. Renewables need hundreds of square miles just to produce the same energy that a 1000 MW power plant can produce on a single sq. mile of area.
    Almost half of the biofuel one produces is needed for its own production.

    That is true of some of the classic biofuel configurations like early generation ethanol and biodiesel, but there are options that greatly mitigate those problems.
    Many of the current generation of fuel ethanol plants are actively pursuing use of biomass > methane, and crop waste to steam in fluidized bed boilers that can burn just about anything from cow dung to corn cobs for process energy. This greatly reduces the “energy cost” of production as you are using energy inputs that are outside the normal energy cycle and are relatively low cost.
    Some of these plants are co-locating with cattle feeding operations, they take in grain, their “waste stream” instead of being dried to DDSG is fed directly to the cattle wet, eliminating drying and shipping costs, then the manure produced by the cattle is collected and using bio-mass t > methane generation is used to power most of the plants process energy.
    You still have the acreage required for the crop, but that is also changing as new biomass sources come on line, like cellulose > ethanol and algae to bio-diesel and ethanol. Many of those crops can be grown with very low supplemental support like fertilizer, tilling and also use terrain that is not usable for any other crop.
    I suspect that the highest energy returns will come out of the algae based processes currently under development, as their conversion efficiency of solar energy to useful biomass is much higher than plants like corn, soybeans, sorghum etc.
    Bio-fuels are not a total solution in and of themselves, but as part of an “all of the above” approach to energy independence, they have their place. In the case of ethanol its primary advantage is one of fuel quality. Its high octane allows use of lower quality base gasoline stocks that are easier and cheaper to refine. When ethanol is added to enhance fuel octane and burn characteristics you get more usable energy from the same base stocks. E85 for example, allows much higher compression ratios than are usable on conventional blends of gasoline. This increases the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine, making it possible to use much smaller displacement high efficiency engines than are possible on straight gasoline. In highly optimized engines it is capable of reaching thermal efficiencies that are not possible in spark ignition gasoline fueled engines, and exceed some diesel engines.
    Larry
    Larry

  71. poetryman — re natural gas buses
    We use compressed natural gas CNG in California for buses, seems to work pretty well. A lot of energy is used to compress the gas, though. The CNG is used for improved air quality — eliminating diesel smoke.
    Some CNG stations use LNG, pump the LNG to desired pressure and then vaporize the liquid before it enters the bus storage tank. It depends on the availability of natural gas lines.
    http://www.metro.net/news_info/2007/metro_163.htm

  72. TonyB (06:09:27) :
    I entirely agree about burning rubbish-however most greens are against it as they think that will encourage people to treat it as disposable rather than recyclable.

    Well, there are some other ways to recycle tyres, but cutting them up uses a lot of energy. The pyrolysis process I saw produced a megawatt of recycled electricity from 40 tyres an hour, and the waste products were high grade steel wire and printer toner.
    If only engineers were accorded as much respect and promotion as lawyers and snake oil salesmen…

  73. To Jeff Id (07:41:05) :
    Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but with a PhD from Cambridge University in Plant Physiology, I believe I can write with some knowledge. Under optimal conditions, with C4-type plants (e.g. Maize) you can get up to about 5% quantum efficiency (conversion of light to chemical energy). Out in the field with water stress, sub-optimal light and temperature, nutrients, plus pests and diseases, you are lucky to get 1%.
    Then that is total biomass. What you need to do then is look at the harvest index. That is the ratio of the harvestable product (what you either eat or process to biofuel) to total biomass. A good harvest index is 0.5, typically you are looking at lower than this. Add extraction and refining losses and I reckon you are looking at a final conversion of less than 0.2%.
    Supporters of biofuel tend to be optimistic!

