A week ago we heard that the government was going to start their B5 biodiesel programme in Putrajaya from June 2011. There will be 6 stations involved – all 5 Petronas stations and one Shell station. Seeing as we’re only about two days away from June 1st 2011, we’re sure that there are many questions going through your minds if you drive a diesel vehicle in Malaysia.

B5 is a blend of 95% regular petroleum-based diesel and 5% biodiesel. This source of biodiesel can be from various sources. Different countries with different climates typically choose a feedstock source that is most suitable with the environmental (mostly temperature) conditions in which the fuel has to work in.

For us, the feedstock that makes the most sense is palm oil, given that we are one of the biggest producers of palm oil around, and the properties of palm oil-based biodiesel are suitable for our climate. For example, we do not have to worry about winter temperatures. Palm oil based biodiesel tends to have incrementally worse cold weather operability.

Sime Darby Plantations have already started using its own blend of biodiesel called Bio-N in its upstream operation vehicles since March 2008. The Bio-N 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. Bio-N started off as a B5 blend, but for some estates this mix have been upped to B10. Bio-N’s palm oil comes from Sime Darby’s biodiesel plant in Teluk Panglima Garang and Pulau Carey.

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Sime Darby demonstrated Bio-N in a BMW 730Ld company car

We have no idea what specs Bio-N complies to, but we won’t be pumping Bio-N into our tanks next month. According to a Petronas source, what we will be using is a biodiesel blend that complies to the MS2008 standard, which is derived from the international EN14214 standard for biodiesel fuel.

MS2008 (Automotive Fuels – Palm Methyl Esters for Diesel Engines – Requirements and Test Methods) is essentially a localized EN14214 standard, and as its name suggests it was established in 2008 by the Department of Standards Malaysia. It was developed with an Industry Standards Committee consisting of 17 organizations, and a Technical Committee consisting of 16 organizations, which include all the fuel retailers in Malaysia as well as SIRIM, AAM and JPJ.

Instead of the European EN14214 typically using rapeseed as its source, Malaysian MS2008 is using palm oil. The table below shows some key differences between the properties of MS2008 biodiesel and EN14214 biodiesel:

For the first 6 months upon introduction, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities require that the fuel retailers obtain their feedstock source from the Malaysia Biodiesel Association’s 21 members. There are already at least 10 active biodiesel plants in Malaysia – operated by subsidiaries and JV companies of groups like Sime Darby, IJM, and Boustead.

According to Caltex Senior Product Engineering Specialist Greg Engeler, all diesel engines should theoretically be able to run B5 without issues. It’s only the higher biodiesel mixes which need re-engineering. For example, the fuel cap on the F10 BMW 520d says you can use a maximum of B7 biodiesel, which means it should run properly on B5 biodiesel.

bmw-520d-diesel-cap

According to a source in BMW Malaysia, their cars should run fine on MS2008, since its properties pretty much correspond or in certain cases better EN14214. Sime Darby AutoConneXion also says their portfolio of diesel cars under the Ford and Land Rover brands including the Ford Focus TDCi should run fine on EN14214.

You won’t be able to choose between regular diesel and B5 biodiesel at fuel stations that have started selling biodiesel. B5 biodiesel will replace regular diesel at existing stations. However, according to a Petronas source as of last week the Government has not given any firm sign to 100% replace standard diesel to biodiesel nationwide. It has been made clear so far that the implementation of B5 will only be in the Central Region, which for example includes areas such as Putrajaya, Selangor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan.

This doesn’t mean B5 will be contained to only the Central Region though, it just means there hasn’t been any official directive or gameplan for a nationwide roll-out yet. B5 will cut our dependence on fossil fuels, but you guessed it right – by about 5%. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok says the B5 blend’s price mechanism will be regulated and determined by the Finance Ministry. It’s not very clear at the moment whether B5 will eventually be priced differently from normal diesel.