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B.C. Fleets Exploring Use of Biodiesel

RICHMOND, B.C. - While North America's trucking industry has adopted EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and ACERT engines (advanced combustion emissions reduction technology) to meet the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission standards,...

RICHMOND, B.C. – While North America’s trucking industry has adopted EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and ACERT engines (advanced combustion emissions reduction technology) to meet the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, some fleets say there’s a better option out there – and they plan on using it.

A group of six municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Area have recently concluded a pilot project using biodiesel and they have unanimously decided it’s a better option than purchasing the more expensive engines on the market today. The cities of Richmond, Delta, Whistler, Burnaby, Vancouver and North Vancouver each contributed two Class 8 trucks to the project and they found there were no negative performance impacts or loss of power associated with a B20 blend of biodiesel, says Ken Fryer, manager of fleet operations for the City of Richmond. He says the municipalities will operate clean equipment by using biodiesel and extending their purchase cycles to avoid costly new technology.

No modifications to equipment are required in order for the trucks to run on biodiesel – an alternative fuel that includes vegetable oils or animal fats blended with traditional petroleum diesel.

Each of the municipalities paid a premium to import biodiesel from California for the pilot project but if a local supplier can meet their needs at an affordable price, Fryer says they’re ready to make the switch rather than depend on the more expensive engines that have taken over the marketplace.

For the time being, the municipalities still have to respect long-term contracts with fuel suppliers, he says. But that doesn’t mean fleets can’t use biodiesel and just run their old engines, rebuilding them when necessary.

Fryer says it is possible to continue rebuilding the engines extending their life cycles to well beyond 10 years, delaying the purchase of the more expensive environmentally friendly engines.

Ian Thomson, president and chief operating officer of Canadian Biofuels says “Change the fuel, not the fleet” is an approach that is gaining steam on the West Coast. His company is striving to produce biodiesel domestically to take advantage of the increased demand. He says Canadian Biofuels is hoping to have local production underway by spring 2005, when biodiesel should be considerably cheaper for West Coast fleets than it is now (currently it has to be imported from California).

“There’s going to be a domestic supply of biodiesel in Western Canada that’s going to be usable for fleets and it’s not going to be an expensive additive,” vows Thomson.

Even before production begins in B.C., the company plans to have the product available at fuel stations – sometime within the next six months, says Thomson. And the fuel is expected to drop in price once production takes place here at home.

“When we have production in Western Canada our whole model has been premised on making this the same cost as diesel fuel,” Thomson says.

Biodiesel doesn’t contain many of the carcinogens found in regular diesel fuel, Thomson says. And the alternative fuel inherently causes a higher combustion temperature that Fryer says eliminates much of the Particulate Matter (PM), making a diesel particulate trap unnecessary.

“The PM is so low the trap would become ineffectual,” Fryer suggests.

According to Thomson: “Biodiesel is going to address the PM problem in a big way and I think that’s why a lot of people are using it.”

The down side is that NOx emissions, also targeted by the EPA, sometimes increase with the use of biodiesel, thanks to the higher combustion temperature. But Fryer says a catalyst can be used to eliminate the NOx.

And Thomson says Canadian Biofuels plans to use biodiesel that doesn’t increase NOx emissions when production goes domestic.

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