  74. Leon Brozyna (23:38:56) : […]Will anyone then be able to connect the dots to worldwide famine?
    The classical problem in ag econ has always been overproduction. It still is. The EU mandate for rape seed oil biodiesel is largely just a replacement for farm subsidy programs to prevent over production. We are not anywhere near a point where land is limiting to food supply.
    GeoS (00:49:36) : A passenger airplane recently crashed short on approach – […]Could it be they’ve been trying out biodiesel in jet fuel?
    Not a biodiesel test. These things are highly regulated. The present renewables tests are focusing on fuels that are not esters. Rentech RTK makes the jet fuel from trash that the military is using in their type certifications. Trash takes no land from food production…
    http://www.rentechinc.com/pdfs/Rentech+MSW+Release+3.11.08.pdf
    Alan the Brit (01:51:19) : The old trick used in the sub-tropical UK was to place an electric light bulb under the engine bay […]Not possible now incandescent light bulbs are to be banned!
    Sub-tropical? In the gin again, eh? 😉 Given the cool UK temps, banning incandescents just moves the energy usage from the light bulb to the heating bill. Oh Well…
    If the US?? & Europe are serious about reducing car emission […] add COMPULSORY electric heating systems
    If only… I would love to have a block heater built into all cars sold. The addition of comfort (heater works at startup!), safety (no windscreen fog!), and fuel efficiency make it a real ‘no brainer’. But no, they are ‘options’. I can get one retrofit to my car for about $300. It would be about $20 if done at assembly of the vehicle.
    It concerns me that people go on about reliable & renewable fuel supplies when these are based upon crops. Crops can fail you know!
    This, IMHO, is the big elephant in the room everyone is ignoring. We have forgotten about crop failures. When I was a child, last millennium ;-), rice & corn was harvested and stored in grain silos for a year or two as you used it. We could ride out a ‘bad year’. Now grain is harvested and used ‘just in time’ and transshipped from hemisphere to hemisphere. We have about a 3 month to 3 week supply depending on season. A single year of crop failure, on a global basis or just a hemisphere basis, and we are in ‘deep doo’.
    One big rock into the pacific that causes a large wave to sink the shipping fleet and millions to billions of folks will be starving. Think Tunguska at sea. The probabilities are known. It ought to be about a once in a few hundred years event. Would you bet millions of lives on a 1:200 odds?
    That is the major reason I advocate CTL and GTL rather than BioTL even though I really like biodiesel…
    Barry B. (05:56:55) : All diesel fuel blends “gel” at low temperatures. A 2% blend of biodiesel changes the gel temp only slightly.
    The problem with the 2% blends is the cloud point, not the gel point. That 2% still solidifies at the same temp it always did. You get a few crystals of esters clouding the fuel. You are now in a race condition to heat the fuel system (via bypassed warm fuel) faster than those crystals accumulate in the fuel filter and clog it…
    DaveM (06:09:52) : 50% kerosene (max!) is and should be the only solution to the high gel point issue
    Alkane type biofuels is a best solution. 50% K1? Um, not always max. The US Army has gone to a single fuels program. They had a bunch of Stanadyne (I think!) rotary pump failures (they use the fuel as lube, unlike the Bosche that do it right 😉 on pure Jet-A in Iraq. Turned out that the 130F+ in Iraq and the thinner spec Jet-A from Saudi was just too thin to lube at 100%. The addition of a quart of motor oil per tank is a temporary fix. The ‘takeaway’ was that at low temps (i.e. Alaska) it works OK, but at high temps it’s too thin and needs a lube additive.
    The bottom line is that each engine has it’s own quirks dependent on the type of injection pump, injectors, et. al. and the 50% max is a good general rule; but you can ‘cheat it’ a bit of you have specific information and a good mechanical shop. (And it helps if you are in Alaska 😉
    I also tried biodiesel but abandoned it after my fuel lines started dissolving. Any diesel before 1996 will have that issue. Some even newer.
    I forgot to mention that… Thanks. Biodiesel is a great solvent. Here in California we went through the dissolving fuel lines problem back in about 1988? when they took out sulphur and biodiesel started as a fad.
    The short form: Sulphur makes regular rubber swell a little & seal well. Less sulphur, the rubber shrinks. This is bad if it’s a seal or fuel line and causes cracks & leaks. The transition to ultralow sulphur fuel caused a lot of fuel lines and pumps to be replaced for seals failures. Biodiesel will cause the same rubber to puff up and become weak (‘dissolve’). If you have ultralow sulphur Diesel, you will already be replacing those rubber parts with synthetic rubber / polymer parts anyway (nitrile , viton). After the late ’80s – early 90’s, engines came from the maker with such parts. (European first, then US.)
    John Galt (06:12:23) : What about the new clean burning diesels? Can those burn kerosene or jet fuel without damaging the engine or some other important system?
    Read your manual. The new ‘common rail’ systems have very close tolerances ( 3 micron fuel filter instead of 10 micron!) and computerized injection systems. The VW system, for example, as a viscosity sensor. If you get too low or too high it will prevent you from running (even if the fuel would work mechanically… just ‘out of spec’ will shut you down).
    There is no technical reason that I know of why Kerosene at the 50% level would not work (it’s basically just saying #1 Diesel) and the easy check would be if your manual says something like “Run #1 Diesel in winter”. But dump in a tank of straight Jet-A and the viscosity sensor will likely shut you down. 50% I’d expect to work, but let viscosity be your guide…
    Robp (06:33:31) : There has got to be a better and cheaper way.
    Block heater, heated fuel line, heated fuel filter, heated fuel tank. $400 or so. Does it make economic sense? Depends on how much fuel you burn idling in winter…
    hotrod (07:26:41) : Likewise with ethanol fuels they only have cold weather separation problems if the fuel is wet (ie does not meet specifications), at low ethanol fuel blends.
    Just a nit: The low blend anhydrous fuels tend to absorb water from the air. You need a sealed fuel system in humid environments to avoid ‘issues’. Not a problem with modern smog rules cars, unless your fuel vendor has leaky tanks…
    Jeff Id (07:41:05) : The real problem is that bio-diesel, even in its best form is a mode of incredibly inefficient solar. The land area required to fuel anything of consequence is beyond prohibitive and it distracts from solving our real energy needs.
    I am a great fan of biofuels and I have to support this statement. Dang it.
    We can grow a lot of biofuels and it can help, but replace all our oil use? Yeah, we could do it. I figured the land area at about 100 x 1000 miles. A nice chunk of the USA. (And that was with generous assumptions). The only other possible is algae. (I put that somewhere between the blue sky dreamers and your estimates).
    My support of biofuels hinges on the incredible price inelasticity of oil consumption. A 5% or 10% addition of biofuels can have a 20% to 50% impact on oil prices… But 100% bio? Nice dream. One I cherish. Not likely… Thus my support for both biofuels and coal to liquids…
    Sean (07:45:23) : It does not receive much press here in the states but the use of biofuels has already produced catastrophe. It is estimated (by Oxfam)
    Right there you can put a period and walk away. They just made up some scary stuff for a press release. Sound familiar?
    75% of the increases were attributed to biofuel production. There were food riots in 14 cities over the price of things like rice and corn meal doubling.
    And this confirms that fantasy. The rice shortages have nothing to do with fuel farming. Nothing. It was far more closely tied to this:
    http://deltafarmpress.com/rice/070528-class-action/
    A GMO contamination of the foundation seed stock for some of the most widely planted rice in the USA. THAT then lead to prohibitions on import of all US rice. Gee, major rice exporter off line, rice shortages. Any connection? Nahhhh. Must be corn use…
    Notice the lack of mention of rape seed? The biofuel source of choice in Europe? Wouldn’t want to offend / blame the Europeans…
    Finally, another excellent post has already covered the point that field corn is not the corn people eat, it is used to make bioplastics, starch, animal feeds, et. al. I would only add that the fermentation not only leaves the protein in the feed & adds some, the yeast raises the vitamin content greatly. Oh, and a good feedlot can capture the animal poo and make methane from it. It’s just a more efficient total cycle with the corn, not a removal from the food chain.
    And a final point on corn: It’s just a distractor in the area of biofuels. A ham handed way for the Feds to hand out farm subsidies. Any real biofuels ethanol program would concentrate on cellulosic with about 10x better energy yield. Corn ethanol is not a fuel program, it’s farmer welfare.
    Orangutan habitat as rain forests in Indonesia are cut down to make way for palm oil plantations to satisfy biofuel demands.
    IMHO, another misdirection. Palm oil is the replacement of choice for hydrogenated oils since we have found out that trans fats are lethal. It’s the tonnage going to replace hydrogenated corn and soybean oil world wide. The spike in palm oil prices started with the trans fat swap, not the biodiesel use. Why blame a science mistake by MDs and ‘settled science’ if you can blame America? Sound familiar again?
    Think of all the acres planted with soybeans and corn. Look at all the oil extracted. Look at the amount that was hydrogenated to make the shortening that goes into all your potato chips, cookies, breakfast rolls, breads, chip dip, margarin, salad dressing, etc. ad nauseum. All that hydrogenated oil must be replaced. The non-Palm alternatives have gone down in flames one after the other…
    The Europeans were so alarmed there is actually talk of backing off the biofuel requirements already written into law.
    So reducing the rape seed oil used in EU is going to increase the rice available in Asia? Ok…
    Bill Junga (07:46:56) : I think it is a “sin”to use good agricultural land to make fuel instead of food. Looks like we’re going backwards where at one time crops had to be grown and used to feed the draught animals to do the work, this time mechanical devices.
    Two topics here. Tractors are far more efficient than oxen with fuel. Even if we did grow crops to run the farm, doing it with biodiesel is much better than doing it with oxen (from a fuel efficiency perspective) Second, it’s only a ‘sin’ after you reach the production limit. We are far from that limit.
    Food shortages have nothing to do with production. They have everything to do with politics, religion, and distribution.
    TonyB (08:37:19) : […]most on this site are also pragmatic realists […]
    There’s your key! Good call!
    IMHO that means for the next twenty years or so the biggest game in town remains nuclear/coal/oil
    Yup. And putting coal and oil ‘off limits’ is incredibly dumb. Nuclear will always be ‘biggest’, followed by coal, then oil (in terms of potential).
    Roger Sowell (09:37:39) : Parts of California also get cold enough to cause bio-diesel problems in winter, e.g. northern parts and in the mountains. […] California now prohibits and limits idling by large trucks (more than 10,000 pounds), as shown in this document. […] Good luck, truckers, in the cold weather when those bio-diesel regulations go into effect.
    Truckers are smart pragmatic folks. Just expect that it will become very hard to get goods shipped through the Sierra Nevada and I5 north of Sacramento during winter. They just won’t take the chance of getting frozen stiff in the mountains in the winter. Were I a trucker with an LA to Portland load, I’d take I15 to Las Vegas and do the Nevada run… Expect to see large growth in the “Bunny Ranch Truck Stop” 😉 and trucks parking for dinner just outside the California border. Short haul inside the state will convert to CNG or add fuel heaters.
    hotrod (10:14:49) : Your statement implies that the production of bio-fuels reduces total food production.
    Very well done! All I could add is the big vitamin boost from yeasts. (Don’t know which critters need the B complex though.) Didn’t know about the rubber angle. Interesting…

