Biodiesel is supposed to be available at the pumps in stages from mid next year, but Sime Darby plantation has already started using its own blend of biodiesel called Bio-N (pronounced Beyond) in its upstream operation vehicles nearly two years ago, since March 2008. The initiative started at the East and West Estates and Mills on Carey Island and later expanded to other estates and oil mills in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.

The initial biodiesel blend was B5 (5% palm oil biodiesel mixed with 95% petroleum-based diesel) but some estates gradually started using B10 which increased the palm oil percentage up to 10%. For this initiative, upstream operations use about 100 metric tons of pure biodiesel a year. The biodiesel comes from Sime Darby’s biodiesel plants in Teluk Panglima Garang and Pulau Carey, with annual production capacity of 30,000 metric tons and 60,000 metric tons respectively. The smaller plant was designed in-house while the other employed the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s (MPOB) technology. Both plants were designed to use palm oil as the feedstock. They also have a third plant in The Netherlands which uses rapeseed oil, soybean oil and palm oil as feedstock.

Sime Darby President and Group Chief Executive Dato’ Sri Ahmad Zubir Murshid even filled up his diesel-powered BMW 730Ld (along with some other Sime Darby-owned passenger cars) with Bio-N two days ago in Carey Island in the presence of Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok. Sime Darby says the car has no issue running the biodiesel.

However, it seems car companies are Malaysia have not really been kept in the loop, which is really scary since “mid next year” is just over a year away! BMW Malaysia clarified yesterday that they have not participated in the research and development of Bio-Diesel fuel alternatives in Malaysia as they do not possess the appropriate research facilities and human capital to do so. According to BMW Malaysia, the development of Bio-N is an initiative undertaken by Sime Darby without any involvement from BMW Group Malaysia (despite a 730Ld used as a “demo”) and none of their vehicle models have undergone any authorised internal testing with palm-based bio-diesel fuel here in Malaysia.

BMW also stressed that until Bio-N or any other form of bio-fuel is approved by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Department of Environment and SIRIM Bhd, they cannot comment on the effectiveness or the safety of such use of Bio-N in any of their models and any warranties provided by BMW Group Malaysia via their authorised dealership network to BMW owners who utilize bio-fuels are deemed to be automatically void and are made at the owner’s risk.

What BMW will say is that at the current moment, their diesel models will function efficiently and effectively with the current Euro 2M quality diesel which is currently available in Malaysia. They are also expecting the imminent introduction of Euro 4M standard diesel in 2011, as per the revised NAP announced recently. Hopefully that will still be on schedule.

Ford Focus TDCi

We also contacted Sime Darby AutoConneXion as they have a few diesel models on sale in Malaysia, including various Land Rover models and the affordable Ford Focus TDCi. SDAC says their cars should have NO problems running B5 biodiesel blends as long as the blend complies with the international standards of EN14214, which describes the minimum requirements for biodiesel.

We tried getting in contact with some retail petroleum companies here in Malaysia to get more details on how the biodiesel will be sold but we didn’t manage to get any useful information. Biodiesel could be offered as a supplement to regular diesel, but then there will be the issue of underground storage tanks!

GALLERY: BMW 730Ld
[zenphotopress number=99 album=526]
GALLERY: Ford Focus TDCi
[zenphotopress number=999 album=959]