Oregon pushes renewable diesel use

The Oregon Department of Energy is helping public entities across the state tap into the emerging renewable diesel market
By Ron Kotrba | January 13, 2016

In December, we published an article from the National Biodiesel Board about Oregon joining British Columbia and California in the climate fight by voting unanimously to finalize its clean fuels program. This is good news for biodiesel and renewable diesel.

We’ve seen a lot of renewable diesel news lately, with VW-owned Scania and Volvo-brand trucks (including a recent announcement of Mack, a Volvo brand) approving use of renewable diesel, in addition to major West Coast cities such as San Francisco and Oakland fleets moving to renewable diesel power.

Now, the Oregon DOE is helping public entities across the state tap into the emerging renewable diesel market.

“Public agencies and companies across Oregon are working on ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and reach their climate goals,” said ODOE Director Michael Kaplan. “ODOE helps them get there by offering expertise on fleet management and innovative products like renewable diesel.”

The Eugene Water & Electric Board began testing renewable diesel in September.

In 2014, ODOE issued the Eugene Water & Electric Board 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 later decided to try renewable diesel.

“Moving our fleet to biodiesel helped us achieve our carbon reduction goals,” said EWEB Fleet Manager Gary Lentsch. “Switching to renewable diesel has taken us to another level.”

EWEB switched to renewable diesel for its fleet of 85 diesel vehicles. Petroleum diesel emits more than 30 pounds of greenhouse gases into the air whereas a gallon of renewable diesel emits fewer than 10, according to ODOE. EWEB uses about 6,100 gallons of renewable diesel a month.

EWEB also discovered that renewable diesel is much easier on vehicle engines and diesel particulate filter (DPF) systems than petroleum diesel. 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 said. “It wasn’t uncommon to get alert codes on our vehicles, and our shop would have to manually empty the [DPFs],” a process called 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.”

ODOE and EWEB worked together to identify Eugene supplier The Jerry Brown Company.

“ODOE provides guidance to make sure production of the imported fuel doesn’t have other negative environmental effects, such as deforestation,” the agency said.

With the increase in West Coast cities moving to imported renewable diesel, it begs the question of what might happen if the U.S. biodiesel industry gets its way and the $1-per-gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel tax credit becomes a producer credit for domestic facilities, rather than a blend credit obtained for both domestic and imported product. Will the influx of Neste renewable diesel slow? If so, would those cities fall back on biodiesel, or would U.S. renewable diesel production be able to meet demand? Right now, REG and Diamond Green Diesel are the only two major domestic producers, but companies such as SG Preston have big plans to construct renewable diesel manufacturing facilities. Or would imported renewable diesel prices rise too high for the municipalities to absorb?

ODOE says cities and municipalities across the Northwest are making the switch to renewable diesel, including Portland; Lane County Public Works; Clark County PUD in Washington; and more.

Oregon’s new clean fuels program went into effect Jan. 1, with the goal to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in Oregon by 10 percent over the next 10 years. Biodiesel and renewable diesel will play a role in helping the state reach that goal.

“ODOE staff have the passion and expertise to help Oregonians pursue more efficient energy choices,” Kaplan said. “Our team is eager to help other cities and organizations that want to power their fleets with renewable diesel.”



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