Five Steps for Successful Sustainable Fuel Fleet Integration and Vehicle Use
by Michael Eggleston* (Advanced Biofuels USA) “Since switching to B20, we’ve had no engine issues. We haven’t had any issues with fuel filters. And the lubrication from biodiesel has been a good thing given the lack of lubricity in modern diesel fuel,” Roger Ritchie, Manager at Rochester Public Transit, stated optimistically, discussing fueling with biodiesel since the late 1990s. At 17 cents/gallon cheaper than petrodisel in 2016, Roger had a lot to be happy about besides biodiesel’s strong year-round performance.
Behind Roger’s joy in making a difference that will support the health and well-being of future generations to come was Troy Shoen, Senior Marketing Manager for the Renewable Energy Group (REG). Troy recently hosted a webinar on February 8, 2018 in partnership with the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF) titled: “Fueled by Performance: Biodiesel Basics and Implementation Best Practices for Sustainable Fleets” to educate fleet managers on how to successfully integrate sustainable fuels into their vehicles.
Specifically two sustainable fuels were introduced in Troy’s presentation: Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel.
Biodiesel is methyl esters made from biological oils and fats (triglycerides) by transesterification, or in other words, the process of swapping one alcohol for another, he explained. However, what differentiates renewable diesel is that it is reacted with hydrogen via hydro-treating or isomerization in which the oxygen in the fuel is converted to water and the paraffin molecules produced are familiar constituents of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD), he elaborated on slide 32. Despite the molecular differences of the fuels, it was clarified that both sustainable fuels can utilize any saturated fat or unsaturated oil as a feedstock.
It was discussed during the webinar’s Q&A that not one feedstock is the end all be all. Rather, they all have redeeming qualities. In other words, it is important as a fleet manager to define the quality of fuel needed before integrating a sustainable fuel. Where the feedstock is geographically available, how it is produced and how it performs throughout the year are all key factors to consider when integrating a sustainable fuel, the speaker concluded.
Here are Troy’s five steps to consider when integrating a sustainable fuel into your fleet:
- Consider your comfort level with blending
Four published studies presented during the webinar showed no statistically significant difference between the fuel efficiency of 0% (B0) and 20 % (B20) biodiesel blends. Despite miniscule differences in fuel economy, the B20 blend had improved combustion and better lubricity. Beyond B20 blends it was advised that special attention is needed by consumers regarding engine modifications.
On the other hand, renewable diesel has only been approved for pipelines in the United States (US) for blends up to 5%; but it is also compatible at any level blend with diesel and biodiesel. Till now, pipeline companies have not conducted testing approvals to expand the pipeline certification volume of renewable diesel in the US.
For more information about what individual states’ biomass-based diesel policies and tax incentives are please click here.
- Confirm the quality of your biodiesel supply
ASTM D6751 provides biodiesel specifications in the US. These include both quality and performance indicators, but there are no specifications that restrict feedstock options. REG-9000® biodiesel specifications exceed ASTM D6751 and include specifications on mono-, di-, triglyceride, moisture and ester content as well as particulate contamination.
ASTM D975 provides renewable diesel specifications in the US. A comparison to how REG-900/Renewable Hydrocarbon Diesel (RHD) compares to D975 ULSD Limit is included on slides 33-34 of Troy’s presentation.
It was also recommended to work with a producer that will provide technical support, and to always ask for a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) if purchasing fuel direct. If a producer cannot offer a CoA then there should be a concern about who is providing the fuel.
- Determine your blend level
Troy recommends that fleets utilize B20 blends year round to maximize engine performance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money on fuel costs. He recognizes that some fleets are hesitant to jump right into a B20 blend, especially those operating in colder climates. In which case, he recommends they start blending in 2% biodiesel and gradually increase that as they prove to themselves it works effectively.
- Educate your employees
Biodiesel is not only a summer fuel, but also a year-round fuel that can be used in conditions such as -30°F up to B20 blends with an additional cold weather stabilizer. With 100% of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) supporting B5 and lower and about 90% medium- and heavy-duty truck OEMs supporting up to B20, there is hope for fleet managers to make a positive change without worrying about voiding their warranty. Biodiesel also doesn’t require modifications up to B20, it is a drop-in, sustainable fuel that improves emissions with no infrastructure required.
- Reap the Benefits
With a higher cetane and lubricity value than conventional diesel, biodiesel fuel also emits virtually zero sulfur. As an oxygenated fuel, it also provides superior lubricity and reduces black smoke, not to mention its higher flash point, the temperature at which a particular substance ignites, which makes it safer to ship via cargo. Biodiesel also has inherent cleansing and solvent properties which clean out residue build up from ULSD diesel, therefore the filter may need to be changed more frequently at first.
On the other hand, renewable diesel has a superior cetane number, the indicator of combustion quality, in comparison to both biodiesel and ULSD diesel with a higher cloud point, the temperature of solidification, which ranges from 14 to -4°F.
The presentation slides can be accessed on PDF here.
Troy Shoen (Troy.firstname.lastname@example.org) has been an expert in marketing various aspects of the advanced biofuels industry for the past eight years. During six of those years, he managed marketing efforts for a biofuels feedstock and animal ingredient company before joining REG in July 2015. He currently leads efforts to promote the economic and value-added benefits of integrating biodiesel into distributor and retailer fuel programs at REG.
Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF) is a non-profit housed at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. In 2000, LCF became a designated affiliate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. For inquires about LCF please contact their Executive Director, Ann Vail (email@example.com) or visit their website.
* Michael Eggleston is an aspiring policymaker studying interdisciplinary & intercultural communication with the University of Rhode Island’s International Engineering Program. He is spending a semester abroad at the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Darmstadt, Germany and will be reporting on and representing Advanced Biofuels USA at international conferences surrounding Europe’s energy transition.