Alberta Renewable Diesel Demonstration publishes final report

By Anna Austin | March 09, 2009
The results of Canada's largest cold-weather performance study of biodiesel and renewable diesel blends are in, and the final report confirms the operability of low-level blends in a range of climatic conditions.

The Alberta Renewable Diesel Demonstration, managed by Climate Change Central, was performed over a period of 10 months in Alberta. The province was selected as representative of the country's harsher climates.

The demonstration involved the construction and commissioning of a temporary commercial fuel blending facility at Shell Canada's Sherwood Marketing Terminal in Edmonton, Alberta, in December 2007. According to Climate Change Central, the facility was designed to allow rack loading of 2 percent and 5 percent renewable fuel blends consisting of two different types of renewable fuel-fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) biodiesel and hydrogenated renewable diesel (HDRD).

All the fuels blended at the terminal met Canadian General Standards Board specifications for quality and cold weather performance, including cloud points for the Edmonton, Lloydminster and Calgary areas, where the fuels were dispensed.

In the on-road portion of the study, which followed laboratory blending tests, 2 percent blends of FAME and HDRD were tested during the winter months (Dec. 16, 2007-April 15, 2008) in a fleet of 59 vehicle models of 2002 or newer. Only canola-based methyl ester was used as the blending stock in the winter, while in the spring and summer months (April 16-Sept. 30, 2008), a blend of 75 percent canola-based and 25 percent tallow-based methyl ester was used to make up a 5 percent blend. A control group of 16 vehicles, which used unblended ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), were monitored for comparison.

Vehicles participating in the study included Class 8 transport trucks with and without exhaust aftertreatment technologies, school buses, delivery trucks, and heavy-duty oilfield service vehicles.

Demonstration data showed there was no meaningful difference in fuel mileage among FAME and HDRD blends, and ULSD in winter or summer seasons.

During the winter months, aside from one early filter change, no fleets reported any fuel-related loss of service or mechanical operability challenge, even when temperatures reached -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit). In the summer months, none of the fleets reported any need to change their maintenance schedules or to make any unscheduled fuel filter changes.

The results obtained during the demonstration will be documented in response to the government of Canada's notice of intent to implement a renewable fuels standard, which was published in 2006.

Over the span of the demonstration, 245,000 liters (65,000 gallons) of B2 FAME and 400,000 liters (106,000 gallons) of 2 percent HDRD were dispensed during the winter period, while 540,000 liters (143,000 gallons) of B5 FAME and 425,000 liters (112,000 gallons) of 5 percent HDRD were dispensed in the spring/summer period. Total fuel use exceeded 1.6 million liters (423,000 gallons).
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