Biodiesel can be blended and used in many different concentrations. The most common are: B100 (pure biodiesel), B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel), B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel) and B2 (2% biodiesel, 98% petroleum diesel).
ASTM International develops specifications for a wide variety of products, including conventional diesel fuel (ASTM D975). This specification allows for biodiesel concentrations of up to 5% (B5) to be called diesel fuel, with no separate labeling required at the pump. Low-level biodiesel blends, such as B5 are ASTM approved for safe operation in any compression-ignition engine designed to be operated on petroleum diesel. This can include light-duty and heavy-duty diesel cars and trucks, tractors, boats, and electrical generators.
B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel) is the most common biodiesel blend in the United States. B20 is popular because it represents a good balance of cost, emissions, cold-weather performance, materials compatibility, and ability to act as a solvent. Most biodiesel users purchase B20 or lower blends from their normal fuel distributors or from biodiesel marketers. Regulated fleets that use biodiesel blends of 20% (B20) or higher qualify for biodiesel fuel use credits under the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
B20 (and any blend between B6 and B20) must meet prescribed quality standards as specified by ASTM D7467 (summary of requirements). The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office previously supported work to test and improve biodiesel quality, helping more fuel meet ASTM standards. B20 and lower-level blends generally do not require engine modifications. Engines operating on B20 have similar fuel consumption, horsepower, and torque to engines running on petroleum diesel.
Pure biodiesel (B100) contains about 8% less energy per gallon than petroleum diesel. For B20, this translates to a 1% to 2% difference, but most B20 users report no noticeable difference in performance or fuel economy. Biodiesel has some emissions benefits, especially for engines manufactured before 2010. For engines equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, the air quality benefits are the same whether running on biodiesel or petroleum diesel. However, biodiesel still offers better greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits compared to conventional diesel fuel. The emissions benefit is roughly commensurate with the blend level; that is, B20 would have 20% of the GHG reduction benefit of B100.
However, not all diesel engine manufacturers cover biodiesel use in their warranties (see the National Biodiesel Board's OEM Information for those that do support the use of biodiesel blends). [ http://www.biodiesel.org/using-biodi...em-information
] Users should always consult their vehicle and engine warranty statements before using biodiesel.
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