From passenger vehicles to bulldozers, from street sweepers to school buses, from snow plows to tractor trailers, and even in boats and home heating systems, the use of biodiesel is helping thousands of fleets and motorists reduce carbon emissions and
clear the air. Biodiesel is here and now, powering vehicles and equipment across the country in all kinds of weather and conditions. Here are just a few examples.
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Trailblazing is nothing new for the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana’s award-winning fleet division. A long-time user of biodiesel, the city has furthered its commitment to carbon reduction with the cleaner-burning fuel by helping to launch the B20 Club of Indiana, as an inaugural member.
By using biodiesel, Fort Wayne is shrinking its carbon footprint in a measurable way and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2020, the city used nearly 270,000 gallons of B20 (a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel), reducing 514 tons of carbon emissions and 90 pounds of particulate matter, resulting in an estimated $29,000 annual health benefit. That’s the annual carbon reduction equivalent of planting 7,715 trees. The city has earned a number of awards for its achievements. Most recently, 100 Best Fleets in the Americas ranked Fort Wayne #38 out of more than 38,000 public fleets in 2021.
"The City of Fort Wayne has been using a B20 blend to power our fleet for nearly two decades,” said Larry Campbell, fleet director for Fort Wayne. “We are proud to fuel our vehicles with a product that’s produced locally and burns significantly cleaner than petroleum diesel. On top of that, biodiesel is by far the best carbon reduction tool of any liquid fuel available today. B20 is the easiest thing we can do to reduce emissions. It makes it a no-brainer for me as a fleet director "
More than 267,000 residents call the northeastern Indiana City of Fort Wayne home. With its three converging rivers -- the St. Mary’s, St. Joseph and Maumee -- Fort Wayne takes outdoor recreation and clean air seriously. That’s why the city fuels with B20 to achieve cleaner air and a better environment for residents. B20 powers essential city services, including transportation systems, emergency response, water and sewer, leaf collection, street sweeping and snow and ice control – some 300 vehicles in total.
Fort Wayne has used B20 since 2004 to help meet its emissions reduction goals with a readily available fuel.
“When I came to the city in 2003, the mayor was very interested in green initiatives and wanted to lower carbon footprints,” Campbell explained. “We started experimenting with biodiesel in September 2003 and wrote the first specs for biodiesel in November 2003 which incorporated BQ-9000 standards (the industry’s voluntary quality assurance program). Biodiesel gave us the performance we wanted and better sustainability.”
“As a city we have to be financially responsible with the vehicles we purchase. You have to look at the return on investment, not just the carbon footprint. For example CNG requires $10,000 in engine modifications to change over. Biodiesel is a drop-in fuel and B20 is the same price or lower than diesel fuel.”
There is no additional maintenance required when using biodiesel. Fleets should follow routine maintenance which includes monitoring storage tanks for water and sediment to prevent problems from occurring.
According to Campbell, “Our 15,000-gallon underground storage tank had some sediment deposits, so we opted to have that tank cleaned prior to introducing biodiesel to ensure a seamless transition and minimize filter clogging. Since then, we have continued biannual tank maintenance and have had no issues.”
Campbell and his team are eager to share the city’s biodiesel story with the public and other fleets. As part of that effort, they stickered 500 diesel vehicles and equipment with biodiesel branding in 2020 through the National Biodiesel Board’s matching funds program. Joining other fleets in the B20 Club is another way they share biodiesel’s important sustainability benefits with the public.
The Indiana Soybean Alliance and the American Lung Association launched the B20 Club of Indiana in 2021. Their collaboration recognizes and supports select Indiana-based fleets running on biodiesel blends of B20 or higher.
“With carbon footprint top-of-mind for many communities, look to B20 Club of Indiana member fleets to lead the way,” said Bailey Arnold, senior manager of Clean Air Initiatives for the American Lung Association. “Fueling with cleaner-burning B20 or higher biodiesel blends helps these fleets reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality – while producing efficient and reliable engine performance in a variety of fleet vehicles.”
Through the use of biodiesel, the nation’s capital is a trailblazer in taking action to reduce the city’s carbon footprint — and at the same time — protect citizens and municipal workers.
