Getting Aggressive With Sustainability
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 vegetable oils.
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 Chevron 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 Chevron Renewable Energy Group, 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 Chevron Renewable Energy Group 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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