I receive a good number of questions about biofuels, thanks to Jeff, I now run biodiesel exclusively in my shop, it is far more compatible with my wife than any petrol fuel. I asked McGhee to develop a new Banjo for the Lister Types to allow the DIYer to develop a totally biodiesel compatible fuel system, it's pretty easy with this key piece. As for compatible materials, there are far more experienced people than I to lecture on this subject and I have asked Jeff if he had a moment to share his experience on this page. Following is Jeff Maier's personal experience and research. My personal thanks to Jeff for making the time to share with our DIYer group.
Biodiesel is an excellent solvent, and is not compatible with some of the materials that work with petroleum diesel. Following is an excerpt from 2004 Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines, Section 3.9, published by the DOE and available at http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/npbf/pdfs/tp36182.pdf
Section 3.9, B100 Material Compatibility
B100 will degrade, soften, or seep through some hoses, gaskets, seals, elastomers, glues, and plastics with prolonged exposure. Some testing has been done with materials common to diesel systems but more data is needed on the wide variety of grades and variations of compounds that can be found in these systems, particularly with B100 in U.S. applications. Nitrile rubber compounds, polypropylene, polyvinyl, and Tygon materials are particularly vulnerable to B100. Before handling or using B100, contact the equipment vendor or OEM and ask if the equipment is suitable for B100 or Biodiesel. In some cases, the vendor may need the chemical family name for biodiesel (i.e. the methyl esters of fats and oils) to look up the information or even the exact chemical name of some of the biodiesel components such as methyl oleate, methyl linoleate, methyl palmitate, or methyl stearate. There have not been significant material compatibility issues with B20.
If your existing equipment or engine components are not compatible with B100, they should be replaced with those that are. Materials such as Teflon, Viton, fluorinated plastics, and Nylon are compatible with B100. B100 suppliers and equipment vendors should be consulted to determine material compatibility. Also consult other B100 vendors in other regions of the country to see what problems they may have experienced and what kind of replacement materials they are using. It is advisable to set up a monitoring program to visually inspect the equipment once a month for leaks, seeps, and seal decomposition. It would be wise to continue these inspections even after one year, as the experience is still relatively limited with B100.
Older vehicles, manufactured before approximately 1993, are more likely to contain seals, gaskets, etc., that will be affected by B100 over long periods of time. Modern rebuild kits or engines after 1993 may contain biodiesel compatible materials, but not always. Ask your dealership for recommendations.
Most tanks designed to store diesel fuel will store B100 with no problem. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminum, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene, Teflon®, and most fiberglass. If in doubt, contact the tank vendor or check the National Biodiesel Board web site.
Brass, bronze, copper, lead, tin, and zinc may accelerate the oxidation of diesel and biodiesel fuels and potentially create fuel insolubles (sediments) or gels and salts when reacted with some fuel components. Lead solders and zinc linings should be avoided, as should copper pipes, brass regulators, and copper fittings. The fuel or the fittings will tend to change color and insolubles may plug fuel filters. Affected equipment should be replaced with stainless steel, carbon steel, or aluminum.
My Own Experience
Currently, I have 2 cars that I run on B100, and also regularly run a Lister 6/1 to keep storage batteries charged. I use these to supply about 15% of the household electricity I use. I have 250 gallons of fuel storage along with a pump, meter, and delivery hose.
The cars are a 2003 VW New Beetle and a 2005 Jetta. I have been running both on B100 since buying the cars new with no modifications whatsoever. Thus far, I have had no fuel or fuel system related problems.
I use 3 80 gallon tanks; these are from US Plastics, Item # 8667, http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/product.asp?catalog%5Fname=USPlastic&category%5Fname=20721&product%5Fid=2105. These tanks are made from polyethylene. This material is not mentioned in Section 3.9 above, but I have had no issues with it so far. Originally, I used a rubber fuel delivery hose. After 2 – 3 months of use, the hose became soft and sticky and would ooze biodiesel. Clearly, the rubber was being attacked by the fuel. I replaced the hose Item # 526K27 from www.mcmaster.com. This is a chemical handling hose with a rubber exterior and a nylon liner. Nylon is listed as being biodiesel compatible, and I have been using this hose for almost 5 months now and have not had any problems with it.
For the fuel system in my Lister, I have tried to use plastic fittings where possible. In a few places, I have used black iron threaded pipe, and in one instance I have used a brass valve. The brass valve does not appear to be causing any problems, although it is listed as being an incompatible material.
I hope this information helps,
Thanks again Jeff!