  75. Roger Sowell (13:48:47) : Reference your comments concerning the use of natural gas in California. Australia offered to supply your state with enough LPG for centuries of use. Your Governor said, ‘No Way’!

  76. E.M. Smith
    It gets better (worse?) re trucks in California. The air quality (that is an oxymoron in the South Basin) is so important that the state Air Resources Board requires older trucks to install smoke combustion devices (like catalytic converters on cars), and all new trucks must have EPA Smartway ™ additions. At the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, only new trucks will be allowed within a few years. Truckers also must use diesel with bio-fuel in it, and cannot idle more than 5 minutes. They must have a separate (state-approved) vehicle heater for sleeping warmth, and I suppose the vehicle heater will also heat the fuel system and engine block.
    Truckers are indeed smart and practical folks. I have some in my extended family. They cuss like you would not believe over these California rules. Makes one wonder how goods are going to get shipped around in the Golden State. We can thank AB 32. And Obama wants the same rules nation-wide!
    As for state-border truck stops, yes, they are there already, primarily because California charges around 7 percent per gallon sales tax, and border states do not.

  77. F Rasmin,
    Yes, the state enviros take a dim view of building LNG importing facilities in California. None have received permits, although many have tried. One company (Sempra) went down the coast just into Mexico to build their LNG receiving facility, regasify, and ship the gas into California. The Mexicans were not so picky. As a result, they (Mexico) have a large industrial site, receive tax revenues from it, and employment.
    We would be happy to buy Aussie gas, if you could figure out a way to deliver it to the Mexican import facility! Have you talked to Sempra?
    California is turning into a tourism and transportation state due to AB 32. The ports at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego will likely never shut down, they are too important to the national commerce and by extension to the world. But all the rest is “at risk” as they say. We should likely never run out of legislators and lawyers, either. And, a few people to write the environmental studies to justify denial of construction permits.
    There is not enough water for agriculture, no funds for building any infrastructure (see Los Angeles Times today for article on that one) so pretty soon the kiddos will walk to classes held outside under the sky. On ground planted with native plants, irrigated by polluted recycled water because lawn irrigation with potable water will be prohibited. Cannot spare the water, you see. Never mind the children contracting illnesses and diseases from the recycled water.
    The electric power will be off-and-on, as the 33 percent renewable energy mandate takes hold in 2020, yet no large utility has ever managed to supply reliable power with more than about 20 percent renewables, as far as I know. But, the air will be cleaner.
    And, the CO2 will be less, so the oceans will not rise and the average temperature will start to fall. — RIGHT!! as if California can affect global CO2 concentrations…California uses around 2 percent of the world’s energy. Cutting energy use to zero would not be noticed in the CO2 measurements.
    Sorry, did my cynical side show through?

  78. tallbloke (14:14:24) :

    TonyB (06:09:27) : I entirely agree about burning rubbish-however most greens are against it as they think that will encourage people to treat it as disposable rather than recyclable.

    Well, there are some other ways to recycle tyres
    Hmmm… Another common thread… Fungibility confusion.
    Folks seem to think that all seed plants are the same, when they are not. Thus the confounding of rape seed (grows well in cold northern Europe) and rice (grows well in hot wet places). Similarly, we have all trash treated as highly fungible when it isn’t. And all Diesel fuels as fungible by our legal system fuel mandates, when they are not at low temperatures… And all biofuels as fungible when corn alcohol is vastly different from cellulosic and algae oils. Interesting how people think…
    Rubber tires are incredibly hard to recycle as rubber. About 10% to 15% max ‘crumb’ from ground up tires can go back into new tires before the quality suffers. There isn’t much else you can do with it. (There are only so many playgrounds that can be ‘paved’ with recycled rubber mats…)
    The next best usages tend to be from the resource substitution side. Use it as fuel, or use it for pyrolysis to fuels with materials recapture. This is, IMHO, a kind of ‘recycle’ yet it is confounded with ‘disposal’ rather than thought of as ‘recycle’ even though the steel is recovered even as the rubber is burned. Why? Because other ‘trash’ is 100% recycled and we have a fungibility error in thinking that applies to tires, too…
    If only engineers were accorded as much respect and promotion as lawyers and snake oil salesmen…
    Ahmen… It never ceases to amaze me that politicians, lawyers and managers can think that the laws of physics, chemistry, economics and engineering can be overturned by fiat. (I can say that since I’ve been a manager and I’ve seen many of my fellow manglers at work… not a pretty sight…)
    I suspect that this comes from our ‘tracking’ folks into technical and non-technical paths in school when in reality anyone in a position of decision making needs a technical skill set in the modern world.

  79. I haven’t read all this thread, it’s too damned depressing.
    As far as I can see, as long as we have LAWYERS in the hot seat, it’s not going to get much better 🙁
    DaveE

  80. e.m. smith,
    Thanks for the informative comments.
    “Yes we can” = “Great Leap Forward” We all know how that came out, well, some of us do anyway.

  81. E.M.Smith, thanks for the much needed dose of reality – although I’m afraid your attempt to set the record straight will mostly fall on deaf ears. Much like the global warming alarmists, the anti-biofuel advocates care very little about the facts. To them, it’s a matter of ideology rather than rationality.

