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CTA report identifies potential problems with Harper’s biodiesel mandate

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Since the Harper government made commitments to introduce a biodiesel mandate for all on-road fuel,...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Since the Harper government made commitments to introduce a biodiesel mandate for all on-road fuel, the Canadian Trucking Alliance has been busy lobbying against it. The CTA has asked that the introduction the mandate be delayed until questions related to operational capability with post-2007 trucking equipment along with cost/benefit analysis have been conducted.


In December 2006, the federal government introduced a notice of intent in Canada Gazette to develop a federal regulation requiring 2% renewable diesel fuel content no earlier than 2010 and no later than 2012, pending confirmation that this fuel will no have a detrimental impact on truck engines.


CTA officials have voiced concern over problems that might occur in the process of integrating the biodiesel mandate into the current fuel distribution system, which is based solely on conventional fuels. In order to get a handle on the issues, CTA engaged fuel experts MJ Ervin & Associates of Calgary for their opinion and analysis. The report from this investigation, entitled Discussion of the Potential Impact of a National Renewable Fuel Mandate on the Canadian Distillate Market identified a host of potential issues relating to the storage, blending and transportation of biodiesel including:


Storage — Because biodiesel is not compatible with certain materials, has high solvency rate and must be free from water, a dedicated storage tank system would have to be created in the various regions, the report says, adding that these tanks would also have to be heated to prevent biodiesel gelling.


-Blending — The choice of blending technique used to achieve a desired biodiesel blend has important implications with respect to product quality, particularly in cold weather, the report contests. In-line blending at the terminal rack (into a tanker truck) is the best way of producing a biodiesel blend. However, most Canadian terminals are currently not likely to be equipped with such equipment, the report finds


Transportation — In Western and Central Canada, pipelines are the principal method of transporting petroleum product. (In Atlantic Canada marine is the main method of transportation). Biodiesel cannot be pipelined because of cross contamination concerns, the report says. This would mean a much greater reliance on insulated heated tanker trucks, rails cars or marine tankers to move product normally moved by pipeline, according to the report.


Furthermore, tanks used to transport biodiesel would have to be either totally or partially dedicated to moving this product alone, the study finds.


While the report suggests the fuel industry will be motivated to address these issues, recent experience – diesel fuel shortages in Central Canada (2007) and more recently in Western Canada – suggests the trucking industry needs more assurance, says the CTA.


“It is essential that the issues identified in the report are dealt with prior to the implementation of a biodiesel mandate,” says CTA CEO, David Bradley. “This will take extensive, multilateral planning with all stakeholders, including the customer which in this case is the trucking industry.” Ultimately, says Bradley, the consequences of lack of preparation, planning and communication between all stakeholders in the fuel supply and distribution chain will ultimately be felt by the trucking industry.

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