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Report on the Technical Feasibility of Integrating an Annual Average 2% Renewable Diesel in the Canadian Distillate Pool by 2011

1.1 Background
1.2 Objective
1.3 Structure of this Report
1.4 Scope of Information Presented in this Report
1.5 NRDDI Projects Considered in this Report
1.6 Other Sources of Information Considered in this Report
1.7 Approach
1.8 Information by Key Factors

1.1 Background

The Government of Canada is committed to expanding the production and use of a range of cleaner, renewable biofuels, including renewable diesel. The intent is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from fuel use and provide new market opportunities for agricultural producers and rural communities. As part of its Renewable Fuels Strategy, in December 2006 the Government announced its intention to regulate an annual average of 2% renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012, upon successful demonstration of renewable diesel use under the range of Canadian conditions. In 2009, the Government moved ahead this date to 2011 or earlier, subject to technical feasibility.

For the purpose of this report, renewable diesel is defined as a diesel fuel substitute made from renewable materials such as vegetable oil, waste cooking oil, animal fat and fish oil and potentially from cellulosic feedstock consisting of agriculture and forest biomass. Biodiesel is one common example of a renewable diesel. Biodiesel is produced from these feedstocks through a process called transesterification and consists of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). Hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel (HDRD) is another type of renewable diesel produced by hydrotreating of similar fat or oil based biodiesel feedstock. Other technologies to turn biomass into renewable diesel are being developed.

Figure 1: Renewable Diesel Types and FeedstocksFootnote 1

Renewable Diesel Types and Feedstocks
text version - Figure 1

Figure 1 - Renewable Diesel Types and Feedstocks

The diagram illustrates that Biodeisel and Renewable Diesel are derived from the same feedstocks but are produced with different processes.

Both start from feedstocks such as plant derived oils, animal fats and algae. Biodiesel is than produced by a process named transesterification which also produces glycerol as a by-product.

Renewable Diesel is produced using hydroprocessing and results in by-products of propane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.


Past studies and demonstrations have shown that low-level renewable diesel blends, a mixture of petroleum diesel and renewable diesel, can be used with some precautions in diesel engines in many sectors, including on-road and off-road mobile equipment and vehicles, and stationary equipment. The use of renewable diesel blends can reduce life-cycle GHG emissions and some tailpipe emissions, including air toxics such as particulate matter, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxideFootnote 2. However, a key area of concern to Canadian stakeholders is the use of renewable diesel blends in cold Canadian winters and over four seasons with high temperature variability.

As renewable diesel can be blended with diesel in any concentration, the blend level depends on economics, availability and end-use requirements. An increasing number of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are endorsing the use of low-level renewable diesel blends, e.g., 5%, in their engines (see section on Market Acceptance), provided the fuel meets applicable standards. Some manufacturers also provide new vehicles pre-filled with renewable diesel blendsFootnote 3.

The Government of Canada created the National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative (NRDDI) with the aim of addressing remaining stakeholder questions related to the technical feasibility of an average 2% renewable content in the Canadian distillate pool. The NRDDI provided non-repayable contributions to approved projects that demonstrate how renewable diesel fuel will perform under Canadian conditions in advance of implementing the proposed target. The NRDDI actively communicated with end-user organizations including the following to determine these remaining questions and identify opportunities to address them:

  • Canadian Coast Guard
  • Canadian Federation of Agriculture
  • Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association
  • Canadian Marine Advisory Council
  • Canadian Oil Heat Association
  • Canadian Petroleum Products Institute
  • Canadian Renewable Fuels Association
  • Canadian Shipowners Association
  • Canadian Trucking Alliance
  • Canadian Urban Transit Association
  • Chamber of Marine Commerce
  • Canadian Construction Association
  • Department of National Defence
  • Engine Manufacturers Association
  • FPInnovations (forestry)
  • Mining Association of Canada
  • Railway Association of Canada

The NRDDI was managed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), in consultation with Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Transport Canada. NRDDI projects were developed and implemented under the guidance of multi-sectoral steering/technical committees to ensure that appropriate methodologies were used and results were presented in a scientifically sound manner.