  82. Thanks hotrod for the sane discussion. We are no where near starving people because we can’t grow enough food. If we are starving people, it isn’t because there isn’t enough land to grow food on. I have several really good tracts of land that are out of production due to conservation programs that not only keep production down, but keep erodible land from being eroded by making sure there is ground cover while it sits idle. Trust me, if there was a way to guarantee the slimmest profit year in and year out by taking these fields out of conservation programs and growing something, I would. But because of price controls on my unfinished product, there is no guarantee to me that I will make a profit. I can’t change what I charge for a truck full of wheat, regardless of what my costs are. The grocery owner can. The middle man can. But the farmer cannot. And if by chance the populace decides to get rid of conservation programs and farmer welfare, allowing us to charge enough to make a product, you will not like grocery shopping. Why? It will swing up and down just like the price of gasoline. Would you like to pay $2 for eggs today but $6 dollars next month? I thought not.
    There is no decision here for me to make in a volatile cost market. I have to go with the profit guarantee. Therefore land sits idle and I get a reliable paycheck. It sucks but it will remain this way until people are willing to suffer the swings of food prices that would be the case without price controls on farmers.

  83. TJ (17:44:53) : e.m. smith, Thanks for the informative comments.
    Barry B. (17:45:25) : E.M.Smith, thanks for the much needed dose of reality – although I’m afraid your attempt to set the record straight will mostly fall on deaf ears.

    You are most welcome. I try to remember that most folks can change when confronted with truth and that lack of knowledge is not a sin. Often that puts me in the middle taking rocks from both ideologic sides :={
    I also happen to be one of the few folks on the planet who have been doing hands on alternative and biofuels experiments for about 40 years! It’s a passion for me… Ran my lawn mower on ethanol for about a decade; just needed to turn the fuel mix screw… Ran ethanol / gasoline mix in my Ford in 1969 with a similar ‘conversion’! But I also have to admit that the least cost and lowest impact solution would be coal to liquids. We need both, belt and suspenders.
    I really would like to have 1/2 the planet set aside for wildlife (it’s about 1/3 now), and that takes added energy into the ag system, not out of it. I’m hopeful that the (just entering production!) algae farms will show that the projected yields are not fantasy hand waving (a 200 x 200 mile algae farm in the desert for the whole countries’ motor fuel would be ‘nice’ and I really hope it doesn’t turn out to be 2000 x 2000 miles …)

  84. Hotrod, E.M. Smith
    Excellent comments.
    Let me add one thing. Stanford University did a study, and found that there are between 1.0 and 1.2 Billion Acres of Arable land lying “Abandoned” worldwide. That could, quite likely, power every car, truck, and farm tractor in the world.
    Jes sayin.

  85. Pamela Gray (18:23:14) :
    Thanks hotrod for the sane discussion. We are no where near starving people because we can’t grow enough food. If we are starving people, it isn’t because there isn’t enough land to grow food on.

    I wish more folks understood this like you do. I try to explain that it’s not production, it’s politics, wars, distribution, economic access. For some reason it doesn’t stick. The ‘scare’ story of ‘running out of food’ sells. I wish I knew why.
    But because of price controls on my unfinished product, there is no guarantee to me that I will make a profit. I can’t change what I charge for a truck full of wheat
    What about other, more minor grains? Barley, amaranth, rapeseed. Are they all price controlled too? Or is there no local marketing infrastructure so no place to sell? (This is one of my pet peeves… how to get more income to stay on the farm. Family stories of great depression on a farm…)
    Why? It will swing up and down just like the price of gasoline. Would you like to pay $2 for eggs today but $6 dollars next month? I thought not.
    And that is why such programs are correctly called ‘price stabilization’ rather than farmer welfare! Folks just don’t understand price inelastic markets…

  86. There are three simple solutions to the problems associated with bio-Diesel. These are:
    1. Don’t use it. The ed officials should tell the regulators to buzz off because this is stuff is noithing but a pain in the butt.
    2. Put the fuel in outdoor steel tanks, wait until the bio stuff crystalllizes out, then draw off the supernatant, and run it thru a filter before putting in the buses’ fuel tanks.
    3. Retro fit the buses with Wesport-Cummins Diesel engines which use cheap compressed natural gas. Westport (Vancouver, BC)) has develped special injectors that permit the use of natural gas and other light hydrocarbons gases as fuel for Diesel engines. Wesport found that hydrocarbon gases can be used as fuel if a small amount of Diesel is co-injected with gas. This is the clean Diesel technology. Presently, these engines are used almost exclusively in city buses. BC Transit has about 50 of these buses in service in Metro Vancouver and Victoria. The big advantage of these engines is greatly reduced emission of air pollutants in urban areas
    The main disadvantage of hydrocarbon fuel gases is low energy density. Nevertheless, nat gas is dirt cheap in BC. Other disadvantages are heavy tanks required for storage of these fuels and somewhat higher maintanence costs.
    Check out this guys. Methanex (Vancouver, BC) sells methanol (aka methyl hydrate aka wood alcohol) for ca. $1.50 per US gal. Racing cars have been using methanol formulations for quite sometime, and they go very, very fast. FlexFuel cars could in theory use methanol. For cold climates, however, addition of a small amount of dimethyl ether would be required to lower the flash point to about -40 F.

  87. Harold Pierce Jr (11:13:23) :
    3. Retro fit the buses with Wesport-Cummins Diesel engines which use cheap compressed natural gas. Westport (Vancouver, BC)) has develped special injectors that permit the use of natural gas and other light hydrocarbons gases as fuel for Diesel engines. Wesport found that hydrocarbon gases can be used as fuel if a small amount of Diesel is co-injected with gas.

    Minor point: This was known a long time ago. I found a masters thesis in the U.C. Berkeley Engineering library in the late 1970’s about running methane as a co-fuel in Diesel engines via fumigation in the air intake. I also did some experiments using propane and alcohol in the same way in the 1980’s that were published on the old sci.energy boards. IIRC there was a Cummins guy who participated as well. It was some time after that that Cummins developed their computer controlled version… The Diesel is injected to act like a spark plug and light off the mass of other gasses that must be very high octane if fumigated, or low octane if injected.
    I would further speculate that some of the old wood-gas and gasogene adaptations of Diesels in the WW1-WW2 era probably used the same technique.
    The more things change the more they stay the same…

  88. Kum Dollison (20:42:33) :
    Let me add one thing. Stanford University did a study, and found that there are between 1.0 and 1.2 Billion Acres of Arable land lying “Abandoned” worldwide. That could, quite likely, power every car, truck, and farm tractor in the world.

