The palm oil-based B5 biodiesel programme began as scheduled today – the fuel was officially launched by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at the Petronas station in Precinct 9D in Putrajaya earlier this evening.

With the introduction, Malaysia becomes the second country to implement the use of B5 (Indonesia has been using it since 2006 in selected cities and provinces), which is of course higher than the mandatory B2 (2%) blend in Thailand started in April 2008 and the B1 mandated in the Philippines, which was introduced in May 2007.

It’s actually been around for a while, B5 has – since February 2009, no less than 3,900 vehicles from various government agencies such as DBKL and the Armed Forces have been conducting test usage of the fuel, with no adverse effects reported to date.

From today, however, it is available at point of retail: B5 biodiesel will be sold at the six petrol stations – five from Petronas and one from Shell – located in Putrajaya, the first location in the Central Region to deploy the fuel. It is priced at the equivalent of petroleum diesel, at RM1.80 per litre.

As it goes along, the fuel will be made available in other locations in the Central Region. The next to launch B5 will be Malacca on July 1, followed by Negeri Sembilan on August 1. Stations in Kuala Lumpur will begin selling B5 on September 1, and then Selangor will follow suit on October 1. The implementation of B5 in other regions in the Peninsular as well as in Sabah and Sarawak as part of the planned nationwide coverage will be announced in due time.

At this initial stage, the deployment of B5 will cover the land transport sector, which encompasses private cars, those in the civil service as well as commercial vehicles. From November 1, B5 will begin to cover the industrial and fisheries sectors as well.

To ensure the success of the programme, the government, through the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, has allocated a sum of RM43.1 million to finance the development of in-line blending facilities at six petroleum depots in the Central Region.

The facilities are owned by five oil companies, namely Petronas Dagangan, Shell Malaysia Trading, Esso Malaysia, Chevron Malaysia and Boustead Petroleum Marketing. Three of these depots are located in Selangor – two in Port Klang and the Klang Valley Distribution Terminal in Dengkil. Two other depots are located in Port Dickson, and the last is at Tangga Batu in Malacca.

The notes provided at the launch had a comparative table of the fuel properties of the MS2008 compliant B5 palm biodiesel and petroleum diesel in the country, as represented in the photo recapture below.

Click to enlarge

As far as performance goes, engine performance aspects of the B5 palm biodiesel (methyl esters) blend compared to petroleum diesel are a decrease in ignition delay (due to a presence of oxygen), lower smoke emission and volatility levels for B5.

It also has a slightly higher brake specific fuel consumption and NOx emission (which is still well below the regulated level) and exhibits a comparable thermal efficiency and the same combustion pressure patterns – with no adverse effect in terms of knocking – as petroleum diesel. It does however offer slightly lower brake power, due to a low calorific value.