1.2 Objective

The primary objective of this report is to inform the development and implementation of the proposed regulation to require an average 2% renewable content in the distillate pool by 2011. This information will be used to assess the technical feasibility of the proposed regulation through a review of four key factors:

1.3 Structure of this Report

The report is divided into seven sections:

  • Section 1 is an introduction to the report, and defines background, objectives, scope, and approach used to produce this report. It also reviews the terminology used to form the basis of the content described in the following sections.
  • Sections 2 to 5 present the key technical feasibility factors, the main findings and an analysis of potential issues and remaining gaps regarding each of the four factors.
  • Section 6 covers important issues that are not directly discussed in Sections 2 to 5, e.g., mandates in other jurisdictions and any other issues that need to be noted.
  • Section 7 provides a conclusion to this report.

1.4 Scope of Information Presented in this Report

The information presented in this report is based on the specific results obtained from projects funded by the NRDDI program and selected information sources from outside the NRDDI program and is described below.

1.4.1 Fuels Considered in this Report

The fuels considered in this report are renewable diesel from a range of feedstock, petroleum diesel and heating fuel oil.

Renewable diesel refers to a fuel derived from renewable sources with properties similar to petroleum diesel, allowing it to be used in a diesel engine. Renewable diesel can be derived from a range of feedstock including corn, canola, soy, tallow, yellow grease and palm. In the NRDDI demonstrations, wherever possible, several types of feedstocks were used, mostly those that were regionally available.

There are two main commercial types of renewable diesel: biodiesel and HDRD. Biodiesel is the most common and by definition “is a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100”Footnote 4. The European standard (EN 14214) refers to biodiesel as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME)Footnote 5. HDRD is formed through a hydrotreating process whereby the feedstocks are the same as those used to make biodiesel but the product is similar in composition to petroleum diesel, characterized largely by saturated straight chain hydrocarbons. Both FAME and HDRD are considered in this study.

Petroleum diesel fuel is by definition “a middle distillate fuel composed of hydrocarbons, including naturally occurring, petroleum-derived, non-hydrocarbons, boiling in the range of 150 to 400 °C, intended for use as a fuel in traditional compression-ignition engines.”Footnote 6 In Canada petroleum diesel fuel is usually classified as:

  • Light diesel fuel: Type A – for special applications; or
  • Seasonal diesel fuel: Type B – the most commonly used diesel fuel.

Heating fuel oil for domestic, liquid-fuel-burning equipment is similar to the above-defined petroleum diesel fuel, but a different nomenclature is used (Types 0, 1 and 2).

Biodiesel blends are commonly designated by the term BXX where XX refers to the volumetric percentage of neat biodiesel in the blend. Thus, B100 and B5 mean neat biodiesel and diesel with 5% biodiesel content, respectively. In this report, a number of projects are referenced which have tested up to B20. The NRDDI and other renewable diesel demonstration projects have used different blends, depending on the end-use type function and material compatibility, as well as climate and seasonal considerations.

HDRD is produced in smaller quantities and is expected to continue to be less available than biodiesel in the foreseeable future. Fewer operational concerns have been linked to HDRD blends, which is another reason none of the NRDDI projects tested HDRD.

1.4.2 Regional and Seasonal Coverage of Renewable Diesel Blends Considered in this Report

The geographical reach of the demonstration projects and studies that were used to inform this report covers a spectrum of Canadian climatic conditions. Under the NRDDI, demonstration locations were selected by the project proponents so that they provided the most suitable environment for addressing their remaining questions including regions in colder Canadian climate zones such as northern Quebec, northern British Columbia and northern Manitoba (related to forestry operations and remote electricity generation), as well as Saskatchewan and Alberta (related to agricultural and rail operations).

A proper assessment of cold weather operability required that field tests be run during the coldest winter period. Long-term storage tests required testing during all seasons to study the effect of temperature changes on renewable diesel blend properties. It should be noted that the petroleum diesel commercially available is itself seasonally adjusted for optimal operability.

1.4.3 Sector and End-Use Coverage of Renewable Diesel Applications Considered in this Report

The end-use applications considered in the report are the main diesel and heating oil users in Canada.