    Yup. Cheaper to move on than reclaim the land. IIRC roughly 1/4 of the farm land in India is in that category. That is why I support Jatropha. It will be planted on those lands (low in nitrogen & tilth) and upgrade them via nitrogen fixation and tilth improvements from seed & leaf mulch.
    From:
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2097.html
    We have for “world”
    arable land: 10.57%
    permanent crops: 1.04%
    other: 88.38% (2005)

    Arable land is the present use, not a limit on what can be used. So we have roughly 11.61% of the land used for crops. There is a lot still available…
    Add in the fact that several algae grow systems can be put on any kind of land (closed industrial systems) and there really is no food vs fuel issue.
    Just visit Disney World and go to the Epcot “land” center to see what can be done. Take the back room tour of the greenhouse.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Land_(Disney)
    http://www.disneyclubs.com/epcot/behind_the_seeds.htm
    They grow food (served in the restaurants in the park) of all sorts including fish and a very large palm tree(!) in sand and air. (Hydroponics and aeroponics). Similar tech is in use today around the world (including Saudi Arabia who have lots of sand and not so much arable land… 1.67% per the CIA ).
    There is no shortage of land. Food shortages have nothing to do with production, they have everything to do with politics, wars, religion, and economic access.
    Some other random google result views of Epcot Land:
    http://www.arondaparks.com/LivingWithTheLand.htm

    Not the public tour, but nice pictures:
    http://www.cropking.com/conftour.shtml

  89. Luke (22:57:21) :
    This is probably something that could be resolved by a clever mechanic. There are inline fuel warmers on the market, and I imagine probably a product to keep the tank warm as well.
    And this solves the problem how? Where does the energy come from to keep the fuel warm? Sun, wind, ?????? More than likely coal, NG or Nuclear. Look back more then the NOW and you might actually see the problem with “Green answers”

  90. E.M.Smith (17:43:35) :
    that must be very high octane if fumigated, or low octane if injected.

    That ought to be: “fumigated, or may be low octane if injected.”

  91. Note to moderator: This may be a duplicate. The first one just evaporated!
    Kum Dollison (20:42:33) :
    Let me add one thing. Stanford University did a study, and found that there are between 1.0 and 1.2 Billion Acres of Arable land lying “Abandoned” worldwide. That could, quite likely, power every car, truck, and farm tractor in the world.

    Yup. Cheaper to move on than reclaim the land. IIRC roughly 1/4 of the farm land in India is in that category. That is why I support Jatropha. It will be planted on those lands (low in nitrogen & tilth) and upgrade them via nitrogen fixation and tilth improvements from seed & leaf mulch.
    From:
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2097.html
    We have for “world”
    arable land: 10.57%
    permanent crops: 1.04%
    other: 88.38% (2005)

    Arable land is the present use, not a limit on what can be used. So we have roughly 11.61% of the land used for crops. There is a lot still available…
    Add in the fact that several algae grow systems can be put on any kind of land (closed industrial systems) and there really is no food vs fuel issue.
    Just visit Disney World and go to the Epcot “land” center to see what can be done. Take the back room tour of the greenhouse.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Land_(Disney)
    http://www.disneyclubs.com/epcot/behind_the_seeds.htm
    They grow food (served in the restaurants in the park) of all sorts including fish and a very large palm tree(!) in sand and air. (Hydroponics and aeroponics). Similar tech is in use today around the world (including Saudi Arabia who have lots of sand and not so much arable land… 1.67% per the CIA ).
    There is no shortage of land. Food shortages have nothing to do with production, they have everything to do with politics, wars, religion, and economic access.
    Some other random google result views of Epcot Land:
    http://www.arondaparks.com/LivingWithTheLand.htm

    Not the public tour, but nice pictures:
    http://www.cropking.com/conftour.shtml

  92. Steve (18:22:27) :

    Luke (22:57:21) :
    There are inline fuel warmers on the market, and I imagine probably a product to keep the tank warm as well.

    And this solves the problem how? Where does the energy come from to keep the fuel warm? Sun, wind, ?????? More than likely coal, NG or Nuclear. Look back more then the NOW and you might actually see the problem with “Green answers”
    Steve, the energy comes from the engine most of the time (12vdc or hot water from the engine for fuel filter warmer, tank warmers & fuel line). The block heater is run off of the ‘mains’, but since it also gives you instant cabin heat, instant defogger, and generally faster starts in winter with any fuel, I don’t see that as significant.
    I would also point out that the 0.1 kW or so of a block heater is insignificant compared to the 35-70 kW of the engine… or the energy to heat the barn…
    This is exactly the same equipment used with dino Diesel in frigid areas, you just start using it a bit sooner during winter.
    There is nothing particularly wrong with ‘green’ solutions. They are a bit different and it is the adjustment phase that causes issues. Unfortunately our lawmakers don’t make it easy (by passing laws that block intelligent solutions, like having 4% in summer and 0% in winter averaging 2%…) and extended creeping adjustments (+5% / yr for 20 years…) just prolongs the agony.
    Personally, I’d rather they didn’t mandate anything, it just forces people against their will into things they don’t understand. Markets let me choose when to jump on a bandwagon, or not. Market good. Mandate bad…

  93. Kum, note the source, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Take up the issue with them. I’m posting your note in the body of the story.

  94. Who, pray tell, will see it? You should make a separate post.
    REPLY: I’ll move the update up top for better visibility…I will also look for your letter to the editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The question now should be, was there presence of the chemical agent added to the biodiesel mix that prevents this problem? I see a reference to it in the report, but I’m unclear if it was actually present.
    I’ll also point out that no matter what the design, and without that chemical agent (Wax-Anti settling agent) if the buses sat outdoors all weekend at those temperatures, without engines idling, they would have the same problem, diesel or biodiesel, correct? – Anthony

  95. BTW, I don’t read the Star Tribune. I expect this kind of nonsense from them.
    I read YOUR BLOG. I thought it was a search for “truth” in “Science.”
    REPLY: I posted no opinion of my own on this story. And explain to me, given the resources I have, what should I have done? Flown to Minneapolis? Demanded to inspect the buses myself? Remove the filters and then contracted out an independent testing lab at my own expense?
    If you don’t like this blog, don’t read it, but don’t place demands on me that are out of my scope as a blogger. I don’t see you getting all that excited about other stories here that I highlight, do you have a finacial stake in biodiesel?
    The process of discovery works, and I posted followup information which contradicts the initial report. But the question remains. Was anti wax settling agent in the biodeisel mix?
    -Anthony

  96. You could have asked yourself one pertinent, and glaringly, obviously begging question: “Why a couple of buses from ONE school system in an ENTIRE STATE that requires 2% Bio in ALL of its Diesel?” This question, alone, should have given you pause, and a hint that you should “wait a day.”
    I am a retired insurance agent. I own no stock in any biofuels company, nor any farmland, or retail outlets. I am merely interested in my grandchildren’s future.
    I do not wax eloquent on “Climate Change” issues because I’m totally unqualified to do so. I read your blog every day to try to learn something.

  97. As for the presence of a “settling agent:” It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was a “Diesel” problem, not a “Bio” problem.

