Most of us probably don’t want to hear it, but winter is around the corner. Fleets operating in cold-weather regions don’t need a reminder. They’ve been planning their winter fuel usage for weeks now.
A common question Renewable Energy Group hears from fleet customers is, “What’s the right blend for me in the winter?” That leads to a cascade of other questions. Here are the ones we hear most frequently while we help fleets make sure they’re running on the right blend and getting the most out of biodiesel’s benefits.
Can I use biodiesel in the cold?
The short answer is yes. Let’s address the misperception that biodiesel does not work well in cold weather. The fact is fleets have driven millions of miles in below-freezing temperatures on blends up to B20. Biodiesel’s Cloud Point does matter, but let’s not forget that the same is true for petroleum diesel. Proper blending, storage and handling along with the use of good winter fuel additives are the keys to success — with both biodiesel and petroleum diesel.
How do I determine the right blend for my fleet?
If you have your own fueling locations, your storage situation and rate of fuel usage are among the biggest factors. A fleet with above ground storage tanks that consumes fuel faster doesn’t have to worry quite as much about the air temperature because that fuel is not sitting in the tank as long.
That’s also a reason why, when it comes to storage, you shouldn’t base decisions on air temperature only. If it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit but your fleet turns the fuel tank in a week or less, that may be better than if the fuel sits in a tank for 30 days at around the Cloud Point of the fuel. The more time the fuel is stored below or around the Cloud Point of the fuel, the greater the chance for fuel components to come out of solution.
Things to consider when a vehicle is in operation goes back to the blending, handling and additive tips mentioned earlier. If you’re doing things right, there’s no reason you cannot successfully run on biodiesel blends in cold weather.
Also of note is that, if you’re filling up on the road, many truck stops and travel centers continue to offer biodiesel blends throughout the winter. They probably switch to lower blends on the coldest days, but odds are that you’ve run your vehicles on biodiesel blends in the winter, even if you didn’t realize it.
What properties should I Iook for in the biodiesel?
Cloud Point is one. That’s the temperature at which wax crystals cause fuel to appear cloudy. The REG-9000 Biodiesel lineup includes three different Cloud Point options.
You should also know whether the biodiesel is distilled or undistilled. Distillation is a purification process that does a better job at removing minor components, such as steryl glucosides, that can cause issues in cold weather. A distilled B10 blend will perform better in the cold than an undistilled B10 blend with the same Cloud Point.
How easy is it to switch blend levels?
It’s easiest if you are strategic when ordering fuel and empty your tank before you’re ready to switch. Then your fuel provider can give you the blend level you want.
But if the weather changes quickly, a good fuel supplier can add fuel to the tank to get you to the blend you want. For example, when a polar vortex was forecast to hit the Midwest last winter and drop temperatures below zero, REG fuel services filled up Iowa customers’ tanks with B0 to lower the blends, and therefore the Cloud Points, in their tanks. If someone had 40 percent of a tank left of B10, we were able to add the right blend to get the entire tank to B5.
That brings up one of the key points in successful cold-weather fueling: Have a supplier that is flexible and can get you what you want. Do they offer distilled biodiesel? Different Cloud Points? Will they work with you on your contract rather than locking you in? If you have B5 scheduled and it’s a mild winter and you want to take advantage of the performance, environmental and financial benefits of a higher blend, will they get you B10 or B20? These are questions to ask of your supplier.
What assistance does REG offer?
We work with our customers to create blending programs based on seasonality and their unique needs. These range from detailed plans that change week to week depending on the weather to broad plans that cover an entire season.
Members of our sales team and technical services team also frequently answer questions or proactively reach out to customers to make sure everything’s going well when cold weather hits. Want to see what REG can do for you?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (844) 405-0160.
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