Biodiesel Helps Fort Collins Meet Carbon Reduction Goals
Biodiesel is a key part of the nation’s #1-ranked Green Fleet’s carbon reduction strategy, helping it meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and improve air quality. Located just over an hour north of Denver and home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins, has powered its diesel vehicles with B20 (a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel fuel) since 2005.
Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel and renewable diesel are better, cleaner fuels that are available now for use in existing diesel engines without modification. Biodiesel is the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel.
“Our biodiesel program is going strong,” said Tracy Ochsner, assistant operations services director for Fort Collins. “We have had virtually no issues with biodiesel, even in the colder winter months. Our vehicle operators don’t know the difference, and it helps us meet our greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals.”
In 2005, city leaders realized that using biodiesel would help them achieve some very aggressive GHG reduction goals, the first being a 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020 (over 2005 levels). Fort Collins met its 2020 goal, and is on track to reach its next target of an 80% reduction by 2030, and being carbon neutral by 2050.
In addition to biodiesel’s GHG and air quality benefits, because Fort Collins is surrounded by many agricultural industries, city leaders realized that making the switch to biodiesel was also an economic win that would boost the local economy. Collaboration between the fleet department, sustainability department, the city manager and the air quality board made that vision a reality. Now, over 16 years later, the city is still committed to this low carbon fuel.
Fort Collins relies on biodiesel blends year-round to power its diesel vehicles including construction equipment, dump trucks, snowplows and some transit vehicles. The city’s fleet currently uses approximately 200,000 gallons of B20 annually, in a total of 389 diesel vehicles and equipment.
“Things like snowplows and transit vehicles…you just can’t have those down,” Ochsner added. “We wouldn’t use biodiesel if we didn’t believe it was a high-quality, reliable fuel.”
Transitioning to biodiesel was seamless. Because biodiesel can be used in existing engines without modification, it was a matter of purchasing the fuel, performing some key tank maintenance and filling up.
“We made sure we performed all our bulk tank maintenance by pumping most of the existing fuel out -- making sure all the solids were removed -- before receiving our first load of biodiesel,” said Shane Armfield, the city’s fuel and environmental manager. “And then, for a short period of time we changed the vehicle and equipment fuel filters at every service.”
Ochsner explained that a successful program “comes down to your fuel supplier and your maintenance. We believe this has been a very successful program for us. No loss of power, no change in fuel economy, and it’s cleaner.”
In 2020, 100 Best Fleets named Fort Collins the Top Green Fleet and the city ranked #1 on Government Fleet’s list of the 50 Leading Fleets. In addition to biodiesel, Fort Collins’ fleet vehicles are powered by compressed natural gas, electricity, and propane.