  98. BTW, I don’t recall you asking all of those anti-biofuel commentors if they had “financial” interests in the Petroleum business.
    REPLY: I asked because this seems to be the only topic (alternate energy/fuels) you are truly passionate about on this blog. – Anthony

  99. Some perspective on diesel fuel, cold weather, and additives.
    Wax molecules are nothing more than long, straight-chain hydrocarbons a.k.a. alkanes. Diesel fuel will have more or fewer alkanes depending on the crude oil from which the diesel fuel was distilled. Crude oils are classified as paraffinic, napthenic, or mixed base which is a bit paraffinic and a bit naphthenic. Diesel fuel made from a paraffinic crude oil will naturally have more wax molecules. There are also other factors, such as whether the diesel fuel was made directly from the crude oil, a.k.a straight-run diesel, or from a processing unit in the refinery such as a hydrocracker or catalytic cracker. In the U.S., most diesel fuel is a blend of both straight-run and light cycle oil from a catalytic cracker.
    The diesel fuel has a couple of pertinent laboratory tests on physical properties, including cloud point and pour point, which are important for this discussion. There are also several other physical properties, including sulfur content, cetane, and flash point.
    Cloud point is critical in cold weather because this is the temperature at which the wax molecules precipitate out of solution, causing a characteristic cloudy appearance to an otherwise essentially clear liquid. The colder the fuel gets, the more wax molecules precipitate or crystallize. Precipitation does not indicate the wax falls to the bottom of the vessel or tank. The crystals are very fine and typically remain suspended as the fuel’s viscosity increases, or gets thicker. These wax crystals plug the fuel filters.
    Pour point is also critical in cold weather because this is the temperature at which the viscosity gets so high that the fuel will no longer flow easily. It is comparable to honey or molasses on a cold day.
    Refining chemists devised additives to address both cloud point and pour point, known as suppressants or depressants. These pour point depressant is sometimes referred to as a flow improver.
    Because the cloud point depressant and pour point depressants are fairly expensive, some users rely on adding kerosene or gasoline to their diesel fuel, as was mentioned by others on this thread.
    The use of bio-diesel in petroleum-derived diesel (a.k.a. dino-diesel) complicates matters a bit. As also mentioned by others on this thread, the origin of the bio-diesel is important to selection of the proper additive. Plant-derived bio-diesel includes soy oil, Jatropha oil, and algae oil as also mentioned earlier by others. Animal-derived bio-diesel includes processed or rendered fats from slaugherhouses, and each animal’s fat has different properties. Also, re-used cooking oil is a source of bio-diesel.
    Selecting the proper additive is complicated when cold weather occurs, when the bio-diesel blend, perhaps a B-10 (ten percent bio fuel) does not have any additive for cloud or pour point depressant. How is the user to know what form of bio-diesel is included in the fuel tank, and therefore what additive to add?
    Roger E. Sowell

  100. “Paraffin” is from Diesel. Glycerol is from Bio. This was Paraffin. This was from the “Diesel” component. The bio had nothing to do with it.
    None of the supplier’s other customers had any problems. Could this have been a case of a local school system using up some old “summer” diesel?

    REPLY:
    Doubtful they used summer diesel. Being school trustee myself and signing fuel purchase warrants I can say they don’t have storage capacity that would likely extend out that long…most school systems operate like businesses, on one month cycles of consumables and deliveries. -Anthony

  101. And, Anthony, you might have put in a little update, but that Headline is still there in Extra-Bold, read-all-about-it Type:
    COLD WEATHER + GREEN FUEL = YELLOW BUS FAILURE
    At least you could change that.
    REPLY: If you can prove to me that the biodiesel mix delivered to this school system did indeed have the paraffin wax inhibitor, then I would consider the fuel itself cleared of any issue, and the fuel filter design the entire culprit. Then I’ll be happy to make a change. But if the biodiesel supplier didn’t put this inhibitor in, then the fuel itself would be contributing to the fault. – Anthony

  102. Anthony, read what’s been written. It WAS the fuel. It just wasn’t the “Bio” part of the fuel.
    REPLY: I have read it. The issue is: “is biofuel-diesel mix reliable in this situation”?
    If the supplier cheaped out or is incompetent, and provided fuel that would be problematic, then I would consider it inferior to regular diesel. I did a news article search looking for other similar news events, such as “semi trucks stranded, buses stranded, etc” and found none. My view is that is regular diesel was also as problematic, there would also be some stories related to the very cold weather for “regular” diesel stranding fleets of trucks or buses.
    The only thing I have found that supports your position is an article from an eco-fuel webpage, and they have a stake in the outcome:
    http://domesticfuel.com/2009/01/22/confirmation-biodiesel-not-to-blame-in-minnesota/
    But the question remains, and there seems to be no answer from anyone involved…did the biodiesel supplier put the wax additive in?
    If you can show me that this biodiesel mix was just as good in cold weather as regular diesel used in regular trucking, then I have no problems making a change. – Anthony

  103. The questions to ask the supplier are here:
    http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/fuelfactsheets/COLD_BIOFuelDistFactShtNOSOY.pdf
    Did the biodiesel mix meet the national standard, ASTM D 6751 and others ? Here is what they say:
    Make sure your fuel meets the national
    standard, ASTM D 6751. A fact sheet can be
    downloaded at http://www.biodiesel.org/resources/
    fuelfactsheets. Quality fuel is absolutely critical
    to successful cold flow operation.
    • Cold flow properties can be improved by
    blending biodiesel with kerosene (#1-D), which
    has excellent cold flow properties. It is often
    blended with #2-D in the winter months to
    improve and/or ensure operability. Cloud and
    pour points and cold filter plugging point
    (CFPP) of some #1-D can be well below -30º F.
    • A number of additives are available for
    improving the low temperature operability of
    diesel fuels. These additives include pour point
    depressants, filterability or flow improvers that
    lower CFPP, and wax anti-settling additives.
    The effectiveness of the additives depends on
    the properties of the fuel. So, you must first
    understand what your base diesel cold weather
    specifications are (cloud point, pour point
    and cold filter plugging point). All additives
    must be introduced into the diesel fuel before
    the fuel reaches its cloud point, and must be
    properly blended.
    • Block and filter heaters and indoor vehicle
    storage can also help ensure smooth winter
    operation. However, regardless of your
    approach, cold weather management plans
    should be in place well before the cold
    weather sets in.
    • Procure fuel from a biodiesel producer who
    is certified under the BQ-9000 program. See
    http://www.bq-9000.org for participating companies
    and more details.

  104. Call me obtuse but WTF is gas (oil/petrol the name varies by country) not a biofuel?
    I just checked on wiki and they claim biofuel is defined as “recently dead biological material”, which sounds like Orwellian doublespeak. As opposed to evil long-dead biological material?
    Here´s a suggestion: don´t let them dictate vocabulary, once you concede that you´ve lost a major battle. Bio is biological, carbon based. Make them define them as recently dead, sustainable, Gore´s politically correct fuels, or whatever.
    My car runs on biofuel, like practically all.

