Biodiesel Outlet

Through efforts by the Delaware Soybean Board, Indian River Marina boaters are now enjoying cleaner air and water by using biodiesel. It's possible that the rest of the state isn't far behind.
By Dave Nilles | July 01, 2005
It's been two short months since Indian River Marina began selling B2, but the positive effects are already being seen. Located in Delaware Seashore State Park and managed by the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, it is the first marina in the mid-Atlantic region to offer soy biodiesel to government and commercial marine fleets, as well as to private boat owners.

The marina had pumped about 5,500 gallons of B2 biodiesel by mid-June, according to park superintendent Gary King. The facility uses about 237,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually. So far the biodiesel switch has been a success.

"Popcorn and French fries smell a lot better than what we call the 'bus syndrome,'" King said, referring to the smell of diesel exhaust one inhales while driving behind a city bus.

The move to offer biodiesel was announced May 9 in an event attended by Gov. Ruth Minner, among other dignitaries. The switch would seem natural considering Seashore State Park already uses B20 in its diesel equipment. It was the first state park to do so in Delaware.
The effects of biodiesel have been noticeable in the marina. King said that several of the larger boats don't leave a sheen of particulate matter on the water's surface now that they are using biodiesel-blended fuel. "We know where the boats are that have been using biodiesel because of that lack of particulate matter," he said. "People are picking up on that. Things like that don't show up in the price of a gallon of biodiesel."

The price of B2 may be one reason so many boaters are willing to readily accept the fuel. In January the United Soybean Board awarded the Delaware Soybean Board more than $30,000 to fund the introduction of biodiesel at the marina, which was in the midst of a large-scale renovation. Funds helped cover the cost of infrastructure conversions and the educational and promotional materials needed to support the introduction. As a result, the marina has been able to sell biodiesel at a price comparable to petroleum diesel. "Price is not a reason for a boater to not try the biodiesel," King said.

Indian River Marina obtains its fuel through Peninsula Oil & Propane in Seaford, Del. Seashore State Park's B20 is distributed by Tri Gas & Oil of Federalsburg, Md.

The Delaware Soybean Board is doing its part to educate the general public about biodiesel. The board's second-year president, Jeff Allen, told Biodiesel Magazine that a general lack of knowledge about biodiesel has been the state's biggest challenge to widespread acceptance. "Once we get the education out there, we haven't heard a complaint about it," he said.

Indian River is conducting its own information campaign. It's targeting two main groups: charter fleets and recreational boaters. Indian River advertises with charter boats to promote its small business enterprise, King said. The recreational boats typically range from 35 to 55 feet and run 60 to 90 miles offshore.

The marina has held several boater education forums, inviting slip owners and other marina and boat owners. Speakers have ranged from United Soybean Board members to USDA officials.

Biodiesel's cause also received a boost through a reputable area diesel mechanic. Carey's Diesel Inc., a large diesel repair company with locations in Delaware and Maryland,. Owner John Carey was the first person to fill his boat with biodiesel in the marina. He gave Gov. Minner a ride in this boat at the May 9 event.

Over the next 18 months, Indian River Marina is expected to increase the available biodiesel blend up to B20. King said the company started with a lower percentage to help educate the public and to avoid clogging fuel filters in older vessels.

In order to avoid mechanical problems, the marina has created a fuel system testing and maintenance program. They offer a tank-testing program at no charge to boaters. "If you give us a sample of fuel, we can send it to the lab and get it analyzed," King said. "We can tell you about your fuel system. We can, in effect, give you a prescription to get the fuel tank in good shape and at the same time get you started on B2."

Biodiesel is also currently replacing the diesel fuel used to power the hot water boilers in the marina's bathhouses. King said all nine bathhouses will be burning biodiesel by the end of the summer season. The heaters burn approximately 30,000 gallons of No. 2 heating oil annually. The marina also sells soy-based products such as penetrating lubricants, hand cleaner, adhesive removers and degreasers at its ship store.

Seashore State Park pioneered the move to B20 in Delaware parks. Due to a statewide initiative, all other state parks now use biodiesel. It's King's hope that Indian River Marina's move to biodiesel will become the norm throughout the Middle Atlantic.

More statewide biodiesel use may be on the horizon in Delaware. Allen said a statewide B2 mandate may be proposed in next year's legislative session. He also said Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel, a proposed plant in Clayton, Del., should break ground in mid-July, moving it closer to becoming the first biodiesel production facility in the state.

"We're having some impact here," King said. "We continue pushing the beneficial effects of biodiesel. In our small way, we are doing our part."

Dave Nilles is a Biodiesel Magazine staff writer. Reach him by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (701) 746-8385.
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