  • Fleet vehicles
  • Heavy-duty trucks
  • School buses
  • Urban transit buses


  • Agricultural equipment
  • Construction equipment
  • Forestry equipment
  • Locomotives
  • Marine vessels
  • Mining equipment


  • Electricity generators (gensets)
  • Furnaces

31.9 billion litres of distillate products were consumed in 2007 across Canada. Road transport accounted for 57% (heavy-duty vehicles accounting for 56%), commercial and residential heating 14%, agriculture 8%, rail 7%, and all other sectors combined (including manufacturing, mining*, marine, construction, and forestry) for 14%.

*Includes Oil and Gas Extraction
Sources: Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 57-003-X; Natural Resources Canada, Transport Model, Ottawa, June 15, 2010 (by Stéphane Leblanc).

1.5 NRDDI Projects and Studies Considered in this Report

The NRDDI funded projects proposed by stakeholders that addressed their remaining questions with respect to renewable diesel use in Canada. Projects were designed by stakeholders to address their industry-specific questions and included input from a range of industry experts to ensure appropriate methodologies and standards were used. The NRDDI also funded a study to examine infrastructure readiness. These projects and studies were executed by the following organizations (Exhibit 1 – Projects funded by the NRDDI program):

Exhibit 1 – Projects funded by the NRDDI program
Project Scope
Canadian Pacific Railway – “Canadian Pacific Railway Biodiesel Project” Technology/end-user application readiness
The impact of renewable diesel on locomotive operations between Calgary and Edmonton; in particular, cold weather operability and direct-to-locomotive fuelling, engine components, heating systems
FPInnovations – “Demonstration of the Potential Use of Biodiesel for Off-Road Construction and Forest Operations” Fuel technology readiness – the impact of biodiesel use on engine lube oil dilution
Technology/end-user application readiness
The impact of renewable diesel use on equipment and operations for: off-road and logging road construction; material handling in a saw mill; and harvesting and processing of timber in isolated locations in some of Canada’s most challenging environments
Imperial Oil Limited – “Imperial Oil-Canadian Petroleum Products Institute Biodiesel Research Project” Fuel technology readiness – cold flow performance and stability under long-term storage
Technology/end-user application readiness – performance in furnaces
Manitoba Hydro – “Demonstration of the Use of Biodiesel in Electric Generators in Remote Canadian Locations and Long-Term Storage in Fleets and Gensets” Fuel technology readiness
Technology/end-user application readiness
The impact of long-term storage on dispenser filter plugging in a vehicle fleet application and alternative measures for testing for minor impurities in the fuel and how these impurities may relate to long-term storage
Blending for, and use in, gensets in extreme cold temperatures in remote locations in Northern Manitoba
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute – “Effect of Storage on Biodiesel Quality and Performance” Fuel technology readiness
The impact of long-term storage on fuel quality – testing of renewable diesel blends that had been stored in harvesting equipment tanks for up to ten months and renewable diesel blends that had been stored for two years in outdoor tanks
Royal Military College of Canada – “Formation kinetics of saturated monoglyceride (SMG) based particles in biodiesel and petrodiesel blends” Fuel technology readiness
The kinetics of formation of SMG-based particles at various temperatures starting from the cloud point by monitoring sediments in the fuel against time; the chemical composition of the sediments was determined and compared to the base fuel
Saskatchewan Research Council – “Off-road Biodiesel Demonstration in the Agricultural Sector” Technology/end-user application readiness
The impact of renewable diesel use on agricultural equipment
The impact of off-season storage of renewable diesel in equipment and storage tanks on fuel quality
Study Scope
EcoRessources – “National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative Infrastructure Project” Infrastructure readiness
A study to examine infrastructure readiness for the addition of an average 2% renewable diesel to diesel and heating oil in Canada in 2011

1.6 Other Sources of Information Considered in this Report

Other sources of information considered in this report include the following:

