The last thing a fuel distributor wants to hear from consumers is “An improperly blended fuel from your distribution center is causing problems to our equipment.” Such a claim is not taken lightly, and immediate action needs to be taken.
On-site biodiesel blend testing provides the measurement data necessary to prove to a customer that concentrations were as specified or hopefully catch an error in the fuel blend before it leaves the facility. Fuel distributors and terminal operators can quickly determine how much biodiesel is in a sample of heating oil or diesel using portable test equipment from Wilks Enterprise, which is a Spectro Inc. company.
For biodiesel or FAME (fatty acid methyl esters) blend measurements, there are currently two official methods: EN 14078 and ASTM D7371. Both of these methods call for mid-infrared technology for the measurement. Infrared is also commonly used for ethanol blend.
Ease of Use
Wilks sells several models of infrared biofuel analyzers for testing biodiesel and ethanol blends. All are specifically designed to be easily used by non-technical personnel. The product line includes two biodiesel-specific analyzers that are priced in the $7,000 to $8,000 range.
The InfraCal Biodiesel Blend Analyzers are unique from most other types of infrared analyzers as they are application-specific for one analysis. They use filters to select the wavelengths unique to biodiesel or ethanol. This allows for a rugged, lightweight, compact system without any moving parts.
“We are one of the few companies that fills the niche of providing application-specific instruments to do one analysis over and over,” said Sandra Rintoul, Executive Vice President of Wilks Enterprise. While other manufacturers often offer a number of additional measurements, this can add to the cost and complexity for measurements that are only occasionally necessary.
Sampling takes only a couple of minutes. A fuel sample from the loaded truck is put on an exposed sample plate and the operator presses the “run” button. Fifteen seconds later the result is displayed. The sample is cleaned off with solvent and a wipe, and the analyzer is ready for the next sample.
Wilks’ latest analyzer is the InfraCal 2 Model ATR-B. The InfraCal 2 is an updated version of Wilks’ InfraCal Biodiesel Blend Analyzer currently being used by fuel distributors, petroleum terminals and regulatory agencies worldwide. Rintoul said the key enhancements in the newer device are added sensitivity/performance and many advanced features. The new touch screen display offers multiple calibrations if desired. The InfraCal 2 also enables tagging of samples by date, time, analyst and location and stores test data, which can be downloaded to a flash drive. It also has password-protected instrument settings to prevent an operator from inadvertently altering the calibration.
Dealers have several reasons for wanting to know the biodiesel content of the fuel they buy. The ASTM specification for heating oil allows for biodiesel content of up to 5 percent, so product sold as heating oil can contain anything from zero biodiesel up to 5 percent. Dealers who want to sell Bioheat® heating oil blends at specific ratios need to know what is in their base fuel before blending to achieve a particular blend level.
Marketers who traffic in Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) related to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) also need to know their ratios if they are looking to maximize their RINs.
Wilks also sells the InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer, which can test for biodiesel in diesel, ethanol in gasoline, and water in ethanol with one instrument. The InfraSpec Spectrometer is also designed for use by non-technical personnel and is suited for on-site measurements. It is priced around $12,000.