The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) says it is helping public entities across the state tap into the emerging renewable diesel market. The results include reduced emissions and a decrease in fleet maintenance for the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB), which began testing the alternative fuel in September 2015.
As the agency explains, renewable diesel, like petroleum-based diesel, is made through a hydrogenation process instead of the chemical process by which biodiesel is derived. But unlike petroleum fuel, renewable diesel is a product of natural fats or vegetable oils, making it a cleaner, lower-carbon-content fuel option for diesel vehicles.
In 2014, the agency issued the EWEB a tax credit for installing an alternative fuel fueling station to run its fleet of vehicles. The station was designed to pump biodiesel, but ODOE Senior Policy Analyst Rick Wallace thought EWEB could go even “greener” by using renewable diesel rather than biodiesel.
“Moving our fleet to biodiesel helped us achieve our carbon-reduction goals,” says EWEB Fleet Manager Gary Lentsch. “Switching to renewable diesel has taken us to another level.”
According to ODOE, EWEB quickly realized the benefits of switching to renewable diesel for its fleet of 85 diesel vehicles. Using a regular gallon of diesel fuel emits more than 30 pounds of greenhouse-gases into the air; meanwhile, ODOE says, using a gallon of renewable diesel emits fewer than 10. EWEB is currently using about 6,100 gallons of renewable diesel a month.
EWEB also discovered that renewable diesel is easier on vehicle engines and diesel particulate filter systems. After making the switch, Lentsch noticed a significant decrease in maintenance issues.
“We have telematics on all of our vehicles and equipment so we know what’s going on with our fleet,” he says. “It wasn’t uncommon to get alert codes on our vehicles, and our shop would have to manually empty the filters (known as regeneration). After we switched to renewable diesel, our trucks don’t require regeneration as often as when they were using regular diesel. As a matter of fact, the shop hasn’t done a manual re-gen since the switch. Now, our trucks are staying in service longer with less down time.”
Oregon’s new Clean Fuels Program went into effect on Jan. 1, with the goal to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in Oregon by 10% over the next 10 years. ODOE says alternative fuels like renewable diesel will play a role in helping the state reach that goal.