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Biodiesel offers fleet operators a safer, cleaner alternative to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is made from renewable feedstocks, such as vegetable oils and animal fats, through a simple refining process. One of the main commodity sources for biodiesel is soybeans, a major crop produced by almost 400,000 farmers in 29 states.

Biodiesel is a cost effective tool when complying with federal regulations. The Energy Conservation Reauthorization Act of 1998 allows federal, state and alternative fuel provider fleets who must comply with the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) and Executive Order 13149 to meet up to 50 percent of their light duty alternative fueled vehicle purchase requirements with biodiesel. The biodiesel fuel use credit gives fleets and covered persons, who are otherwise required under EPAct to purchase alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), the option of purchasing and using 450 gallons of biodiesel in vehicles in excess of 8,500 lbs. gross vehicle weight instead of purchasing an AFV. Fleets must purchase and use the equivalent of 450 gallons of pure biodiesel in a minimum of a 20% blend to earn one AFV credit. Click here for a fact sheet about earning EPAct credits with biodiesel.

Biodiesel operates in conventional engines. Biodiesel blends operate in diesel engines, from light to heavy-duty, just like petroleum diesel. B20 works in any diesel engine with few or no modifications to the engine or the fuel system, and provides similar horsepower, torque, and mileage as diesel. Click here for a performance fact sheet.

Biodiesel does not require special storage. In fact, in its pure form or in blends, biodiesel can be stored wherever petroleum diesel is stored, except in concrete-lined tanks. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminum, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene and teflon. The fuel should be stored in a clean, dry, dark environment. At higher blend levels, biodiesel may deteriorate natural rubber or polyurethane foam materials. Biodiesel also has a higher flash point, handles like diesel and is safe to transport. Users should be sure to verify compatibility with materials exposed to neat biodiesel.

 Biodiesel costs rank well with other alternatives. The cost of biodiesel depends on the market price for vegetable oil. In general, biodiesel blended at a 20 percent level with petroleum diesel costs approximately 20 cents per gallon more than diesel alone. Given the other advantages of biodiesel, though, an emission management system with biodiesel is a least-cost alternative. A study by Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., found fleets using a 20 percent biodiesel blend would experience lower total annual costs than other alternative fuels. Similarly, results reported by the University of Georgia indicate biodiesel-powered buses are competitive with other alternatively fueled buses with biodiesel prices as high as $3 per gallon.

Biodiesel has a full ASTM standard. The premier standard-setting organization in the United States has issued a fuel specification for biodiesel. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) issued Specification D 6751 for all biodiesel fuel bought and sold in the U.S. in March of 2002, marking a major milestone for the biodiesel industry.

Having a full standard in place helps protect consumers from poor products and reduces the cost of buying and selling biodiesel. While many adopted the provisional specification in 1999 (PS 121), those that didn't had to negotiate a specification. The final passage of D 6751 streamlines the procurement process.

Those interested in getting a copy of the standard can buy it for $35 at www.astm.org. To contact ASTM customer service directly, call (610) 832-9585 or e-mail service@astm.org.
 Users
NYC Parks Department
NYC Sanitation Department
MO Dept of Transportation
NJ Dept of Transportation
City of Chula Vista
City of Flagstaff
City of Ft. Collins
City of Irving
City of Las Vegas
City of Santa Monica
City of Scottsdale, AZ
City of Oceanside
US Air Force
US Marines
Grand Canyon National Park
Yellowstone National Park
FL Power & Light
Baltimore Gas & Electric
Harvard University (MA)
Odell Brewery 
Poland Spring
Sysco Corporation
The Essential Baking Company
Uinta Brewing Company
UPS WorldPort 
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Whole Foods 
 Featured User
New York City Sanitation Department
 
New York City is known as one of the cultural and fashion capitals of the world. You could also say it is the garbage capital of the world. No other city has a larger municipal refuse fleet, and when it comes to fueling the 4,000 diesel vehicles, the City of New York's Sanitation Department trusts biodiesel.

"We were already a leader in using other renewable fuels when biodiesel started gaining popularity in 2006," says Spiro Kattan, Supervisor of Mechanics. "We wanted to gain experience with biodiesel, so we launched a 5 percent blend at one location in about 40 vehicles. It performed extremely well, so we decided to go citywide with B5 in 2007."

That mammoth fleet includes vehicles such as:

  • diesel garbage trucks
  • dump trucks
  • salt spreaders

"We can't affort for our garbage trucks not to run," Kattan said. "Our trucks don't only pick up garbage, they are also equipped with snowplow hitches. We're a part of the city's snow emergency plans and the residents of New York City would not be too happy if our vehicles went down during a snow storm."

Reliability is one reason the department decided to build a BQ-9000 requirement into its fuel procurement process. The biodiesel industry's fuel quality assurance program requires that the producer or marketer meet stringent practices. Sprague Energy supplies the department's fuel. Years ago, the company became the first petroleum marketer to earn BQ-9000 certification.

"Those trucks have to run, and BQ-9000 gives us a higher comfort level that our provider is meeting a high standard," Kattan said. "When it comes to any fuel, not just biodiesel, it's all about quality. The BQ-9000 program is a real plus for us."

The department is running a 20 percent blend (B20) in one location and is considering moving everything to B20 in the future.