Forensic services

Fuels

As a result of increasing environmental concerns there have been numerous moves to replace conventional hydrocarbon fuels with equivalents obtained from renewable resources. This requirement is now the subject of legislation both within the UK and the EU. The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order (2007) requires “renewable fuels” to make up 5% of all road fuel supplied. This process is monitored by the Renewable Fuels Agency by a process of certification and “self-monitoring”. At present the most common “renewable fuel” is bio-ethanol. However, there are also industrial sources of this compound and the potential for fraud is vast.

MSA is the world’s first laboratory to be granted UKAS accreditation for the analysis of biofuels. The company has developed pioneering chemical techniques to differentiate between biofuels and fuels with synthetic or fossil origins, and has become the approved laboratory for the analysis of Formula 1 motor racing fuels for biofuel content.

The approach used is Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS), a technique used to distinguish between samples of chemically identical material based on the differences in the number of neutrons in the nuclei of the atoms making up a substance. The stable isotopic composition of ethanol can be indicative of its source e.g. biological or industrial.
 

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