  • Interviews with government specialists
  • Consultations with industry experts and associations (see Market Acceptance)
  • A series of published reports on the study of various aspects of suitability of renewable diesel in various applications (see Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2
Other Information Sources (Outside NRDDI) Considered in this Report
Project Scope
Alberta Renewable Diesel Demonstration – “Final Report”, 2009 Cold weather operability of heavy-duty trucks, school buses, and industrial heavy-duty fleets;
Experience with blending infrastructure
Climate Change Central – “Renewable Diesel Characterization Study”, 2008 Characterizing cold climate applicability of biodiesel blends;
Test renewable diesel blends from a variety of feedstock;
Identify the most promising cold climate renewable fuel feedstock and blend
National Renewable Energy Laboratory – “Biodiesel Handling and Use Guide”, 2009 A guide for proper and safe use of biodiesel and biodiesel blends in compression-ignition engines and boilers
Washington State Ferries – “Biodiesel Research & Demonstration Project”, 2009 Test current fuel specifications for biodiesel blends;
Develop biodiesel product handling guidelines for use in a marine environment;
Demonstrate that biodiesel can be successfully used in marine applications in the Pacific Northwest
Environment Canada – “Review of Literature and Assessment Studies on Bioheat® Use in Canada”, 2008 Review of the literature on the status of biodiesel use for space heating (Bioheat)
Natural Resources Canada – “Assessment of the Biodiesel Infrastructure in Canada”, 2007 Infrastructure challenges and barriers related to the distribution of biodiesel blends
Saskatoon Biobus – “Final Research Report”, 2006 Determine the long-term effect of a biodiesel blend on engine wear and fuel economy of 2- and 4-stroke transit bus engines
Montreal Biobus – “Biodiesel Demonstration and Assessment with the Société de Transport du Montréal (STM)”, 2003 Test the use of biodiesel as a source of supply for public transit;
Assess the viability of the fuel as part of the routine operation of a bus fleet, particularly in cold weather;
Measure biodiesel environmental and economic impact
BioMER – “Biodiesel Demonstration and Assessment for Tour Boats in the Old Port of Montreal and Lachine Canal National Historic Site”, 2005 Test the use of B100 as an alternative for tour boats of various sizes;
Assess the economic viability and benefits of biodiesel in that industry’s routine operations;
Measure the environmental impacts
BioShip – “Biodiesel Seaward Bound”, 2006 Operability and emissions of marine vessel power generators using biodiesel
BioTractor – “On-Farm Evaluation of Biodiesel Use in Agricultural Equipment”, 2007 Evaluate some of the practical problems associated with on-farm biodiesel use
PAMI Tractor Study – “Effect of Biodiesel Blends on Tractor Engine Performance”, 2009 Operability and tailpipe emissions of tractors using a wide range of biodiesel blend levels
Transport Canada – “Biodiesel as a Locomotive Fuel in Canada”, 2003 Literature survey to evaluate the potential of biodiesel, or biodiesel blends with petroleum diesel fuel, as a suitable alternate fuel for medium-speed diesel engines used by Canadian railways
DEEP – “Evaluation of Biodiesel Fuel and Oxidation Catalyst in an Underground Mine”, 1998 Evaluate the impact of blended biodiesel fuel and modern diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) on air quality and diesel emissions in underground mines
Flint Hills Resources – “Effect of Biodiesel Impurities on Filterability and Phase Separation from Biodiesel and Biodiesel Blends”, 2007 Evaluate biodiesel impurities and filterability and phase separation from biodiesel and biodiesel blends
Renault – “Diesel Fuel B7 Specifications Need to be Reinforced for Cold Weather Conditions”, 2009 Identifying additional need for specifications for B7 in cold weather conditions
Shell – “A Winter Experience with FAME in Sweden”, 2007 Identification of precipitate found in depot storage tanks containing Swedish Klass1 B5 fuels
Conservation of Clean Air and Water in Europe (CONCAWE) – “Guidelines for Handling and Blending FAME”, Report 9, 2009. Guidelines for handling and blending biodiesel (FAME)

1.7 Approach

This sub-section describes the approach taken to accurately characterize and synthesize information collected for the purposes of this report. In order for renewable diesel blends to be able to successfully replace conventional petroleum diesel in the Canadian cold climate context, it is vital to assess the appropriate blend levels and conditions at which the fuel can be stored, handled and used without causing any issues different in type and extent than those normally associated with conventional diesel.

The approach used for this report included the following tasks:

  1. Define the key factors to assess technical feasibility of the proposed target;
  2. Describe the main findings based on the available test results and actual testing conditions that could inform the decision-making process; and
  3. Provide an analysis of the main findings.

