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The implementation of the sale of B10 biodiesel – diesel fuel blended with palm oil in a 90:10 ratio – beginning in June 2016, has raised much controversy over its suitability for use in modern diesel engines, specifically those designed to run on low sulphur content diesel like Euro 5. The implementation and sale of B10 is the result of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) biodiesel programme to promote the use biofuels in accordance with the National Biofuel policy.

In response to the implementation of B10 biodiesel for the transportation sector, the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) sent a letter to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), claiming the usage of biodiesel in grades higher than B7 may result in fatty-acid methyl ester (FAME) mixing with the motor oil, causing the oil to thin and possibly leading to sludging in the engine.

The MAA letter also states the majority of its members were advised by their principals that engine warranties would not be honoured on vehicles that ran a biodiesel blend of more than B7. Additionally, diesel fuel injection equipment manufacturers – among them Robert Bosch, Denso Corporation, Delphi Diesel System and Continental Automotive – have issued a Common Position statement stating all their fuel injection equipment is designed to work with a mixture of B7 biodiesel to EN14214:2009 standard.

Other issues cited include formation of injector deposits, injection invariance, reduced idling cycle stability and higher levels of water in the fuel, the latter causing component corrosion. Another concern noted by the MAA is that palm methyl esters (PME) – a component of palm oil – has a tendency to precipitate at low temperatures, depending on the amount of monoglyceride in the PME.

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B7 biodiesel was introduced to the Malaysian market in December 2014, with nationwide roll-out in December 2015, and MAA claims that there are still a lot of unknowns regarding the long-term usage of biodiesel in local vehicles. It has also called for B7 to made available as an alternative to B10 at fuel stations, saying that its members may not be able to introduce cleaner Euro 4 and Euro 5 diesel engines.

MAA also said that vehicle manufacturers recommended Hydrotreated Vegetable oil (HVO) – a mixture of paraffinic hydrocarbons, free of sulfur and aromatics, and with a very high cetane number – for biodiesel blends of more than B7. HVO offers a number of benefits over FAME, such as reduced NOx emissions, better storage stability and better cold properties.

Refuting the claims, the Malaysian Biodiesel Asssociation (MBA) has said that there is no issue with the engines for vehicles using biodiesel blends of higher than seven percent. This statement was issued after the concerns raised by vehicle manufacturers regarding the implementation of B10 biodiesel for the transportation sector in Malaysia.

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Among the clarifications was that biodiesel could be used in highland areas such as Cameron Highlands where the measured cold filter plugging point (CFPP) of B10 is below 12 Celsius – the lowest temperature recorded in Cameron Highlands, and the precipitation of palm methyl esters (PME) was more of a concern in temperate climates than tropical countries such as Malaysia.

According to the MBA, usage of B10 has the benefit of improving the lubricity of Euro 5 diesel that has lower levels of sulfur. It is understood that exemptions will given to fuel stations located in highland areas for the sale of B10 biodiesel – located in Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands and Kundasang, Sabah.

It remains to be seen what the long-term effects of B10 usage are, despite the efforts of the MBA conducting vehicle trials to disprove any such concerns. What is confirmed is that Malaysia is moving towards the implementation of B10 biodiesel in fuel stations nationwide. Countries that have implemented the sale of B10 and above grades of biodiesel are Indonesia (B20), Colombia and Argentina (B10), and Brazil and France (B8), while some states in the US sell biodiesel in grades up to B10.