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The E-power pair


Mankato, Minn. — Oil and water don’t mix, but soy biodiesel and ethanol are a powerful pair. They are being tested as a fuel additive known as ethanol diesel, or EB-diesel.

Research to determine optimal blends and EB-diesel’s effect on engines is underway at both Minnesota State University, Mankato and North Dakota State University. Sponsoring partners include the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and AURI.

The NDSU Energy and Environmental Research Center is working to discover the optimal blend of ethanol and biodiesel. AURI oils scientist Max Norris says the resulting EB-diesel could constitute up to 24 percent of a petroleum diesel blend. Once EB-diesel is optimized, it will be tested along with two other commercial additives at MSU’s Center for Automotive Research to determine emissions characteristics and effect on diesel engine wear and tear.

Testing to determine flammability point and to address safety factors must also be conducted before EB-diesel could become a certified fuel.

Although the research is in the early stage, and EB-diesel pumps at local gas stations are a ways off, proponents hope they have identified new opportunities for grain-based fuel.

“The end goal is to be a piece of the puzzle in what’s being done to get ethanol and diesel together as a fuel,” says Yvonne Simon of the Minnesota Corn Growers. “Research is being done on ethanol diesel in other states, but we’re the only ones including biodiesel in the mix.”

“EB-diesel is a second generation product for both commodities,” Norris says. “Ethanol has carved out a niche, and biodiesel is carving theirs. This has the potential to aid growers of both plants by allowing them to be at a higher level of self-sufficiency.”

Biodiesel has advantages over petroleum diesel in areas such as lubricity and emissions. The addition of ethanol to the mix could help even more.

“If there’s a way that ethanol can help address our nitrogen oxide (emissions) issue, it would certainly help the biodiesel cause,” says Mike Youngerberg of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. “That’s one more thing we can add to our list.”

The research partners will seek validation from the American Society of Testing Materials, which could help get EB-diesel certified as a fuel by the Environmental Protection Agency. John Deere will be testing the fuel in tractors and combines.