EDF recognizes Poland Spring's carbon reduction

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2009
Posted December 8, 2009

Poland Springs Bottling of Maine began the greening of its fleet by using B5 in 2007. The company was recently recognized by the Environmental Defense Fund for its performance in curbing carbon emissions. EDF recognized Poland Spring for drastically reducing truck idling time, publishing a case study that showed a 70 percent drop in idling time for an annual reduction of 77 tons of carbon dioxide. Cutting idling time saved the company roughly $20,000 in 2008 in reduced fuel costs.

The reduced idling efforts came on top of even larger savings in carbon emissions and fuel costs from switching to B5 in March, 2007, according to Poland Spring's fleet manager Chris McKenna. "It was nice to get the recognition from the Environmental Defense Fund." Poland Springs estimated using B5 displaced enough diesel fuel over two years to reduce its carbon emissions by 1.8 million tons. B5 also improved the fuel economy in the fleet's 36 tractor-trailers. McKenna said an analysis done by the National Biodiesel Board in a case study on Poland Spring's experience found the fleet's overall fuel economy increased 0.1 miles per gallon in 17 months of using the blend compared to the previous 17 month performance. The gain was attributed to the improved lubricity of biodiesel blends compared to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel.

"When we had our two year anniversary [of using biodiesel] we figured we used 100,000 gallons of biodiesel, displacing 100,000 gallons of diesel. Over those two years, we had a $70,000 savings in fuel cost," McKenna said. That figure doesn't include an estimate of the savings from improved fuel efficiency, he added. When they started, the state of Maine had a 6 cent per gallon tax credit for using biofuels, which has since expired. "A lot of companies dropped [biofuels] then," he said, "We hung in there. And for 12 to 18 months straight we've seen a price difference of 6 cents to 12 cents less for B5 than ULSD." McKenna said the company's fuel supplier provides them with the average fuel cost each month, along with a comparison of what the average would have been with straight ULSD.

McKenna added that the company may have changed a few extra fuel filters at the beginning, but has had no operational problems with gelling in Maine winters or with other performance measures. The company initially tried the biodiesel blend with two yard trucks, and when McKenna moved up from warehouse manager to fleet manager, he supervised the transition to B5 for the entire fleet. One of the first issues was finding a supplier. Sprague Energy of South Portland, Maine, is the wholesaler, using inline blending for consistent blending. Finding a retailer to handle the B5 was another issue, since Poland Springs cannot have fuel on sites where it picks up its water supplies. "We talked to a couple of Maine's larger retailers, but they weren't interested," he said. "We found one local retailer who was." CN Brown converted the sole diesel pump at two stations to handle B5 in order to supply Poland Springs. "They were wondering if they'd lose business," he added, "and they didn't."

McKenna freely talks to others about Poland Spring's experience and reports that the biggest growth in biodiesel use is among municipalities. Representatives from Poland Springs, Sprague and CN Brown have formed a panel speaking at a number of events to give the supplier/retailer/end user experience. Poland Springs also lets people know its trucks run on biodiesel through its signage. "Our trucks are rolling through small towns, and as the biggest end use of biodiesel in the state, it gets the message out," McKenna said.

The Environmental Defense Fund case study is available at www.edf.org/greenfleet. EDF provides a number of tools and links for corporations interested in lowering costs and greening their fleets.
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