  105. Kum Dollison (10:06:52) :
    Lab test shows it wasn’t the biodiesel.
    http://nbb.grassroots.com/resources/BloomingtonBusReport.pdf
    It was Paraffin – a derivative of Diesel Fuel. It was grossly irresponsible to put this post up without getting the facts.

    Um, careful reading of the report shows they disambiguated ‘glycerin’ from ‘a wax substance’ that they then let melt and from the melting assumed it was paraffin wax. I don’t see that this rules out a heavy methylester as causal. In my experience, solidified methylesters look just like waxes.
    I would assume the lab would test for this, but the report does not say so…
    What is more puzzling to me is the assertion that glycerin does not ‘go back into solution until […] 100F’. Per the wiki glycerin melts at 64.4F. There is also the small issue that their ought not to be any glycerin in biodiesel anyway. It is considered a waste product in the production and separates as an immiscible phase – settles out, or is washed out with water. So I’m left with wondering how an immiscible substance goes back into solution at all…
    Frankly, this looks to me more like a botch lab test from someone (mistakenly?) told to look for glycerine vs ‘wax substance’ rather than a lab test for methylester that solidifies at >10F vs Paraffin wax.
    I would not be so fast to endorse this lab report nor to denigrate the veracity of the original report.

  106. Kum Dollison (12:18:24) :
    You could have asked yourself one pertinent, and glaringly, obviously begging question: “Why a couple of buses from ONE school system in an ENTIRE STATE that requires 2% Bio in ALL of its Diesel?”

    The question is not pertinent at all.
    The report you cited states that these were the busses with fuel filters not mounted on the engines and therefor colder. It does not matter if the clogging agent is paraffin wax or a similar melt point methylester, the hotter fuel filters in the other busses is what would protect against either. Ditto other cars, truck, trains, etc. Who’s hot, who’s not.
    You cannot disambiguate between a paraffin causality or a methylester causality based on the mechanical differences between the busses. (Nor by observing melting of a ‘wax substance’… they need a specific chemical test to tell them apart, and the report does not show that being done.)

  107. Kum Dollison (13:41:02) :
    “Paraffin” is from Diesel. Glycerol is from Bio. This was Paraffin. This was from the “Diesel” component. The bio had nothing to do with it.

    That is not clear at all. Glycerin ought NEVER to be in biodiesel. It is a BAD contaminant from poor procedures. (I have made biodiesel, BTW). IF there were every any glycerin in a batch of biodiesel it would be a gross error (they would have skipped the ‘wash’ step with counter flow water stripping…)
    The report says they looked for what ought not to be there and did not find it. Surprise? No. The report does not say that they looked for high melt point methylesters that very well might be there
    They did not test for methyl ester and they did not test for unsaturated vs saturated and they did not test for chain length. All needed tests to have some clue what the ‘wax substance’ was.
    Wax Substance from Bio:
    Make a batch of biodiesel from cow tallow and it will set up at darned near room temperature! Don’t even think of running it below about 50F.
    From:
    http://www.ec.gc.ca/cleanair-airpur/CAOL/transport/publications/biodiesel/biodiesel4.htm
    table 8 we get the melting point of methyl stearate as 39.1C
    It’s a 22 carbon long straight backbone with a methanol stuck on the end. Was the biodiesel sourced from old hamburger grease? This, BTW, is a ‘well known problem’ among “yellow grease” users. (Yes, there is a hierarchy of used cooking fats with folks always trying to get the WVO and not the YG. WVO is waste vegetable oil.)
    Change that to a 16 long polyunsaturated plant oil and you have a nice kink or two in the middle that slows crystal formation. Maybe down to 10F if you are lucky. You could probably get 0F out of a dilute mix with dino Diesel. Maybe. With heat.
    also From:
    http://www.ec.gc.ca/cleanair-airpur/CAOL/transport/publications/biodiesel/biodiesel4.htm
    we have a chart of common biodiesels and their cloud points. Notice that only RME (Rape Methyl Ester, used in Europe) in table 6 is significantly below 0C at -4C; while D2 is -15 to -25C. The most likely biodiesel in the USA is SME (Soy Methyl Ester) at -0.5C cloud point.
    See the problem? Unless they did a very selective filter for specific fatty acids you end up with some components that make a ‘wax substance’ at freezing temperatures.
    None of the supplier’s other customers had any problems. Could this have been a case of a local school system using up some old “summer” diesel?
    I don’t think so. Summer Diesel ought to be a problem even with a warm fuel filter (the fuel lines from tank to engine are not heated. At 10F you are starting ‘gel’ problems with summer diesel and the fuel lines on both busses would need warming. Happened to me at Tahoe with #2 at 10F.)
    Kum Dollison (14:33:38) :
    And, Anthony, you might have put in a little update, but that Headline is still there in Extra-Bold, read-all-about-it Type:
    COLD WEATHER + GREEN FUEL = YELLOW BUS FAILURE
    At least you could change that.
    REPLY: If you can prove to me that the biodiesel mix delivered to this school system did indeed have the paraffin wax inhibitor, then I would consider the fuel itself cleared of any issue[…]Anthony

    I don’t think you can say that it’s cleared even with an inhibitor. Even with an additive, we don’t know what the ‘wax substance’ was. We do know that the fuel had 2% xME and that has a higher cloud point than D2.
    Kum Dollison (14:53:03) :
    Anthony, read what’s been written. It WAS the fuel. It just wasn’t the “Bio” part of the fuel.
    REPLY: I have read it. The issue is: “is biofuel-diesel mix reliable in this situation”?

    I can tell you from personal experience as a bioDiesel enthusiast who has used it for over 20 years (had to make my own in the beginning…) it is NOT as reliable as dino Diesel in the cold. It is fairly easy to make your vehicle cold tolerant with fuel heaters, but the ‘dump and go’ mentality of our government mandates will strand people by the side of the road.
    This will eventually be fixed with the hydrogenated oil biodiesels made in the oil refineries, but it will take a while for this to be figured out.
    I did a news article search looking for other similar news events, such as “semi trucks stranded, buses stranded, etc” and found none.
    It’s ‘dog bites man’. Folks are always having fuel gel / cloud issues as the season shifts (on a one off basis). It’s when a fleet (or a specific vehicle type in a fleet) goes down that it’s news. Ask any cold weather trucker about fuel warming procedures…
    If you can show me that this biodiesel mix was just as good in cold weather as regular diesel used in regular trucking, then I have no problems making a change. – Anthony
    IMHO, the only thing you ought to do is put up the lab report along with the discussion point that they may have blown the test (as I described above). I don’t see Bio as ‘off the hook’ at all based on what the lab says they did. I think you can see from the Canada link, Figure 6, that the cloud and pour points are not as good and get worse with concentration. They are also highly variable with feedstock used to make the biodiesel.
    Again from the Canada report, section 4.4 Cold Flow:
    “All biodiesel fuels exhibit poor cold flow properties with Cloud and Pour points 10 to 150C higher than those of D-2”
    (That 150C is undoubtedly supposed to be 15degreesymbolC)
    While I want bioDiesel to be available on every street corner, I do not want the market destroyed by folks thinking they can run it at -10F with no issues. That will just kill the fuel market for all the wrong reasons.
    And yes, I do own biofuels and biodiesel stocks. PSUD, OOIL, VRNM, RTK for future growth along with oil companies: PCZ, PBR, PGH, PWE (Mostly Canada oil trusts for the dividends).

