Biodiesel is a clean burning, non-toxic, biodegradable alternative fuel that can be combined at any level with petroleum diesel to run diesel engines. It is produced from renewable sources such as canola, soybeans and animal fats.
Biodiesel is typically sold as a blend in which an amount of biodiesel is mixed with conventional diesel known as a “B” blend. For example, a B5 blend consists of 5% biodiesel and 95% conventional diesel. Millions of vehicles across Europe and the United States use biodiesel on a daily basis.
In British Columbia the Fraser Basin Council hosted the BioFleet network, a partnership project. Over 100 fleets tested biodiesel blends, including large users such as TransLink, the City of Vancouver and TSI Terminals.
A key characteristic of biodiesel is that it burns more completely and generates fewer harmful emissions than diesel. The table below shows emission reductions from using B100 and B20 blends.
See our multi-fuel emissions calculator for a look at C02 emissions from biodiesel compared to petroleum diesel and other fuels.
Biodiesel in Fleet Operations
As of July 1, 2011, diesel fuel supply in Canada must contain 2% renewable content overall. A number of provinces (BC included) have set higher requirements. Some fleets have chosen to use higher blends of biodiesel as a means of cutting emissions and gaining access to a domestic source of fuel. Some practical advantages are that biodiesel can be delivered or purchased as a blended product, stored in any conventional tank and used in almost any diesel engine with no modifications to the engine.
Diesel engine manufacturers usually allow the use of biodiesel blends up to 5% under their warranty programs. Other manufacturers such as Cummins, Cat and New Holland support the use of biodiesel blends from B20 to B100. A fleet should check an engine manufacturer’s warranty statements prior to selecting the blend to use in specific equipment.
The engine performance of biodiesel is virtually the same as petroleum diesel. Extensive testing of biodiesel and various blends in trucks, cars and buses has shown that engines powered by biodiesel produce similar torque and horsepower to engines fuelled by petroleum diesel.
The cloud point temperature for pure biodiesel differs slightly as a function of feedstock but generally its cloud point is similar to that of summer or #2 diesel. In very cold weather, the blend level should be reduced to ensure that the blend does not gel. Typical winter weather conditions in Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Southern Vancouver Island are such that some fleets like BC Transit operate using a B20 blend in all seasons. One fleet in Vancouver, SpectraTec Services, uses B100 in its street sweepers year round.
British Columbia is the largest market in Canada for biodiesel. Fuel can be purchased at bulk distribution suppliers and a retail card lock network in the Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Kelowna and Prince George areas.
The industry standard for biofuel quality is known as ASTM D6751 (required of fuel suppliers under BC’s Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirement Regulation). If purchasing biodiesel on a bulk basis, always request a copy of the Certificate of Analysis for the biodiesel. Purchasers can also look for biodiesel supplied by producers and marketers that are certified under the biodiesel industry’s quality assurance program known as the BQ 9000 program. This program combines the ASTM D6751 standard and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.
Renewable fuel content in BC
Gasoline and diesel suppliers in BC must meet annual targets for renewable fuel:
Visit Province of BC website for details.