Editor's Note

Time to Winterize
By Tom Bryan | October 13, 2006
In eastern North Dakota, small talk-the art of making conversation for the sake of conversation-is pretty much one and the same as discussing the weather. Supposedly we talk about the weather so often because we have weather worth talking about. It's extreme, some say, but I've never really thought so. You've got hurricanes in the Southeast, fire-inducing droughts interrupted by mudslide-inducing downpours on the West Coast, epic blizzards in the Northeast, each of the last three phenomena in the Rocky Mountains, and ferocious twisters in the Central Plains below us. Truth be told, we don't get much of that really bad stuff in eastern North Dakota. It's just cold-very cold-three to five months out of the year.

To be fair, though, I should admit that stepping out into 23 below Fahrenheit temperatures (not counting wind chill) at 7 a.m. on a dark February morning can, indeed, be an extreme experience. The legendary Farmer's Almanac, which has been published continually since 1818, forecasts U.S. weather-broken down by regions-on an annual basis. This year's almanac says a cold, wet winter is in store for this area of the country; the publication uses words like "stormy" and "blustery" to describe November's forecast-which closes with three vague but ominous words: "turning much colder." Remarkable prediction.

Before it actually turns "much colder"-and it will-folks up here "winterize." We seal up our homes, break out the wool and fleece, and tune up the snowplow.

The diesel industry does the same thing this time of year. It winterizes, usually by mixing No. 2 diesel with No. 1 diesel, or by adding low-temperature fluidity-improver additives. Experts say non-winterized diesel fuel won't generally cause problems as long as temperatures are at or above 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In colder temps, however, failing to make adjustments can be risky.

Biodiesel has, in my opinion, gotten a bad rap on the cold flow issue. Yes, B100 and biodiesel blends can gel at higher temperatures than conventional diesel, but if the fuel is produced, blended, stored and handled properly, blends up to B20 have been proven to have sufficient cold weather properties. Charles Neece of FUMPA Biofuels, a 3 MMgy biodiesel plant in Redwood Falls, Minn., says in this month's page 52 feature, "Remember December," cold flow concerns-especially with B2-are all but eradicated when diesel fuel is properly winterized. Likewise, the article points out that Minnesota had problems with its diesel fuel in the winter years before B2 was part of the equation.

In turn, the proper blending of biodiesel plays a large part in avoiding engine problems due to gelling and clogging. That point is made in our page 70 feature, "Conquering the Cold," in which New Hampshire fuel distributor John Rymes says his company's unique way of approaching biodiesel blending has contributed to Cranmore Mountain Resort's success with B20 use over the past three years. Rymes says he looks at the equation backward, accounting for "worst-case-scenario" temperatures and blending the product based on that information. His company also conducts lab tests on its fuels, including regular diesel (with and without additives), to come up with a product that meets its customers' requirements. In the case of Cranmore Mountain Resort, that means a B20 blend that's used in snow-grooming vehicles in frigid temperatures. "It wouldn't be crazy to hear of negative 40 [degrees Fahrenheit] on top of that ski area," Rymes says.

Well, it's good to hear B20 can stand up to those temps but you won't find me on the slopes in that weather.
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