REG: Rethinking winter fuel woes
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REG: Rethinking winter fuel woes

There’s a misperception that biodiesel does not work in the cold, and if a fleet runs into problems in cold weather biodiesel must be to blame.

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I enjoyed Darry Stuart’s Fleet Equipment column a few weeks ago stressing the importance of understanding your fuel as cold weather sets in. It resonated with me for a couple of reasons:

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  1. Renewable Energy Group also hears from fleets looking for something to blame when a truck runs into issues in the cold.
  2. It’s a reminder that cold weather matters with any fuel.

There’s a misperception that biodiesel does not work in the cold, and if a fleet runs into problems in cold weather biodiesel must be to blame.

Yes, cloud point is important with biodiesel. But it is with petroleum diesel too. No matter which you use, proper blending, storage and handling, along with the use of good winter fuel additives, are the keys to success.

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Know your fuel

It’s important to understand the cold flow properties of both petroleum diesel and biodiesel when blending fuel for winter use.

You should get a Certificate of Analysis (COA) with each shipment of biodiesel or biodiesel blends. It should have more than product specs. For example, REG tests each gallon to ensure it meets or exceeds industry ASTM standards and documents the results on the COA.

But as Darry said, it’s about more than just the data you are handed. Make sure your fuel supplier and producer are knowledgeable about their product. They should be able to not only provide you specs but also give you tips on storage, handling and blending, as well as answer your in-depth questions.

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Cold weather fuel tips

Here a few suggestions to keep biodiesel performing well in your fuel mix year-round:

  • Store biodiesel at least 10 degrees above the Cloud Point. Underground tanks typically remain in the 50-degrees-Fahrenheit range through the winter months, while aboveground tanks may need to be heated or insulated.
  • Consider how blend percentage impacts cloud point. Petroleum diesel fuel has a lower cloud point than biodiesel. So when you use a B10 blend, the blended fuel is still 90 percent petroleum diesel, and it’s the petroleum diesel that’s having a bigger impact on cloud point of the blended fuel. Work with your supplier to determine the right blend level as the mercury drops.
  • Keep in mind that distilled biodiesel could be an option. Biodiesel produced using distillation technology is the purest biodiesel available and has better cold-weather performance than even non-distilled low cloud point biodiesel. This is because distillation does an excellent job of removing minor components that can contribute to fuel filter plugging.

So if you experience maintenance issues in cold temps, don’t point fingers at your fuel without doing some research first. As Darry wrote, understand your fuel and make sure your producer and/or supplier has the knowledge needed to answer your questions. If you don’t like the answers you get, REG would be happy to help.

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Steve Klein is senior manager of marketing at Renewable Energy Group, a biodiesel and renewable diesel producer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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