Biodiesel test announces comparable fuel efficiency with ULSD

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Partners in the Two Million Mile Haul over-the-road B20 biodiesel demonstration on Thursday, Aug. 21, announced test results to-date at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

With about 400,000 miles left to go in the two-year demonstration being conducted in the upper Midwest, the head-to-head B20 biodiesel vs. petroleum diesel testing showcases positive performance effects and valuable cold weather findings, the partners say; data collected from each truck’s electronic data recorder this summer shows fuel efficiency for the B20 blend comparable to that of petroleum diesel.

“In recent months, we have learned that driver variability makes more difference in fuel efficiency than biodiesel utilization does,” said Dr. Don Heck, coordinator of biotechnology and biofuels programs at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Two Million Mile Haul test data are analyzed.

“This new information is exciting because we already know that biodiesel offers a fleet many added benefits beyond fuel efficiency,” said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Soybean Association director of market development, who helped coordinate the program. “Biodiesel acts as an engine lubricant. Biodiesel offers significantly higher cetane numbers, reduces harmful emissions and adds national fuel production, and biodiesel offers a fleet the opportunity to market itself as a ‘green’ transporter to today’s environmentally conscious corporations.”

In addition to fuel efficiency data, the Two Million Mile Haul aims to demonstrate operability of a B20 blend year-round in cold weather situations. “Although both the petroleum and B20 groups experienced some fuel filter plugging in zero-degree Fahrenheit weather, the B20 trucks did not experience any considerable challenges because test partners implemented proper handling and storage measures,” Kimberley said. “If B20 can work for a fleet in the upper Midwest December through February, it can run in any fleet across the nation year-round.”

The partners say these findings mimic fuel efficiency test results released this week by the National Renewable Energy Lab and the National Biodiesel Board, showing comparable mileage between B20 and ultra-low-sulfur diesel. “Fleet owners, fuel managers and owner-operators can be confident about biodiesel utilization in their over-the-road operation because of the results of the Two Million Mile Haul demonstration,” said Tom Verry, National Biodiesel Board director of outreach and development.

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There also may be additional benefits for a trucking company using biodiesel. “We are receiving positive feedback from customers who see the ‘green’ benefits of using a trucking company that runs on biodiesel,” said Steve Lursen, special projects manager for Decker Truck Lines Inc. “By using a renewable fuel, Decker is actually picking up additional business.”

The two-year study is sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Central Community College, Decker Truck Lines Inc., Caterpillar Inc., the National Biodiesel Board, Renewable Energy Group and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study is believed to be the first comprehensive, publicly documented demonstration of B20 in over-the-road trucks.

The study, which began in the fall of 2006, consists of two groups of 10 Decker semi-tractors running with flatbed trailers on matched routes to either Minneapolis or Chicago. The control group uses 100 percent No. 2 petroleum diesel, and the B20 test group uses a blend of 20 percent biodiesel from Renewable Energy Group and 80 percent No. 2 petroleum diesel. The partners say data have been analyzed routinely for fuel efficiency, maintenance records and fuel quality, as well as for monitoring cold weather performance.