Biodiesel Codes, Standards, and Safety
Biodiesel blends are subject to the same regulations and codes as other transportation fuels. Blends up to B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel) are considered petroleum diesel and approved for use in existing diesel infrastructure. Blends above B5 may be subject to additional requirements. This section focuses on federal requirements. Stations considering blends above B5 should contact their state and local authorities to identify other regulations and requirements.
Storing blends above B20 at a retail station is unusual because it involves several additional requirements and there is less compatible equipment available. However, some underground storage tank (UST) owners may store B100 for blending or direct use. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Underground Storage Tanks regulates USTs per Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Title 40 Subtitle 1 Subchapter 1 Parts 280-282. The federal UST regulation was updated in October 2015 with section CFR 280.32 and provides clarity to the 1988 compatibility requirement by specifying additional requirements for owners and operators to store certain regulated substances, including gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol (and diesel containing more than 20% biodiesel). All portions of a UST system must be compatible with the fuel stored. Demonstrations of compatibility must be provided for tank, piping, containment sumps, pumping equipment, release detection equipment, spill equipment, and overfill equipment.
Owners of USTs that decide to switch to storing blends above B20 must:
- Notify their implementing agency (usually a state office) 30 days prior to switching fuels to store a biodiesel blend above B20.
Owners of USTs storing blends above B20 must either demonstrate compatibility through:
- A nationally recognized, independent testing laboratory certification or listing for the equipment used for the fuel stored; or
- Approval from the equipment or component manufacturer for use with the fuel stored. This statement affirming compatibility must be in writing and list the specific ranges of biofuel blend with which the equipment or component is compatible.
Owners of USTs storing blends above B20 may also use other options determined by the implementing agency to be no less protective of human health and the environment.
Owners of USTs storing fuels containing above B20 must maintain records demonstrating compatibility as long as the fuel is stored.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates some fuel-dispensing equipment. Its regulations that are applicable to service stations have not been updated in decades and therefore do not specifically address biofuels.
- OSHA 1910.106 (g)(3)(iv) and (g)(3)(vi)(a) require dispensers and nozzles to be listed by a third party for specific fuels.
- OSHA 1910.106(b)(1)(i)(b) and (c)(2)(ii) require tanks, piping, valves, and fittings other than steel to use sound engineering design for materials used; however, there is no listing requirement.
- OSHA 1910.106(b)(1)(iii) covers steel tanks and requires sound engineering and compliance with UL 58 and American Petroleum Institute Standards 650 and 12B as applicable.
UL is the primary third-party safety certification laboratory servicing the fueling equipment industry globally. There are many standards covering individual products in the fueling system and many different approaches to evaluating safety. In the past, some standards that provided listings for specific fuels were limited to petroleum products but were then revised to cover biodiesel blends. Over time, many UL standards provided the option for equipment manufacturers to list their products for gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, and other biofuels blends. While some UL standards allow manufacturers to select which fuels to list for, there is a trend toward revising standards to require equipment to be listed for all fuel types—this means equipment would be listed for use with gasoline, diesel, B20, and other commercial fuels. Depending on the standard, UL allows listing for B20 and/or B100. Notably, test standards for fiberglass underground tanks and piping do not have the ability to list specifically for biodiesel fuels.
Local authorities having jurisdiction typically adopt fire codes from one of two organizations, the National Fire Protection Association (in particular, Code 30A, which includes language on alternative compliance to address new fuels) and the International Code Council. These organizations provide standard codes for retail stations that are accepted or modified to meet local requirements.
Other organizations developing best practices and codes include American Petroleum Institute, Fiberglass Tank and Pipe Institute, NACE International, National Conference on Weights and Measure, National Leak Prevention Association, Petroleum Equipment Institute, and Steel Tank Institute.