Using XRF to Test Biofuels for RTFO Targets

X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) has been established as a technique for measuring sulfur content in petroleum products, and is backed up by international standards test methods (ASTM, ISO, JIS etc.) A great advantage to this method is that it is non-destructive, as well as being fast and accurate. It is important that each batch of biofuel undergoes a testing regimen with traceable documentation, to ensure specifications are met and the refineries do no reject the shipment.

One piece of equipment that is perfectly suited for the rapid and accurate analysis of biofuel is the Hitachi X-Supreme8000 benchtop XRF analyzer. It can be used within a production environment so you can demonstrate compliance to current sulfur limits.

Sulfur levels are set to come under even more scrutiny as from 2018, new biofuel targets within the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) have been set. These targets are designed to dramatically increase the contribution of biofuels in the fueling of the UK’s transport sector over the next fifteen years. For suppliers that specialize in quality biodiesel, this spells a real opportunity, particularly if it is produced by recycling waste products.

The new RTFO has been in force since 15th April 2018, and immediately increased the percentage of biofuel from 4.75% to 7.25% for suppliers that fall under the scheme. The percentage of biofuel of total fuel, by volume will see a further year on year increase until reaching 12.4% on 1st January 2032.

Who’s Affected by the Change?

The RTFO is mandatory for any supplier that moves 450,000 liters or more of transport fuel to UK markets, such as haulage firms. However, the new RTFO now covers aviation fuels as well, and although not mandatory, UK based companies that use biofuels in aviation in the UK are eligible for reward under the scheme.

The ‘Crop Cap’

A potential issue in the widespread use of biofuel is the overuse of arable land for fuel crops. In a step to prevent this the RTFO has established a maximum of the percentage of biofuel that is derived directly from crops, such as: cereals, tubers and root crops, and corm crops. This limit, termed ‘the crop cap’, sets the allowable limit of crop-derived biofuel drops from 4% in 2018, to 2% in 2032.

In another measure to support sustainable biofuels, the regulation sets out a target for advanced waste-based renewable fuels, termed developmental fuels. The target for 2019 is 0.05%, steadily rising to 1.4% by 2032.

Ensuring Biofuels Make the Grade

There are specific EU regulations pertaining to fuels composed of a mixture of biofuel and fossil fuel i.e. BS EN: 228 for petrol, or BS EN: 590 for diesel. These particularly concern the amount of sulfur, in that it must be kept below the current specification limit to meet environmental targets. For suppliers of crop-derived and waste-derived biofuels, this will mean that testing of the product must be performed at source and prior to shipping to ensure it is not rejected by refineries.

Another point of consideration is the level of chlorine in biofuels. If a fuel contains an excess of chlorine, it can cause corrosion of the refineries process equipment, so most refineries impose their own limits on chlorine levels to prevent damage to their assets.

Choose the Right XRF Testing Equipment Supplier

The Hitachi X-Supreme8000 benchtop XRF analyzer is the ideal device for rapid and accurate analysis of biofuel at time of waste oil collection and within a production environment. If you are a biodiesel provider, you can quickly demonstrate your compliance to current sulfur limits.

The X-Supreme8000 requires little sample preparation and is easy to use, even by non-laboratory operators. With up to 10 samples able to be analyzed in one run, it can also be pre-calibrated for sulfur content determination and is in agreement with standard test methods of determining sulfur in petroleum products, including:

  • ASTM D4294
  • ISO 8754
  • ISO 20847
  • ISO13032

With the rapid and accurate analysis of the Hitachi X-Supreme8000, as well as its built-in traceability you can ensure your biofuels meet the grade to help you compete within this fast-growing industry sector.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

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