Biogenic Carbon Analysis in Fuel with Hidex Biofuel Method

Hidex News May 10, 2023

With a visible shift towards green energy globally, fossil-based fuels are being replaced by biologic origin fuels at a rate faster than ever before. Biobased fuels are the way of the future, but the process for quantifying the biocarbon component in these fuels has not always been straightforward to determine.

Traditionally, biocarbon content was analysed by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) a procedure well known to be tedious and expensive. The increasing demand for this application by refineries, fuel industry laboratories, and authorities, served as strong incentive for liquid scintillation pioneer Hidex to develop a direct detection method by LSC.

Why is there a need to measure the 14C content in biofuel?

14C is a radioactive isotope of carbon present in the atmosphere that is taken up by living organisms among other isotopes of carbon, such as, 12C and 13C. While for crude oil, it is understood that there is no radioactive carbon based on the age of crude oil being million years old, and the half-life of 14C being 5730 years. On the other hand, fuel crops are harvested within a year of planting, and therefore analysis tests need to be conducted to quantify the biocarbon percentage (Hurt et al).

Biocarbon measurement in biofuel with liquid scintillation counting.
Biocarbon measurement in biofuel with liquid scintillation counting.

What challenges does traditional biocarbon measurement pose?

The traditional method for analysing biocarbon in fuel was either to send samples for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in a third-party laboratory or liquid scintillation preceded by benzene synthesis. Both methods, based on 14C dating principle have presented shortcomings and challenges. The complexity of AMS requires dependence on a third-party laboratory for analysis, long sample turnaround time, and a hefty price per sample. Liquid scintillation with benzene synthesis requires time-consuming sample preparation.

How does detection by LSC differ from traditional biofuel measurement?

Direct detection of biofuel by LSC is able to overcome many limitations of traditional biocarbon quantification as liquid fuel samples can be measured directly after mixing with scintillation cocktail (DIN 51637, ASTM D8473-22 guidelines and Hurt However, the method is limited by the need for a fossil-based background sample with similar quenching properties. Such a sample maybe difficult to obtain as fuel blends vary widely in colour, resulting in a difference of background counts per minute (CPM) and quenching properties (Arponen et al).

Hidex has developed a solution to overcome the shortcomings of direct LSC with the patent pending Hidex Biofuel Method (U.S. Patent No. 11,520,058). This method improves upon direct LSC measurement by bypassing the need for a background sample and providing individual calibration for each customer. It uses a patent pending algorithm to deduce the background CPM and counting efficiency. The liquid scintillation counter with triple-double coincidence ratio (TDCR) capabilities and external standard quench parameters determine the background count rate without a fuel specific background sample.

Calibration samples for biofuel analysis with Hidex biofuel method.
Background and efficiency calibration samples for biofuel analysis.

How can you start biofuel analysis with the Hidex Biofuel method?

The Hidex Biofuel method used by laboratories including Bureau Veritas, can also be used at your facility. With the Hidex 300 SLL, 600 SLe or the new ultra low level ULLA analyzer and an external standard required for the method, analysis of biofuel with Hidex’s Biofuel Method eliminates the need for tedious sample preparation without a compromise in sensitivity. Learn the details of the method from our skilled experts today by contacting us or learn more about our liquid scintillation counters.

Hurt, M., Martinez, J., Pradhan, A., Young, M., Moir, M.E., (2021) Liquid Scintillation Counting Method for the Refinery Laboratory-Based Measurements of Fuels to Support Refinery Bio-Feed Co-Processing. Energy & Fuels 35 (2), 1503-1510

Arponen, E., Juvonen, R., Wiikinkoski, E., Haaslahti, V., Oikari, T., (2020) Novel 14C LSC method for biofuels with variable color, LSC2020 conference