Tips for Picking the Right Cold Weather Biodiesel Blend
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 Chevron 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 misconception 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 petroleum diesel also has difficulties in cold weather. Proper blending, storage and handling along with the use of good winter fuel additives are the keys to success — for 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 as that fuel is not sitting in the tank for long.
That’s also a reason why, when it comes to storage, you shouldn’t base decisions on air temperature only. For example, if it’s five degrees Fahrenheit but your fleet turns the fuel tank in a week or less, that situation may be better than fuel sitting in a tank for 30 days at temperatures 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 separate 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 you should note, 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. Chevron Renewable Energy Group’s EnDura Fuels™ product line includes three different cloud point options.
You should also know whether the biodiesel is distilled or undistilled. Distillation is a purification process which removes 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 or based on conditions. For example, when a polar vortex was forecast to hit the Midwest last winter and temperatures dropped below zero, Chevron Renewable Energy Group fuel services filled up Iowa customers’ tanks with B0 to lower the blend levels, and therefore the cloud points, in their tanks. If someone had 40 percent of a B10 tank volume remaining, we were able to add the right blend to get the entire tank to a B5 level.
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 when you need it. 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, operational or other benefits of a higher blend, will they get you B10 or B20? These are questions you should ask of your supplier.
What assistance does Chevron Renewable Energy Group offer?
We work with our customers to create blending programs based on seasonality and their unique needs. These range from detailed plans that change from week to week depending on the weather to broad plans that can cover an entire season.
Members of our sales team and technical services team frequently answer questions or proactively reach out to customers to make sure everything’s going well when cold weather hits. Want to see what Chevron Renewable Energy Group can do for you?
Contact us at [email protected] or (844) 405-0160.
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