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Fuel Chemistry Research

Photo of a hand holding a beaker containing a clear yellow liquid.

NREL evaluates a broad range of renewable gasoline and diesel fuels ranging from currently available ethanol and biodiesel to future products such as dimethyl furan and hydrotreated biomass pyrolysis oils.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

NREL's fuel chemistry research explores how biofuels, advanced petroleum-based fuels, fuel blends, and natural gas perform in vehicles as well as in fuel pumps, storage tanks, and distribution systems.

NREL researchers help overcome technical barriers for new fuels by:

  • Developing and characterizing research-grade reference fuels, surrogate fuels, and advanced alternative/renewable blending streams
  • Measuring fuel quality and performance properties in relation to chemical composition
  • Comparing behavior, performance, and emissions impacts of different alternative fuels and fuel blend levels
  • Studying combustion-related fuel properties
  • Evaluating fuel compatibility with engines, emissions control catalysts, and infrastructure materials.

Results from NREL's fuel chemistry studies feed back into the lab's combustion, emissions, and co-optimization of fuels and engines research activities.

Fuel Properties and Behavior

Advanced alternative and renewable fuels that have the greatest potential for petroleum displacement have a different chemical composition than traditional petroleum-based fuels and therefore behave much differently in engines and in storage and distribution systems. NREL characterizes the chemistry and properties of the full spectrum of commercially available fuels, fuels in development, and compounds under consideration for future fuel formulation. NREL's research feeds industry development of new fuels and vehicle components. Learn more about the alternative fuels NREL is investigating.

Fuel Quality Evaluation

NREL works with fuel developers and standards organizations to develop improved experimentation methods and quality specifications. Looking at new fuels, blends, additives, and lubricants alongside heavy-duty and light-duty vehicle technology makes it possible to provide developers with requirements to meet ASTM standards and perform strongly in engines, as well as identify areas of potential difficulty.

Infrastructure Compatibility

Infrastructure compatibility can present major hurdles to commercialization of low-carbon fuels and fuel blends. NREL works with equipment certification authorities, manufacturers, and service station and refinery operators to examine requirements for components including service station pumps, delivery equipment, distribution lines and meters, and storage tanks.

More Information

Search the NREL Publications Database to access published documents and data about fuel chemistry research. Also explore our facilities or learn about working with us.

Contact Robert McCormick for more information about NREL's fuel chemistry projects.