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Renewable diesel surviving winter weather

By Jan Westell EDMONTON, Alta. - The results of Canada's largest cold-weather, onroad demonstration of renewable diesel, just a few months into a 10-month test, are looking positive, especially in lig...

By Jan Westell EDMONTON, Alta. –The results of Canada’s largest cold-weather, onroad demonstration of renewable diesel, just a few months into a 10-month test, are looking positive, especially in light of Alberta’s recent cold snap, organizers say.

“So far. So good,” says Adam Gagnon, the program manager of transportation and energy efficiency at Climate Change Central (C3), an Alberta environmental organization that is heading up a test that has utilized 60 large commercial vehicles of various sizes, that fill-up exclusively at three main test sites in Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton and Lloydminster.

Since renewable fuels are relative newcomers to the commercial vehicle industry, there has been some skepticism, and a range of questions related to using an unorthodox fuel. But the biggest question was:”Does it work?”as well as,”Does it work in the Canadian winter?” according to Gagnon.

Initial apprehensions from commercial vehicle operators may have come about after Minnesota pushed a government mandate in 2006, to promote biodiesel, with negative technical results. These glitches have since been corrected says the C3 transportation and energy efficiency expert.

“The industry learned a lot, but some fears persisted. Now, we are using fuels with known quality, proper blending techniques, treating with kerosene to meet CGSB standards, and monitoring the whole supply chain as well as the vehicles’ operation on the road,” he says.

The demonstration included an initial lab testing phase, and is now going beyond the laboratory to put renewable diesel through typical onroad use by trucking companies. The demonstration will provide handson cold weather experience for fuel blenders, distributors, long-haul trucking fleets and drivers.

The renewable diesel demonstration came about after the federal government announced in 2006, a goal to implement a renewable fuels standard, which will require 2% renewable content in the Canadian diesel supply by 2012.This new environmental standard is dependent upon the successful demonstration of renewable diesel use under a range of Canadian weather conditions. The weather has been especially harsh in Alberta this winter, with temperatures as low as -40 C, but not to the detriment of the biofuel performance.

“There have been no reports of difficulty whatsoever, despite the fact that it has been so cold,” says Gagnon, who adds that the commercial vehicle operators have experienced nothing unusual related to engine performance. “As expected, there was nothing amiss with power, torque or emissions.”

The Canadian and Alberta governments are investing $2.6 million into this project. Shell Canada is the demonstration’s ultra low-sulfur diesel supplier, and the renewable diesel blender and distributor. Additional sponsors and supporters include: the Canola Council of Canada, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Canadian Bioenergy, Neste Oil and Milligan Biotech.

Transportation trial participants include: Rosenau Transport, HiWay 9 Express, First Bus Canada, and Gibson Energy. Road testing began in late 2007 and will continue until October. The companies have a choice of three Shell cardlock centres to choose from in Calgary, Edmonton and Lloydminster. Vehicle operators fill up as they would any diesel fuel.

“In that sense, it has been business as usual when they fill up at the cardlock,”says Gagnon. “We are not asking them to do anything (different).”

While the test was primarily about fuel performance during winter months, Gagnon notes that demonstration cardlock sites were also unaffected by the recent Alberta cold snap, but that wasn’t the case at four other regular diesel cardlock venues at Edmonton and Red Deer.

“All their pumps were frozen solid,” he said.

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