Biodiesel mandate feared harming diesel engines

The federal government’s proposal to impose a minimum two per cent biodiesel content in diesel fuel doesn’t consider the possible harm to diesel engines, a national carriers’ group warns.

Diesel engine manufacturers “have not and cannot provide assurances that biodiesel will not expose the Canadian trucking industry to engine problems, increased costs and possibly the voiding of engine warranties,” Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley said in a release Wednesday.

The Ottawa-based CTA is the national body for seven provincial trucking associations and says it represents about 4,500 carrier companies, owner/operators and industry suppliers.

The CTA warned of the “averaging” provision in the federal government’s 2006 notice of intent for a biodiesel mandate.

”This provision will provide flexibility for the suppliers and manufacturers of biofuel but will no doubt force the biofuel content sold in on-road diesel well above the B2 (two per cent biodiesel blend) range into B5 and higher levels,” the CTA said. “These types of biodiesel fuel levels pose engine warranty and possibly cold weather operability issues for most engines on the road today.”

“Under the averaging approach the business interests of biodiesel producers and the petroleum industry all have some level of protection,” Bradley said.

“Being told by the biodiesel producers that we can sue them if their product is not of sufficient quality to work in our engines is of no solace.”

Engine manufacturers provide “no assurance” that any diesel blends sold above B5 will not cause operability problems for most new heavy truck engines, the group said. “Engine manufacturers have told this to all the stakeholders in the biodiesel debate, including the federal government,” Bradley noted.

Manufacturers don’t foresee many warranty problems with engines running on up to B5 in most 2002 or newer model-year truck engines, so long as the fuel is blended and manufactured to specific standards.

But this matter is “less clear” in pre-2002 engines and cold weather operability is even more unclear given blends of B5 or higher. According to the CTA, about 62 per cent of Canada’s heavy truck fleet today is pre-2002 vintage.

Furthermore, the association said, improper blending, even to proper quality standards, can lead to problems. Engine makers and petroleum producers say “splash” blending is undesirable compared to in-line blending, but in-line blending facilities are now in “short supply” and standards that would require it are only voluntary in Canada, the CTA said.

”Significantly different”

And 2010 truck models will use “a significantly different technology platform” to meet Environment Canada/USEPA smog emission regulations. Those new engines weren’t part of a recent demonstration project conducted in Alberta, the CTA said.

“All the demonstration program showed us is that blended properly and manufactured to appropriate standards, biodiesel blends at B2 or less can be operated in Canadian winter conditions by most (but not necessarily all) heavy truck engines up to the 2007 model year,” Bradley said.

The CTA urged the federal government to remove the averaging provision and instead require that biodiesel blends be sold into the general commercial truck marketplace at any higher than B2. Any blends higher than B2 should be “permitted only as a specialty fuel, protecting on-road consumers from its use,” the CTA added.

A biodiesel mandate, the CTA said, should also include a provision that will require “the identification of regions and calendar dates (when) biodiesel blends should not be used due to extreme cold weather.”

As well, a “properly conducted” regulatory impact statement must also be developed to “clearly isolate” the cost impact of biofuel on the price of on-road diesel fuel.

The CTA said it would “accept a clause in the regulation that would allow for the level of the biodiesel blend to be increased once a determination has been made that releasing such blends into the general marketplace would not create operability, durability and warranty issues.”


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