BMW says tests show B10 biodiesel can cause severe engine damage

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(Bloomberg) – BMW AG just tossed a wrench into plans by Malaysia to boost its biofuel programme.

A drive to introduce a blend that uses 10% palm oil, up from 7%, risks causing severe engine damage, according to BMW Group Malaysia.

The largest palm producer after Indonesia promotes the crop for use in foods and energy, and has been stepping up the amount that’s blended into local fuels. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said this week the so-called B10 programme would be implemented from October.

“In our tests with B10 biodiesel worldwide, we have found technical challenges,” BMW Group Malaysia managing director and chief executive officer Alan Harris said in a statement.

Checks found that palm’s fatty-acid methyl ester could thin motor oil, which led to oil sludge and reduced lubricity with the risk of severe engine damage, Harris said.

The current diesel engines in Malaysia were well-suited to run on B7 levels of biodiesel, Harris said. Uggah’s ministry should take into account the opinion of the Malaysian automotive industry before implementing B10, he said.

The introduction of the B10 variety needs further consideration, according to Mercedes-Benz AG. The company’s diesel-powered vehicles could use up to 7% biodiesel, while the Fuso truck models were fitted to take a maximum 5% blend, Roland S. Folger, president of the company’s local unit, said in an e-mailed reply to questions.

“We are going to engage talks with MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board) and bring automotive players deeper into the discussion,” said Malaysia Automotive Institute chief executive officer Mohd Madani Sahari. “Automotive-industry players have said it’s not compatible in the past two to three years.”

The Government was in the midst of consultations on the B10 mandate, Uggah said in Bangi yesterday. With B10 in place, consumption of palm would rise to 1 million tonnes from about 700,000 with B7, he said.

“We’re taking note of the comment by BMW,” Uggah told reporters. “At the same time, we hope they understand the need for us to have some mechanism to assist the palm oil industry. Of course, if that mechanism is causing issues, we’ll sit down and discuss how these issues can be resolved.”