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Portable mid-infrared analysers, such as the Infracal Analysers from Wilks Enterprise, offer a quick analytical method to assess the blend ratio of either biodiesel in diesel or ethanol in gasoline.

They can also be a valuable asset for fuel distributors, terminal managers, fleet operators and regulatory agencies.

The most common and least accurate method of blending biodiesel is splash blending.

With splash blending, diesel and biodiesel are pumped separately into the delivery truck.

The hope is that the blend will be adequately mixed by the time the truck gets to the delivery site.

During a demonstration with an Infracal Biodiesel Blend Analyzer, five minutes after splash filling a truck for a 20 per cent biodiesel blend (B20), a sample from the top of the truck measured 11.9 per cent biodiesel and the bottom measured 24.1 per cent.

The first delivery was less than four miles away, offering little chance for a thorough mix.

As more mandates for minimum blends of ethanol in gasoline come into effect, major oil companies are mixing higher percentages of ethanol at their terminals.

Although manufacturers of in-line blending systems claim indisputable accuracy, a quick check for the correct blend gives real data to a claimed assumption.

The Infracal Biodiesel Blend Analyzer and the Infracal Ethanol Blend Analyzer are preset to measure one wavelength specified for the measurement.

The biodiesel ester has characteristic absorption in the mid-infrared at the carbonyl band (5.7 micrometers or 1745 cm-1).

Ethanol has an infrared absorbance band unique to gasoline at 9.6 micrometers (1042 cm-1).

The Infracal Analyzers are self contained with an internal calibration program and direct readout display.

They are ideal instruments for use where a single repetitive analysis is needed.

For multiple analysis capabilities, the Infraspec VFA-IR Spectrometer is a spectral range analyser that can measure ethanol in gasoline, water in ethanol/methanol and per cent biodiesel in diesel and some fuel contaminants.

It is operated from a PC, allowing for multiple calibrations, data storage and data transmission.

All of these analysers provide accurate and simple on-site analysis that takes less than five minutes.

A quick analytical method and portable analysers help assess the fuel blend quality and help the industry ensure the high standards that are needed for public acceptance of biofuels.

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