Loading Up on B20

Darcy Vaillant wants the mountains east of Vancouver, British Columbia, to maintain their beauty, as well as their fishing spots, for future generations. As manager of maintenance for Terminal Systems Inc., the biggest container terminal in Canada, he is in a position to be able to make a significant impact on diesel emissions coming out of the Port of Vancouver.
By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy | July 01, 2006
Handling cargo requires heavy-duty equipment, but it doesn't have to produce dirty emissions, insists Darcy Vaillant, manager of maintenance at Terminal Systems Inc. (TSI) in Vancouver, British Columbia. That's why after over two years of testing, TSI implemented the use of B20 in all of the 227 diesel engines at its two terminals-Vanterm and Deltaport. "Once I went up to B20 in testing, the reduction in emissions was impressive," says Vaillant, who initiated and led the biodiesel initiative. Biodiesel, combined with exhaust scrubbers in the heavy machinery, has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in annual diesel engine emissions. The company seeks to reduce emissions by an additional 10 percent when it upgrades to B30 by the end of this year.

TSI is the first terminal operator in Canada to implement such a significant emissions reduction program, according to Vaillant. "We are hoping that other terminals will follow our lead and use biodiesel because the impact of doing so is huge," Vaillant says. "TSI recognizes the need to reduce air emissions now to help protect our environment and our children's future."

TSI joins several large fleets in the region that have already moved to biodiesel. Many of these, including Deltaport, have contracts with Canadian Bioenergy Corp. (CBC), a biodiesel supplier based in British Columbia, according to President Ian Thomson, who says, "TSI is the most interesting because of the equipment they run and because it's a very visible, prominent facility down on the port."

With Vanterm and Deltaport combined, TSI handles the bulk of Vancouver's container traffic, bringing the total handling capacity of cargo to nearly 1.4 million 20-foot equivalent units in 2005. TSI, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Orient Overseas International Ltd. (OOIL) of Hong Kong, is also the largest terminal employer in the Port of Vancouver, with an annual payroll exceeding $150 million.

Vanterm, located in Vancouver's inner harbor, is a 76-acre site with two container berths and seven dockside gantry cranes. There are 101 diesel engines at Venterm. At 160 acres, Deltaport has over twice the area and is located in Vancouver's outer harbor. This port requires 126 diesel engines, which includes seven dockside gantry cranes, to service the two container berths. Clearly, these two ports require a lot of fuel to operate; Vaillant says that the annual consumption of the terminals is upwards of 5 million liters (over 1.3 million gallons). "At a B20 blend, that's a lot of biodiesel," he notes.

Emissions Testing
The pilot project for the program, which began in 2003, was the first biodiesel pilot study with a large private fleet in western Canada, according to TSI. Even though it is not news that biodiesel reduces emissions, TSI "wanted to verify internally that they would get the results that they understood they would," Thomson says. "They also had some unique equipment, such as large cranes. It's not your typical biodiesel application."

Before Vaillant was willing to test biodiesel on the company's machinery, he had to confirm his understanding of its capabilities. He tested how the fuel reacted to cold and with rubber. The results were satisfactory enough for him to progress with the implementation and testing plan specifically designed by him and CBC.
This spring, Vaillant chose six different pieces of machinery to test in order to ensure that biodiesel could be utilized throughout the terminals and would reduce emissions regardless of equipment. "There was quite a lot of organization to coordinate machinery and have it tested while it was in operation," he says. "It was quite complex."
The emissions tests measured levels of NOx, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, total hydrocarbons and particulate matter. At press time, the final emissions testing results were not available for release. As a control measurement, emissions were tested on the six machines before any biodiesel was added. "We had a base to work with on individual machinery," Vaillant explains. "Next, we drained our fuel tanks, loaded the B5 and did tests again. We saw emissions reductions right away." After two weeks at B5 with no problems and steady emissions results, they made the step to B10.

The blend testing was implemented incrementally by 5 percent every two weeks. At the end of May, B20 was implemented successfully. At this time, Vaillant also added scrubbers, which reduce particulate matter. He says the combination reduced the emissions by 30 percent.

Scrubbers are not a new addition to the terminal. In fact, TSI started to use scrubbers 20 years ago to reduce the black soot coming from diesel engine exhaust. "At that time, we were not looking to reduce emissions," Vaillant notes. "It was used to keep the pulp clean in the sheds and eliminate the black soot coming down on the pulp and paper [being stored at the terminal]."

When testing initially began, Vaillant was concerned about potential for filter plugging in the older equipment. "I was worried about the deterioration of hoses and other rubber components, as well as the sludge that had previously settled in the older fuel tanks," he says. Though biodiesel "cleans anything," TSI has not encountered any plugged filters in the two-year testing program-even after biodiesel was run consistently in the machinery. "We replace the filters every 300 hours as per our maintenance schedule, and they look fine," he says.

He mentions that they may have had more problems had any of their equipment been older. TSI has a relatively new fleet, with the exception of 10 inland container cranes that are pre-1990s. Vaillant feels comfortable testing blends over B20.

Now that the terminals are geared up for B20, they require significantly more biodiesel on a regular basis. Each terminal has a tanker that internally services the engines by wheel-to-wheel fueling. The tankers buy the bulk diesel (they are serviced by separate companies) and fill the tanks 80 percent full. Then they employ a splash-blending method to make a B20 blend.

CBC supplies TSI with biodiesel at Deltaport and is looking at building a biodiesel production facility with an annual capacity of over 40 million liters (10.5 million gallons). However, Thomson could not share the construction timeframe. In the meantime, it acquires soy-based biodiesel from the United States. TSI acquires tallow-based biodiesel for the Vanterm terminal from West Coast Biodiesel, which is a division of West Coast Reduction.

Even though winters in Vancouver are relatively mild, Vaillant assures that the terminals will not use a blend higher than B20 in the winter if the biodiesel is made from animal fat because of the higher cloud point. "We run a lot of machinery, and I can't have it shutting down when it gets below zero [degrees Celsius]," he says. He may also install heaters in each individual fuel tank.

Yes, there are still tests to be run and costs to incur to upgrade to B30. For example, Vaillant is considering getting a heated tank for blends higher than B20. He admits that there was significant cost in the testing. Implementation, however, was "very easy" and relatively inexpensive. "We didn't have to change anything on any of our equipment," he says. "[Conversion] was a matter of getting the blend and bringing it down here." In addition, he notes that as the rising costs of diesel come into effect, the cost of biodiesel is also favorable. At press time Vaillant said it was a penny cheaper per liter than petroleum diesel fuel.

TSI has been a leader in quality control and an example for companies considering the switch (many have already contacted Vaillant). For example, every load that comes in is tested. "I said we want consistency, and the only way we could do that was to get it tested," Vaillant says. Thomson has been impressed. "They've moved quickly, and it's a good business to serve because they know what they want and they've invested in the facilities to make the biodiesel work," he comments.

TSI is proud of its accomplishments thus far. "Biodiesel is reliable, and it's a cost effective way of achieving our goals in emissions reduction targets," Vaillant says. "Plus, biodiesel smells a lot more pleasant than diesel fuel. It's already made a difference."

Ultimately, this project was done for environmental reasons. "TSI wants to be a leader in environmental stewardship," Vaillant says. "We don't just work here; we live here. We all have children, and we want to work on the environment. We plan on being here a long time-maybe I won't be here, but my kids will be. We want to reduce our environmental footprint, and that's just part of the deal."

Anduin Kirkbride McElroy is a Biodiesel Magazine staff writer. Reach her at amcelroy
@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 746-8385.
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