“DPW touches every district resident and visitor, every day,” said Christine Williams Public Works Interim Director. “We are a leader in use of biodiesel fuel, particularly for municipal fleets. We were the pilot for biodiesel trials in the city more than 10 years ago.
D.C.’s success with B20 led them to be one of the first in the nation to try running their fleets on B100. Biodiesel’s consistent performance was important to DPW and other D.C. fleets.
“Once we shared our experience with our sister agencies, everyone else wanted to come on board and use biodiesel as well,” Williams explained.
Pointing to a B100-powered truck behind him, Ryan Frasier, DPW’s Associate Fleet Administrator, said “Sanitation workers and drivers, they’re driving in these trucks 8, sometimes 12 hours a day. These trucks, they offer a better air quality. They reduce emissions, we found, by 75%.”
The results are so clear that Frasier notes the city plans to double the size of its B100 sanitation vehicles in the next year.
D.C. Water’s Director of Fleet Management Tim Fitzgerald also is proud to share benefits of biodiesel in D.C. Water’s fleet.
“D.C. Water is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world, and we're the most advanced,” he said. “My role here at D.C. Water is to provide the most environmentally friendly, efficient and effective type of vehicles for our fleet. So we went from B10 to B20, and now we're at B100, and we're liking what we're doing and everybody's in on the party now.”
The D.C. Department of Public Works and D.C. Water were assisted with a $1.2 million Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Watch these videos which tell the D.C. biodiesel story.
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.
When Washington D.C. issued a 2050 goal of 80% greenhouse gas reduction, fleet managers at the D.C. Department of Public Works knew they would need to address one of the biggest challenges towards sustainability - diesel guzzling garbage trucks.
“DPW’s diesel refuse trucks cause the highest amount of emissions per vehicle in the entire District fleet,” explains DPW Director Chris Geldart. “We needed a solution that would maximize emissions reductions while minimizing any effect on our budget and operations.
The DPW found that solution in biodiesel, 100% pure biodiesel to be exact. The department has enabled a large portion of its fleet to run on B100 biodiesel, a switch that was enabled by installing a fuel system manufactured by Optimus Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based NBB member.
Using B100 reduces up to 86% of the trucks’ greenhouse gas emissions, which means the Department has exceeded their 2050 goals today. Officials calculated that using biodiesel has prevented more than 1,600 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere in 2019 alone. They also note that these environmental benefits are being achieved with no impact to vehicle performance, operation, or maintenance.
“At the Department of Public Works, we are committed to operating our fleet in a sustainable manner without compromising performance, says DPW’s Associate Administrator Ryan Frasier. “The transition to using B100 has been seamless, even with the cold weather usage of biodiesel over the past two winters.”
The success of the alternative fuel has led the DPW to fully commit to sustainable biodiesel. The Department recently mandated that all future heavy-duty trucks will be B100 capable, and intends to have close to 100 trucks upgraded with the Optimus fuel system within the next year.
“The use of biodiesel here has resulted in a cost savings. Because biodiesel has more lubricity, we’ve had a cutdown in the number of times we are cleaning and replacing injectors and fuel injection pumps. It’s great to have American fuel support American jobs and the American economy,” said Michael Bernich, Fleet Manager, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
In 2004, Harvard became the first Ivy League school to power its diesel vehicles with cleaner burning biodiesel. Since then, Harvard’s biodiesel program has not only grown, but its leadership has paved the way for others to follow its lead.
Harvard uses approximately 2,000 gallons of biodiesel per week, for a total of more than 100,000 gallons a year. Their diesel fleet includes about 75 service vehicles – such as shuttle buses, solid waste and recycling trucks, mail delivery vehicles and more – and about 25 pieces of off-road equipment.
David E. Harris Jr., Harvard’s Director Transit and Fleet Management, who serves as a volunteer Biodiesel Ambassador, has educated fleets throughout New England on the benefits of biodiesel and how it can help achieve sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
With its advantages, instantly obvious to even the most recent acquaintance, biodiesel provides significant carbon reduction, improved operational characteristics, domestic jobs, and with its source of renewable agricultural products, long term sustainability unmatched by the fuel it naturally replaces. This publication contains stories shining the light on individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in creating the biodiesel industry.