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B10 Biodiesel Impresses in 1,060km Test from Bintulu to Kundasang

POSTED BY Jason Tan ON 23 March 2017

The Trans Borneo Expedition is legendary, with a lineage dating from the late 1980s when a group of Kuala Lumpur and Sabah 4×4 enthusiasts drove from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu in the first year, and in the reverse direction the following year.

Those were the days when vehicles of the convoy had to be shipped to get around Brunei.

Today, the Pan-Borneo Highway allows for a smooth drive across Brunei, making it a great opportunity to introduce Malaysian drivers to B10 biodiesel – a new fuel mix that burns cleaner and is more powerful because of its higher cetane value (a measurement of calorific efficiency for compression ignition diesel engines).

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The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) concluded a safe, smooth, problem-free and successful 1,060km journey on March 1 to 5, traversing Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah.

The expedition enabled MPOB to evaluate the performance of the newly-formulated B10 biodiesel fuel, involving the use of 14 SUVs and 4x4s as well as four fully laden fuel tankers.

The drive from Bintulu in Sarawak to Kundasang in Sabah was conducted in the presence of representatives from nine media organisations from across the nation.

The event attracted a total of 34 participants, including representatives from the Malaysian Rubber Board, Malaysian Cocoa Board, Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad and Genting Plantations/SPC Biodiesel Sdn Bhd.

On average, the journey involved between six and eight hours of driving daily.

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Leaving Bintulu, the convoy of vehicles that was entirely fuelled with B10 biodiesel, made its way to the MPOB Research Station in Sungai Asap, Belaga, before being officially flagged off by Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur on the first leg of their journey to Miri.

Also present were MPOB’s chairman Datuk Ahmad Hamzah and director-general Dr Haji Ahmad Kushairi Din.

Day two involved a 392km journey with a total of eight border crossings in and out of neighbouring Brunei before concluding in Lawas, while day three was a 282km drive up to the mountain resort of Kundasang at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu – where temperatures dipped to as low as 12 degrees Celsius.

IMG-20170308-WA0063_resizedThe fourth and final day of the expedition began with a “start” test at 7am to debunk myths that the B10 can solidify in cold temperatures and thus affect vehicle start in the morning.

In the presence of the accompanying journalists, all vehicles started successfully on the first try.

The myth arises from biodiesel made with soy and corn that are mostly used in the United States and Europe, where winter temperatures can get to as low as -20 degree Celsius.

Talking about such low temperatures and fuel solidifying is thus unjustified based on the Malaysian environment.

Palm oil biodiesel B10 is unlikely to solidify in Malaysia, unless it is at the peak of Mount Kinabalu, a destination which is only reachable by a two-day hike for most people.

“In the context of greener motoring, B10 biodiesel offers cleaner and more efficient fuel consumption, reduced exhaust emissions and lower toxicity levels as compared to petroleum-based diesel. It is a step up from the existing B7 blend,” said MPOB Biodiesel Technology Engineering and Processing Division’s principal research officer and group leader, Dr Harrison Lau.

“The introduction of B10 biodiesel for the transportation sector is estimated to remove emissions equivalent to 600,000 cars on the road. It is these incremental improvements in biodiesel quality that we hope will go a long way towards helping Malaysia reduce its carbon footprint and environmental pollution,” he said.

The superiority of B10 biodiesel was easily noticed throughout the journey where none of the vehicles emitted puffs of black smoke – common of diesel engines – under hard acceleration or when ascending the steep mountainous roads to Kundasang.

“What was the most obvious to me was that I could make steep climbs in a higher gear. It is something that I could not do previously, and, I have been driving tankers for more than 15 years,” said Abdul Sali Alpa, the driver of one of the fuel tankers. Fully laden, the tanker weighed in at 38,000kg.

As for Faisal Hasbi who drove a three-year-old Toyota Hilux, the drive revealed an obvious increment in fuel economy.

B10 biodiesel is essentially a blend of 10% palm methyl ester and 90% fossil fuel, a three percent increment in the use of palm methyl ester as compared to the existing B7 biodiesel available at the pumps today.

The introduction of the fuel is in line with the national aspiration of making biodiesel a sustainable and renewable source of fuel as the country strives to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental pollution.

“Biodiesel not only reduces emissions and carbon monoxide pollution in the pursuit of a greener automotive footprint, but also brings about tremendous positive industrial, economical, commercial and social benefits for the country as a whole,” said the MPOB in a previously released statement.

Ever since the Government first mentioned its intention to introduce B10 biodiesel in 2013, it has undertaken comprehensive measures to engage all stakeholders within the automotive industry to ensure the B10 biodiesel is safe to be used in all diesel engines.

In addition to laboratory and rig testing, MPOB has been conducting on-the-road tests since 2013, involving vehicles of different make and model filled with B10 biodiesel.

It even has a dedicated team that is tasked to drive at least 1,000km per day. MPOB’s tests also extend to the use of B20 biodiesel, which has been ongoing since 2013.

Since 2014, a total of 50 vehicles belonging to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall ranging from tractors, excavators and backhoes to pickups, tipper trucks, vans, tow trucks and water tankers have also been exclusively powered by B10 biodiesel in its daily operations.

In the laboratory, rig and real kilometer testing, Dr Harrison Lau said there have been no reports of fuel filter plugging, injector deposits or damage to engine components – the three main concerns that have been raised by certain quarters who oppose or are skeptical of the B10 biodiesel mandate for the transport sector.

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He said, “Overall, B10 biodiesel adheres to international biodiesel blend standards; and has been validated by the experiences, evaluations and millions of genuine problem-free on-the-road kilometers recorded in various vehicles make and model by car owners and transport operators who are currently operating in countries with B10, or higher, biodiesel mandates.”

“The almost sulphur-free content in B10 biodiesel also equates to reducing the risk of corrosive wear in the engine without inhibiting engine performance. In older diesel-powered vehicles, the use of regular diesel can cause significant sulphuric acid buildup which quickly corrodes metal, thus requiring these vehicles to undergo more frequent oil changes. In newer vehicles, the high-pressure diesel direct injection systems such as common rail diesel engines are highly sensitive to high sulphuric levels. Overall, high sulphur levels increases vehicle repair and maintenance costs.

“B10 also has a higher cetane number which allows fuel to combust more easily,” Dr Lau said.

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