Fleets subject of biodiesel workshops

By | April 25, 2007
Biodiesel is on the minds of fleet operators, so the Grand Forks, N.D.-based Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) has been holding workshops to educate them and the general public on the benefits and challenges of using this locally grown fuel.

In March, workshops were geared toward fleet operators in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D., according to Kerryanne Leroux, a research engineer at the EERC. An additional workshop was held in Fargo, N.D., for the general public March 29. "The workshops were basically for education," she said. "We wanted to get the word out about biodiesel, and provide both the pros and cons associated with it. We wanted to give people information so they can make their own decisions about usage, investment or production."

The primary questions that came up in the workshops had to do with quality. The industry's problems with precipitates and filter clogging continue to worry fleet owners. Leroux said one goal of the workshops was to provide straight talk about fuel quality and the proper handling of biodiesel. "There is a misunderstanding about the quality of biodiesel and trying to meet ASTM specs and verifying that producers are making fuel that meets ASTM specifications," she said.

The workshops pointed out that everyone in the biodiesel supply chain-producers, blenders, retailers and consumers-has a role in making sure fuel quality is maintained through the supply chain, Leroux said. Looking for the BQ-9000 certification label is one way to make sure the blend was made with quality biodiesel.

Fleet managers were also interested in the distribution of biodiesel. "They had a lot of questions about the distributors," Leroux said. "I think their main concern is, 'Can I get the fuel, and is it available in a reliable quantity?' They also wanted to know how they could check the quality, how that quality is guaranteed and what kind of changes they are going to see in performance. Fuel economy and cold flow properties were a big concern."

In the workshop for the general public, interest was high, Leroux said. "People really want to support alternative energy," she said. "They want to support local economies because they know their money is going to their local community. They also are very interested in the environment because biodiesel has a net-zero carbon dioxide cycle, and biodiesel use will also greatly reduce particulate emissions, as well as sulfur emissions."

The South Dakota workshops were sponsored by the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the EERC's Center for Biomass Utilization, which is funded by the U.S. DOE. The North Dakota workshop was sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Department of Commerce. The EERC isn't planning additional workshops at this time, but Leroux said they would certainly be open to invitations, especially in western North Dakota and Montana.

For more information, Leroux can be reached at (701) 777-5013 or kleroux@undeerc.org. For information on the Center for Biomass Utilization, contact Chris Zygarlicke at (701) 777-5123 or czygarlicke@undeerc.org.
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