Biodiesel Blends Battle Snow & Ice in the Windy City

January 28, 2022

With much of the country bracing for the onslaught of winter weather and the challenges it can bring, many fleets will power their diesel vehicles with biodiesel blends throughout the winter months, including the Chicago Park District (CPD).

Biodiesel blends up to 20% (B20), and sometimes even higher, are being used successfully throughout the nation, year-round. If properly managed, blends of ultra-low sulfur diesel and biodiesel of any feedstock can be used successfully in challenging winter climates.

“Here in Chicago, winter temperatures can drop to well below zero and we need to be sure our diesel vehicles operate smoothly even in extreme weather conditions,” said Mike Dimitroff, manager, Department of Cultural & Natural Resources, Chicago Park District. “The Park District uses a B20 biodiesel blend to fuel heavy pick-ups, stake trucks, forestry trucks, tower trucks and more, all winter. We take a few precautions to ensure smooth operation, just like we would do with petroleum diesel, and have had no problems.”

Since 2013, the Park District has powered its diesel vehicles and equipment with biodiesel blends, gradually increasing to an average year-round blend of 26% by 2020. The district uses biodiesel blends as high as 50% seasonally, in a variety of unmodified equipment ranging from lawnmowers to log loader trucks. In 2019, the Park District outfitted two refuse haulers with a biodiesel system made by Optimus Technologies to allow the use of 100% biodiesel (known as B100). The B100 fleet was recently expanded to include three bucket/tower trucks

All diesel fuel — including petroleum diesel and biodiesel — must be managed to ensure proper cold weather performance. Like petroleum diesel, biodiesel blends can be enhanced for cold weather performance using field proven additives and proactive tank management determined by knowledge of climatic conditions. These steps will ensure optimum winter operability as benchmarked by Cold Filter Plugging Point (CFPP) testing, which is the universal measurement of diesel fuel operability.

According to Dimitroff, the CPD takes several important steps to ensure optimal winter performance with biodiesel blends, including sourcing high quality fuel from a BQ-9000 certified supplier, ensuring proper blending, keeping water out of fuel storage and vehicle fuel lines, and using anti-gel additives.

“Biodiesel plays a key role in the CPD’s sustainability and carbon reduction goals,” Dimitroff added. “It’s one of the easiest things we can do to make a difference right now, lowering emissions and protecting the health of Chicago residents. We’re proud of our work to continually increase biodiesel blend levels in order to achieve maximum clean air and public health benefits.”

As a biodiesel leader, the Chicago Park District is a member of the B20 Club, a partnership between the Illinois Soybean Association and the American Lung Association. It recognizes Illinois-based fleets committed to operating with biodiesel blends of 20% or higher, which B20 reduces carbon emissions by 14.8%.

“Biodiesel performs reliably in some of the coldest winter climates and is a proven carbon reducer,” said United Soybean Board Past Chair Dan Farney, an Illinois soybean grower. “Soybean farmers are proud of our early investment in biodiesel that has resulted in the high-quality, high-performing fuel for Chicago Park District and fleets throughout the nation.”

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel and renewable diesel are better, cleaner fuels that are available now for use in existing diesel engines without modification. NBB is the U.S. trade association representing the entire biodiesel and renewable diesel value chain, including producers, feedstock suppliers, and fuel distributors. NBB is funded in part by the United Soybean Board and state soybean board checkoff programs.