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Canada.com: Canada biodiesel must withstand cold weather: Shell

Roberta Rampton, Reuters

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Canada’s fledgling biodiesel industry must prove its fuel additive can work in frigid winter weather before users can meet new government targets, an official with Shell Canada Ltd. said recently.

Engine manufacturers will not warranty performance of engines using biodiesel blends, and fuel makers need assurances there will be no harm done in temperatures that can approach -40 C (-40 F) in wide swath of the country, said Gerry Ertel, manager of regulatory affairs for Shell, Canada’s No. 3 oil producer and refiner.

“We’ve got to ensure those fuels are fit for purpose in the engines of our customers,” Ertel told a grain industry conference.

“A failure on a quality basis means for us a loss of market share, reputation damage, and costly class action suits,” he said.

Diesel and particularly biodiesel fuels can thicken and gel in extreme cold, causing starting and operating problems.

The Canadian government has mandated the use of 2 percent renewable fuels in diesel by 2012, pending cold weather performance research now under way, and recently announced incentives to help start the industry.

Royal Dutch Shell, which is poised to take Shell Canada private after buying out the unit’s minority investors, is the largest distributor of biofuels in the world, Ertel said.

Shell is supplying fuel for an Alberta-based project that will fuel a fleet of trucks for a year with biodiesel made from canola, soy and palm oils, tallow, and hydrotreated seed oils.

Canola, a variant of rapeseed, is expected to be the largest feedstock for biodiesel, and the canola industry is pushing for a larger 5 percent fuel standard by 2015.

Canada currently produces about 150 million liters (40 million U.S. gallons) of biodiesel from four plants, but would need 600 million liters (160 million U.S. gallons) of the additive to meet the 2 percent mandate, according to industry statistics.

Canola-based biodiesel plants announced or under construction could produce 1.81 billion liters (480 million U.S. gallons) of biodiesel, with 800 million liters (210 million U.S. gallons) of that coming from four plants in the northern United States.

“We’re anticipating that there will be a significant increase of production of canola in the United States,” said Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada.

In the near term, Shell expects to use conventional biodiesel to meet the Canadian blend requirements, but the company is interested in so-called “second generation” technologies that use plant residues as a feedstock, Ertel said.

Shell is also keen on refining biodiesel through hydrotreating, a technology similar to that used in its gasoline refineries, he said.

The refineries require more capital to build than conventional biodiesel plants, but can use a variety of feedstocks, and produce a higher-quality additive that can be used in any weather, Ertel said.

http://autos.canada.com/green/story.html?id=584458c8-b4bc-4698-a455-57f56843d2c7

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