In a combustion engine, whether it is a petrol or a diesel engine, sludge is what ultimately can contribute significantly to reduced performance and damage. As your vehicle’s mileage increases, accumulated sludge build-up in the engine can cause a significant loss in power, poor oil pressure, an increase in lubricant usage, overheating under load, blow-by and dirty exhaust smoke. Oil sludge is usually black and appears as a solid mass in the engine oil. The gelling, or solidifying, is normally caused at low running temperatures which are typically less than 100 degrees C.
As this tar-like slimy deposit accumulates, it will block the normal passage of lubricants to the engine’s key components. This results in excessive wear and various other damaging problems which threaten the lifespan of the engine. Over years of usage, there will be a costly repair or the engine and other related components will even have to be replaced.
For vehicles with diesel engines, the use of B7 biodiesel – a blend of 7% palm methyl ester (palm biodiesel) and 93% fossil fuel diesel – which is sold at all stations has been beneficial. Among the properties of biodiesel is the fact that it has essentially been proven as an effective cleaning agent in the engine, increasing its longevity, just as it is a more environmentally-friendly fuel.
Biodiesel is a cleaner burning fuel, less toxic, reducing green gas emissions such as carbon monoxide, thus reducing the impact of global warming, and has a minimal to almost zero sulphur content. It is also regarded as a viable petroleum diesel substitute. According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), the use of biodiesel also does not require any vehicle modification or special fuelling equipment.
As countries around the world step up efforts to promote the greater use of biodiesel, Malaysia is taking similar steps towards trying to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, a benefit to the national economy. To date, Indonesia is regarded as the leader in biodiesel, having introduced B20 biodiesel which is a blend of 20% palm methyl ester and 80% fossil fuel diesel. Countries like Colombia and Argentina have also advanced their biodiesel to B10 (10% palm oil methyl ester) while France and Brazil are currently mandating the use of B8 biodiesel.
Recognizing the benefits of biodiesel, Malaysia now aims to introduce a 3% increment in the use of palm methyl ester, ie 10% palm methyl ester which reduce fossil fuel diesel to 90% from 93%. The MPOB states that B10 biodiesel also does not require any special modifications to be made on new or existing vehicles as the increment of palm methyl ester is small.
The properties of B10 biodiesel also inherit a higher cetane number which allows fuel to combust more easily and improves the lubricity of diesel for reduced wear and tear in the engine (low lubricity fuel is known to cause high wear and scarring of engine components).
In older diesel-powered vehicles, the use of pure diesel can cause significant sulfuric acid build up which quickly corrodes, thus requiring the engines to have more frequent oil changes. In newer vehicles, the common rail high-pressure direct-injection diesel engines are highly sensitive to high sulfuric levels and when sulphur levels are high, there is an increased frequency of repair and maintenance. In the case of B10 biodiesel, the lower sulphur content will reduce the risk of corrosive wear in the engine without inhibiting engine performance.
The pending introduction of B10 biodiesel in Malaysia has met with some resistance from certain quarters. Most of the issues revolve around whether the fuel is compatible enough to be used by both new and older generation diesel powered vehicles. Several vehicle manufacturers have also threatened to void their warranty should B10 biodiesel be introduced, citing concerns relating to the flow efficiency of components such as the fuel injectors and fuel filter.
While some Malaysian car manufacturers and distributors are opposed to B10, the MPOB notes that in Indonesia, it has surprisingly been the country’s association of car manufacturers and distributors (GAIKINDO) which has been the leading advocate of the country’s B20 initiative, even taking the initiative to lead field testing of the fuel prior to its launch.
In Malaysia, this initiative has been led by the MPOB in consultation with other bodies such as the Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (JAMA), and several car manufacturers. Testing of B10 and B20 biodiesel in Malaysia commenced from 2013, and the tests have included running a vehicle on the fuels at least 800 kms every day. A total of 76 vehicles of various models, mileages and ages have also been used by MPOB for the same purpose.
Additionally, since 2014, 50 vehicles belonging to the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) – comprising tractors, excavators, backhoes, pick-ups, tipper trucks, vans, tow trucks and water tankers – have also been exclusively powered by B10 Biodiesel for their daily operations. The vehicles have, to date, accumulated combined total of more than 3 million kms and no engine failure or breakdown has been experienced. [Click here to read more about DBKL’s test program]
The results of all testing consistently show that B10 biodiesel is not only safe for use but more importantly, it helped to clean up deposits (sludge) in the engine which does not happen with the use of base diesel. In fact, the vehicles were found to have no decrease in fuel flow in the fuel injectors. Similarly, no deposits or plugging was detected in the fuel filters.
And contrary to myth that the use of B10 biodiesel would cause difficulty in starting the vehicle in cold temperatures, MPOB’s researchers found no solidifying of the fuel even in temperatures as low as 110°C. Such a low temperature is rare in Malaysia although it can occur in Camron Highlands at night. The minimum annual temperature in Cameron Highlands is about 18°C and the lowest temperature ever recorded there was 7.8°C. in 1978.
The test results are complemented by experiences, evaluations and more than 45 million problem-free genuine on-the-road kilometres recorded by various makes and models of vehicles, car owners and transport operators that are currently in daily use in countries where B10 (or higher) biodiesel is used.
When implemented nationwide, the use of B10 biodiesel in Malaysia is estimated to help remove emissions from the equivalent of 100,000 vehicles on the road per year, and reducing 350,000 kgs of sulphur in the atmosphere per year thus reducing the effects of acid rain.