A year-long, all-weather pilot project run by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) will explore how well B5 and B10 biodiesel blends perform in farm equipment.

The federal government announced Thursday it will put up $782,000 for the project, funded under its National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative (NRDDI).

"When the study is completed in November 2010, producers and other agriculture industry stakeholders will have the information they need to successfully blend, handle and store biodiesel blends in cold Canadian conditions," the SRC said in a release.

However, the NRDDI, which funds up to half the total costs of approved projects to a maximum $1 million per fiscal year and was taking applications up until a May 29 deadline, currently requires funded projects to be completed by June 2010.

The release didn't say whether the NRDDI's deadline has been extended for all remaining participants or whether the SRC's project has been granted an extension to run through to November 2010. A spokesperson for Natural Resources Canada, which manages the NRDDI, was not immediately available for comment.

The SRC's project is meant to assess biodiesel's quality retention and performance in farm equipment and bulk storage facilities in all seasons, "including the coldest winter months."

During the year-long project, eight farmers will run their equipment as per usual using low-level (B5) and high-level (B10) canola-biodiesel blends to determine whether they affect engine performance.

Five producers will operate year-round on a B5 blend, while three others will use a B10 blend during warmer months and a B5 blend the rest of the year, the SRC said.

As part of the study, the SRC plans to evaluate approximately 50 tractors, combines, swathers and related farm fuel storage tanks.

"Biodiesel quality will be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure that the fuel maintains adequate quality throughout the year-round farming cycle," the SRC said. The SRC's Biofuels Test Centre in Regina will handle the fuel testing.

The NRDDI stems from the federal government's December 2006 announcement that a regulation will be developed requiring an average annual two per cent renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012.

In advance of such a regulation coming into effect, biodiesel's use must be "successfully demonstrated in the range of Canadian conditions," according to Natural Resources Canada's website.

To that end, NRDDI-funded demonstration projects were to be completed by June 2010 "in order to allow sufficient lead time for the regulation to come into effect."