  108. blubi (16:14:45) :
    “Call me obtuse but WTF is gas (oil/petrol the name varies by country) not a biofuel?
    I just checked on wiki and they claim biofuel is defined as “recently dead biological material”, which sounds like Orwellian doublespeak. As opposed to evil long-dead biological material?
    Here´s a suggestion: don´t let them dictate vocabulary, once you concede that you´ve lost a major battle. Bio is biological, carbon based. Make them define them as recently dead, sustainable, Gore´s politically correct fuels, or whatever.”

    You are right that both dino-diesel and bio-diesel are carbon based. The difference is that petroleum has been underground for a few million years, and bio-diesel probably did die just a short time ago. If it is animal-based, the critters probably died within a few days of being rendered into oil. If plant-based, the seeds or whatever could have been stored somewhere for a few weeks to a few months. With algae-oil, I think it is a very short trip from the sunshine to the processing plant.
    Another way to distinguish the two is fossil fuel vs renewable fuel.

  109. Horse hockey
    In an entire state that requires a 2% bio mixture in all diesel this one little school district had some buses of a certain type that didn’t operate properly.
    This is a no-brainer. The school system’s mechanic (or whoever pumped the summer blend into the offending buses) screwed up. You know it, and I know it.
    REPLY: No I don’t “know it”. I see this is going nowhere, you are now speculating and blaming someone rather than doing an analysis. I’m going to give this thread a time out for awhile. – Anthony

  110. Kum Dollison (20:15:22) :
    In an entire state that requires a 2% bio mixture in all diesel this one little school district had some buses of a certain type that didn’t operate properly.
    This is a no-brainer. The school system’s mechanic (or whoever pumped the summer blend into the offending buses) screwed up. You know it, and I know it.

    I’m sorry, but it is not a no-brainer. There is no reason to think there was #2 Diesel (‘summer’) in the tanks. Buses are used prior to January. Fuel turns over fairly quickly. And as I stated above, at the posted temperatures all the buses would have fuel problems with straight #2 due to cold fuel lines, even if no paraffin was in the fuel (no cloud point or cold filter plugging point issues, just pour point issues). They didn’t, ergo not #2.
    Please take a look at the Canada analysis I referred to above. The charts clearly show 2 things:
    1) BioDiesel (methylester, chemically) has very high cloud points compared to D2 (#2 or ‘summer’ Diesel). Some as high as room temperature.
    2) Blends with #2 or even #1 (kerosene or ‘winter Diesel’) have an elevated pour point and an elevated cloud point. This is because the bioDiesel blended in forms ‘wax like’ crystals at higher temperatures.
    Now re-read the lab test. There was no chemical analysis done. They looked at a ‘wax substance’ and observed it melt. I’ve done this many times with bioDiesel. Pure, 100%, no paraffin in it, made myself known history methylester made from pure virgin bought at the store soybean oil, corn oil, and other oils. It looks just like a slightly yellowish paraffin melting. It is not possible to tell the two apart by eye. (One tests their own fuel for cloud point by placing it in the fridge since it can freeze solid in the freezer…)
    Given this, the most likely scenario is that the fuel started to cloud as the methylester (bioDiesel) started to come out of solution as a solid (‘crystalize’). The buses with filters heated by the engine were able to run long enough to get return (bypassed excess) fuel back to the fuel tanks and start warming the fuel system. Buses with cold filters clogged up prior to enough heat making it into the fuel tank mass and back down the fuel lines. Cars and commercial trucks have much shorter runs from engine to tank and warm the fuel system faster. Buses are the canaries…
    The buses with the weakest system went down first with marginal cold spec fuel in an unusual cold snap.
    Per the assertion that these were the only vehicles having an issue. It just doesn’t work that way. In EVERY cold snap, many folks have a ‘failure to start’ issue. I’ve had 2 or 3. None of them made the paper.
    One was my story of a tank of #2 from a warm valley (they don’t do #1 in California’s warm areas at any time of year) and a long drive to cold Tahoe snow. Another was a single dead glow plug (starts OK warm, need ’em all when cold). A third was when I ran a way too ‘thick’ mix of bio-fuel in too cold a temp for it.
    These things are just not newsworthy and you will never hear about them in the paper. Nor have you heard of the dozens of truckers in Alaska each year who have to warm their fuel system with blowtorches and bonfires…
    That it was school buses with kids waiting made it a news story.
    Again, look at the cloud and pour point graphs in the Canada paper. As legal mandates force more bioDiesel into the winter mix, more of these events will happen. It is inevitable. Each type of equipment and filter has it’s limits for clouding. As viscosity, clouding, CFPP issues, et. al. hit ever more classes of equipment eventually the ‘issue’ will be addressed.
    This is what we went through in California with the super early introduction of ultra low sulphur Diesel and the need to replace seals with viton and nitrile materials. The Canaries go first, then the rest of us get hit.
    I would predict that the ‘fix’ will be simple. To meet ASTM fuel specs AND bioDiesel percentages, more refineries will run bio-oils and fats through their hydrotreaters to make bioDiesel that is alkane, and not methylester based. Unfortunately, this will not happen as long as people believe that there is no problem to fix…
    My interest in all this is simple: I want bioDiesel. I do not want to be stuck by the side of the road every time it gets cold while the government powers that be figure out the fuel chemistry I already know and fix their mandates.
    At this point I’ve said all I can contribute on this point and I’m retiring from this thread. There is no sense continuing to flog this. The facts, data, references et. al. are posted above for anyone to see. I can add no more.

  111. Folks, this issue has been pretty much resolved in biodiesel’s favor.
    See Wednesday’s editorial in the Star Tribune, the newspaper that first reported this (yes, the op/ed should have mentioned that fact). See my post at Gas 2.0. There are many other sources as well.
    Bob Moffitt
    Communications Director
    Clean Fuel & Vehicle Technologies program
    American Lung Association of Minnesota

Comments are closed.