Properties That Potentially Limit High-Level Blends of Biomass-Based Diesel Fuel

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While today's biomass-based diesel fuels are used at relatively low blend levels in petroleum diesel, decarbonization of the heavy-duty trucking and off-road sectors is driving increasing use of higher level blends and the combination of hydroprocessing-derived renewable diesel (RD) with biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters) to create a 100% renewable fuel. However, little data are available on the properties of biodiesel blends over 20 vol % into RD or conventional diesel, despite the potential for properties to fall well outside the normal range for diesel fuels. Here, we evaluate the properties of 20-80% blends of a soy-derived biodiesel into RD and petroleum diesel. Properties measured were flash point, cloud point, cetane number, surface tension, density, kinematic viscosity, distillation curve, lower heating value, water content, water solubility in the fuel, lubricity, and oxidation stability. Density and viscosity were measured over a wide temperature range. A key objective was to reveal properties that might limit blending of biodiesel and any differences between biodiesel blends into RD versus petroleum diesel and to understand research needed to advance the use of high-level blends and 100% renewable fuel. Properties that may limit blending include the cloud point, viscosity, distillation curve, and oxidation stability. Meeting cloud point requirements can be an issue for all distillate fuels. For biodiesel, reducing the blend level and use of lower cloud point hydrocarbon blendstocks, such as No. 1 diesel or kerosene, can be used in winter months. Alternatively, a heated fuel system that allows for starting the vehicle on conventional diesel before switching to pure biodiesel (B100) or a high-level blend has been successfully demonstrated in the literature. Some biodiesels can have kinematic viscosity above the upper limit for diesel fuels (4.1 mm2/s), which will limit the amount that can be blended. Biodiesel boils in a narrow range at the very high end of the No. 2 diesel range. Additional research is needed to understand how the high T90 of B100 and high-level blends and the very low distillation range of B100, some RD samples, and high-level biodiesel blends impact lube oil dilution, engine deposits, and diesel oxidation catalyst light-off. Blending with No. 1 diesel or kerosene or biodiesel-specific engine calibrations may mitigate these issues. Oxidation stability of higher level blends is poorly understood but may be addressed through the increased use of antioxidant additives. Finally, high-level biodiesel blends and B100 will have significantly higher density, viscosity, and surface tension compared to conventional diesel. In combination with the high boiling point, these properties may impact fuel spray atomization and evaporation, and additional research is needed in this area.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8829-8841
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-88474


  • biodiesel
  • distillation
  • fossil fuels
  • fuels
  • viscosity


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