1.7.1 Key Factors: Technical Feasibility

Technical feasibility was defined as follows:

The addition of renewable content in blends averaging 2% into the distillate pool will be deemed technically feasible when it has met the requirements of fuel technology readiness, technology/end-user application readiness, infrastructure readiness and market acceptance.

A definition for each of these four technical feasibility factors was established and is given below. Each of the four technical feasibility criteria is linked to a set of key factors. These factors could be certain physical, chemical, operational or societal criteria that are required to be met or potential concerns that need to be addressed. These factors are discussed and assessed based on the results of studies accomplished inside and outside the NRDDI. The findings are analyzed and any remaining gaps and other issues are discussed.

Key Factor 1: Fuel Technology Readiness

Fuel technology readiness means that properties of renewable diesel required to operate under the range of Canadian conditions are assessed and demonstrated including an assessment of the fuel properties of renewable diesel in relation to conventional diesel. Fuel properties include oxidative stability during long-term storage and cold weather operability, including the crystallization of renewable diesel blends in fine fuel filters (as measured by the cloud point, pour point and cold soak filtration test). Note that, where possible, a range of Canadian conditions means extreme winter conditions of down to -37°C and, where appropriate and possible, seasonal temperature variations. The assessment of these properties would be performed for renewable diesel from a variety of feedstocks at blend levels of up to B5.

Key Factor 2: Technology/End-User Application Readiness

Technology/end-user application readiness means identifying methods to mitigate any negative impacts on engines and equipment related to renewable diesel use in Canada. An assessment to confirm technology/end-user application readiness includes identified potential negative impacts, the end-users and locations where these impacts occur and the magnitude or severity of these impacts. Note that the mitigation measures will address the action taken to overcome the negative impact, the end-user responsible for implementing the measures and the anticipated duration of each measure. Where available, the associated costs for each measure will be noted. Note: it may not be possible in all cases to identify and apply mitigation measures.

Key Factor 3: Infrastructure Readiness

Infrastructure readiness means that the fuel handling industry (refiners, distributors and retailers) is demonstrated to have the capacity to install the needed infrastructure to store and blend biodiesel, and distribute and retail the blended fuel. An analysis to demonstrate infrastructure readiness would include a determination of the state of readiness for primary suppliers (petroleum fuel producers and importers) and other affected stakeholders, assuming they would have to comply with a 2011 implementation date. The assessment will also consider how the primary suppliers would plan to comply at different time intervals (during 2011 and beyond). In addition, the analysis will assess options based on possible blending schedules. All analyses will consider existing provincial mandates with a focus on requirements to meet an average 2% national mandate.

Key Factor 4: Market Acceptance

Market acceptance means that fuel users are consulted on demonstration projects and have indicated no further need for demonstrating the use of an average 2% blend in their operations. An assessment to confirm market acceptance includes consulting fuel users in the on-road, off-road and heating oil sectors to obtain feedback on issues to be addressed through demonstration work with regard to the use of B2 average in their industries. Following the demonstration of such issues, fuel users have provided their feedback on the use of an average B2 blend in the distillate pool in Canada and the resulting likelihood of issues in their sector.

1.8 Information by Key Factors

Project/Study Fuel Technology Readiness Technology/End-User Application Readiness Infrastructure Readiness
Canadian Pacific Railways X
EcoRessources X
FPInnovations X X
Imperial Oil Limited X X
Manitoba Hydro X X
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute X
Royal Military College of Canada X
Saskatchewan Research Council X
Alberta Renewable Diesel Demonstration X
Renewable Diesel Characterization Study X
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Biodiesel Handling and Use Guide X X
Washington State Ferries X X
Review of Literature and Assessment Studies on Bioheat® Use in Canada X
Assessment of the Biodiesel Infrastructure in Canada X
Saskatoon Biobus X
Montreal Biobus X
BioShip X
BioTractor X
PAMI Tractor Study X
Biodiesel as a Locomotive Fuel in Canada X
Evaluation of Biodiesel Fuel and Oxidation Catalyst in an Underground Mine X
Diesel Fuel B7 Specifications Need to be Reinforced for Cold Weather Conditions X
Effect of Biodiesel Impurities on Filterability and Phase Separation from Biodiesel and Biodiesel Blends X
A Winter Experience in Sweden X
Guidelines for Handling and Blending FAME X

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