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Biodiesel Storage, Handling and Transport
Biodiesel is considered a non-flammable and non-combustible product.
With a flash point temperature of about 170 °C, compared to about 60 to 80 °C for petrodiesel, neat biodiesel and biodiesel blends are substantially safer to store, handle and use compared to conventional petrodiesel, ethanol or gasoline.
Biodiesel soaked rags should be stored in safety containers, or dried individually prior to storage. Otherwise, when combined into a pile, natural biodiesel oxidation can potentially produce enough heat to create spontaneous combustion. Although comparatively safe to handle, skin and/or eye contact should be avoided, and inhalation shall be minimized. It is recommended that during extended biodiesel exposure, face mask, safety goggles and suitable work attire should be worn.
Biodiesel storage should consist of a clean, dry and dark environment. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminum, carbon steel and stainless steel, as well as fluorinated polypropylene, fluorinated polyethylene, teflon and most fiberglass materials. Except for excessive installation costs and potential liability issues, most underground storage tank installations provide adequate heat loss prevention. Aboveground containment facilities in cold climate locations require either insulation, agitation, heating, or a combination thereof. Storage containers and associated components consisting of copper, brass, bronze, lead, tin and zinc,
as well as elastomers such as polypropylene, polyvinyl, nitrile or natural rubber compounds, should be avoided. Deterioration of such materials can cause potential containment failure or product contamination.
Optimally, dedicated biodiesel tanker trucks and associated transfer components should be used to transport biodiesel. If non-dedicated equipment is used, it must be washed, rinsed, drained and dried prior to biodiesel loading in order to avoid any cross-contamination. Teflon, viton or nylon lined hoses have very little reaction to biodiesel, and are normally recommended for use.
As with petrodiesel, it is important that biodiesel be transported in a way that does not lead to contamination. The following procedures are recommended and are also used by distributors and transporters of petroleum derived diesel.
Trucks and Railcars: Aluminum, carbon steel, or stainless steel
- Proper inspection and/or washout (washout certificate)
- Check for previous load carried and residual. Generally only
diesel fuel is acceptable as a residual. If the vessel has not gone
through a washout, some residuals may not be acceptable like:
- food products or raw vegetable oils
- Acids or alkaline solutions of any nature
- Glycerine, plant oils
- Products with a flash point < 55 °C
- aromatic solvents, chemical surfactants and heavy fuel oils
- No residual water
- Hoses and seals clean
- Determine need for insulation or method to heat truck or rail car
contents if shipping during cold weather.
B100 is challenging to ship in cold weather. In the winter, most B100 is shipped one of
the following ways:
- Hot (or at least warm) in trucks for immediate delivery (55 °C to 27 °C)
- Hot (49 °C to 55 °C) in railcars for delivery within 7-8 days (arrives warm if only
1 week has passed since loading)
- Frozen in railcars equipped with external steam coils (the fuel in the tank cars is
melted at the final destination with steam),
- In a blend with winter diesel, kerosene, or other low cloud point fuel in either
railcars or trucks.
Regardless of how the biodiesel arrives, it must be stored and handled using procedures
that do not allow the temperature of B100 or blend to drop below its cloud point. The
cloud point of the biodiesel, the biodiesel temperature, the ambient temperature, and the
time the fuel is in transport are all factors that should be taken into consideration when
transporting B100 to insure that the fuel does not freeze in transport.
For cold climate transportation, insulated and/or heated road or rail tankers should be considered. Since reheating of gelled biodiesel is not recommended, it is also preferred that the neat or blended biodiesel temperature not drop below the applicable cloud point. Neat biodiesel is not considered a hazardous material for transportation purposes, and in reference to
the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), the following descriptions are applicable:
Proper Shipping Name:
Fatty acid ester
Shipping Classification: 65
References: US Department of Energy document on Biodiesel (3rd Edition)