“Biodiesel has opened a lot of doors for us.” That’s what the vice president of Sapp Bros., Inc. says of the renewable fuel’s effect on his company’s travel center and fuel wholesale businesses.
The Economic Advantage of Biodiesel
Sapp Bros., Inc. has experienced the benefits of biodiesel with two different businesses.
One is Sapp Bros. Travel Centers, which operates 17 travel centers stretching from Salt Lake City to Pennsylvania, many of them along Interstate 80. The other is a fuel wholesale business, Sapp Bros. Petroleum, which sells petroleum diesel, biodiesel, biodiesel blends, and other fuels and lubricants.
“Economically, biodiesel is a good thing to do,” says Kevin Cassidy, Vice President of both the petroleum and travel center businesses. “It’s also a sustainable fuel. It’s made us more competitive.”
Biodiesel economics spur interest
The company’s travel center in Peru, Illinois, offers a case study in these benefits. Located 100 miles west of Chicago on I-80, Sapp Bros. Peru is a full-service travel center that sees 750,000 customers a year.
It was one of the first travel centers in the state to offer biodiesel blends when it introduced the alternative fuel in 2005, according to Cassidy.
“The state of Illinois established a sales tax exemption on blends of B11 and higher that still stands, and it made sense to do it,” he says. “The B100 was priced attractively, below what our petroleum diesel cost. And we were able to offer a B11 blend at 8 cents per gallon below our No. 2 ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). It went over very well with our customers.”
The infrastructure changes needed to introduce biodiesel were relatively simple. Sapp Bros. Peru converted a 12,000-gallon underground storage tank to hold straight biodiesel, or B100. Then as now, biodiesel is piped over to a loading station where petroleum fuel trucks come in, and Sapp Bros. uses splash blending by loading the B100 into the top of a truck’s tank. The truck then unloads the blended fuel into tanks that feed the diesel islands.
“To get started with biodiesel, our infrastructure upgrades were minimal,” Cassidy says. “It was around an eight-month payback on the cost.”
Cassidy is able to easily adjust the blend level and frequently goes up to a B20 blend.
“The blending economics make B20 a smart choice for us,” Cassidy says. “And I’ve had drivers say it’s cleaned up their fuel systems, cleaned their fuel injectors, and they actually get better mileage with biodiesel blends versus a regular No. 2 ULSD because of the clean injectors.”
The Peru travel center and the wholesale business run out of the location use B11 throughout the winter, and on milder winter days will move up to B20. Cassidy says by using a good cold weather additive, they’ve had no issues in storage tanks, at dispensers or with customers.
No matter the weather, he advises other travel centers to do their homework on producers and to purchase quality fuel.
“REG produces a quality product, they stand behind it, and they have the supply to meet our demand,” Cassidy says.
Biodiesel has made Sapp Bros. more competitive both against other travel centers and as a fuel distributor.
“Because we took the step and handled biodiesel, it opened up a lot of doors for us as a wholesaler,” Cassidy says. “And at our travel centers, having a diverse lineup of fuels attracts a bigger customer base. Besides filling up with fuel, they’re inside your stores. They’re shopping, maybe getting something to eat. There are benefits to bringing in new faces.”
The Bottom Line
Sapp Bros. pays less for biodiesel. They can price biodiesel blends lower at the pump than ULSD, making them more competitive. Helps drive in-store sales.
Quick ROI on blending system. Easy to switch blend level.
Watch: Sapp Bros. Explains Biodiesel Benefits
Biodiesel has made Sapp Bros. more competitive in the crowded travel center market. See the results.
Getting Aggressive With Sustainability
Published on: Mar 30, 2020
MUNICIPAL FLEET CUTS EMISSIONS BY RUNNING ON 100% BIODIESEL
The city snowplows in Ames, Iowa, have worked in all types
of winter weather. Blizzards. Ice. Subzero temperatures. You
name it, they’ve been out in it.
In early 2020, they did something they’ve never done before:
run on fully renewable fuel. Using a simple, affordable piece of
technology, several municipal snowplows took part in a pilot
project to run 100% biodiesel.
“We really feel like we need to do something to change what
we’re doing to our environment,” says Rich Iverson, the city’s
Fleet Support Manager. “I would strongly suggest to any
public official that they take a look at what this could do for
sustainability in their communities.”
CUTTING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
Biodiesel is a sustainable fuel that has been used for decades
as a cleaner-burning alternative to petroleum diesel. It is made
from renewable resources that would otherwise have no further
use, including recycled cooking oil, waste animal fats and
Traditionally, it’s been blended with petroleum diesel. For example, a common blend
is called “B20,” meaning the fuel is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
Recently, some forward-looking organizations have been using higher blends,
including B100, to take even greater advantage of the environmental benefits of
biodiesel. B100 reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86% compared
with petroleum diesel.*
The city of Ames is one of those. It’s a natural fit. They’re the hometown of
Renewable Energy Group, North America’s largest biodiesel producer. And the city
has a long history of being at the forefront of the sustainability movement, including
in 1975 becoming the first city in the U.S. to open a waste-to-energy facility.
“We undertook the B100 project because we wanted to be responsible stewards
to our planet, to the environment,” Mayor John Haila says. “It’s a tremendous
opportunity to make a big impact.”
BEING A SUSTAINABILITY LEADER
With support from REG, Ames equipped several trucks to run 100% biodiesel.
They’re high-use dump trucks fitted with a blade in the winter and used to haul
material for road crews in the warmer months, and they account for 10% of the
diesel fuel consumed by the city’s 300-unit fleet.
The B100 trucks were tested right away, with a snowstorm the first weekend. Since
then, they’ve run in temperatures as cold as minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit and have
made a three-hour roundtrip at highway speeds to pick up road salt.
“We’ve had no issues,” says Justin Clausen, Public Works Operations Manager for the
city of Ames. “The operators and service technicians would not hesitate to tell me if
something was wrong, and not once have I heard a concern from them.”
B100 has also proven to be an easy way for the city to have an immediate effect on
climate change. Like many organizations, Ames has looked into various alternative
fuels, but many are cost-prohibitive or are not yet ready to meet their needs,
especially with medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
“Going to B100 with this particular technology is extremely practical for us,” Iverson
says. “It’s a great first step as we really get aggressive with our sustainability
program. It works beautifully.”
With the environmental, performance and ease-of-use advantages, Ames officials
say the prospects of expanding B100 usage look good.
“I think the future is extremely bright for biodiesel,” the mayor says. “We’re excited
to partner with REG and also lead the way nationally in looking for new ways to be
sustainable and good stewards of our environment.”
B100 — How It Works
Fuel delivery system with a split tank for petroleum diesel in one section and biodiesel in another installed on truck
In cold weather, diesel used on start-up
System warms biodiesel and automatically switches truck to 100% biodiesel
At shut-off, truck idles for a couple minutes while biodiesel purged from lines
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