Painful diesel plan

Green fuel: Malaysia's B10 biodiesel is a blend of 10% palm oil methyl ester and 90% diesel. -- Pic courtesy of Malaysian Palm Oil Council

PETALING JAYA: Some automotive players are crying foul over the upgrading of the B7 (petroleum diesel blend consisting of 7% palm methyl ester) to the B10 (10% palm methyl ester) biodiesel blend to be used for the transportation sector progressively effective this month.

Industry sources said diesel-powered vehicles are not ready for this regulatory move and that the B7 blend is still preferred, given the many unknown factors with the B10 adoption so far.

It is learnt that most auto players are shocked by the announcement and the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) is compiling more feedback from its members.

The sources further said the MAA had recently voiced this issue out to the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI).

The MAA said the majority of its members had been told by their principals that they would not grant engine warranty for vehicles using biodiesel of more than 7% fatty acid methyl ester (Fame).

“The members have been advised by their principals that diesel engines marketed in Malaysia can run on biodiesel of up to 7% of Fame blending only. This is a big issue for users of diesel engines that are mostly trucks, four-wheel drives and lorries. They are mostly used by commercial businesses,” the sources said.

The MAA said palm methyl ester had a tendency to precipitate at low temperatures such as in highland areas in Cameron Highlands and Kota Kinabalu.

“The amount of precipitation depends on the amount of monoglyceride in the palm methyl ester. The precipitation starts at around 20 degrees Celcius and increases as the temperature drops further. If the precipitation is severe, it may clog the diesel fuel and may not be able to dissolve back into the diesel even if the fuel temperature is increased to room temperature,” the MAA said.

It added that the physical and chemical characteristics of the bio-components in Fame are significantly different from that of conventional petroleum diesel fuel.

“A higher Fame blending in diesel increases the tendency of deposits at swirl ducts, inlet valves, air ducts, cylinder heads, cylinder crankcase, oil sludge accumulation at roller levers and the camshaft,” MAA said in its list of concerns.

Adding to the concerns, said industry sources, was that vehicle sales were already low and this ruling would worsen the situation.

Despite widespread concerns, one marque is ready, but it is believed to be a vehicle for the high-end market. The rest of the diesel-powered marques, including foreign ones, are understood to be not ready.

Industry sources said more research and development (R&D) needed to be carried out on higher blends of palm methyl ester that would be used in diesel engines before it was actually implemented.

“Now car companies channel most of their R&D towards the development of clean engines and hybrid vehicles instead of B10 biodiesel technology. The situation in Malaysia may be quite unique because of the availability of palm oil, but the effects of this on the engines must be thoroughly researched first,” the sources said.

MAA said in the letter that since B7 was only introduced nationwide from December 2015 onwards, the long-term effects of vehicles running on B7 are still relatively unknown.

It added that the B7 biodiesel fuel blend should be made as an optional fuel to consumers at every petrol kiosk following the impending B10 implementation.

The association said its members would not be able to introduce cleaner diesel engines to comply with the Euro-4 and Euro-5 diesel exhaust emission which can run up to 7% of Fame blending only.

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