Fleet Management's Go Green Initiatives
For nearly a decade, Fleet Management has been working on pollution prevention and waste reduction in its shop. Currently, it is continuing conservation efforts by turning to biodiesel fuel.
What is biodiesel?
Biodiesel is an alternative fuel for diesel engines that is receiving great attention worldwide. Although it attracts the most attention because it is renewable, it is also known for reduced exhaust pollutants. It is also attractive because it can be produced relatively easily from common feedstocks such as poultry (chicken) fat and virgin or restaurant waste vegetable oil.
Biodiesel is defined as the mono-alkyl esters of fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. In simple terms, biodiesel is the product obtained when a vegetable oil or animal fat is chemically reacted with an alcohol to produce fatty acid alkyl esters (biodiesel). Potassium or sodium hydroxide (lye) is also used in the process as a catalyst. Glycerin is produced as a co-product and can be converted to useable soap.
How did we get interested in it and what have we done thus far?
The City originally became interested in biodiesel shortly after fuel prices rose dramatically as a result of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The staff at Fleet Management initiated a research project to example the environmental and monetary impact of Biodiesel. By the end of 2006, the City constructed a small scale biodiesel production facility. Biodiesel production has increased steadily and presently the City has the capacity to produce about 250/300-gallons of bio-diesel per day.
How many vehicles are we running on it now and what are the plans for the future?
Fleet Management has chosen select vehicles for the pilot program with controls for tracking those vehicles. Fleet Management has experimented with biodiesel, blended at various concentrations with standard ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel. Fleet Management has also experimented with operating vehicles with 100% biodiesel. The City's goal is to produce an amount of Biodiesel equal to about 40% of the 800,000 gallons of diesel used annually.
Why is biodiesel good for the environment?
Because the primary feedstock for biodiesel is a biologically-based oil or fat that can be grown season after season, biodiesel is renewable. And, since the carbon in the fuel was originally removed from the air by plants, there is no net increase in carbon dioxide levels. Therefore, biodiesel does not have the potential to make a major impact on total carbon dioxide production – a factor that has been linked to global warming. Biodiesel provides substantial reductions in carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and particulate emissions from diesel engines. While the carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons from diesels are already low compared with gasoline engines, biodiesel reduces them further. Particulate emissions, especially the black soot portion, are greatly reduced with biodiesel.
What modifications do we have to make to our fleet in order to use biodiesel?
No diesel engine modifications are necessary in order to operate with biodiesel. The City recently moved to operating diesel vehicles with ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel – as mandated by the federal government. Ultra-low sulphur diesel has a lower "lubricity" value than standard low sulphur diesel fuel. By mixing biodiesel with ultra-low sulphur diesel, the lubricity rating is increased and engines actually run better.
Where do we get the grease?
The City currently produces biodiesel from poultry (chicken) fat and waste restaurant oil that is purchased from brokers. However, the City is working to partner with the United Way and local restaurants to obtain waste cooking grease and collection sites will be established so that residents can contribute.
Will this also save the city money?
There are many variables that control the cost of bio-diesel. It appears with the cost as they are now that the City will be able to produce bio-diesel more economically than it can be purchased and have better control over the quality of the product. Environmentally, it will be a home run for the community with the disposal of waste cooking grease. It is a great win-win solution!
Biofuel Collection Sites