Biodiesel Smart Enough to Take on a Harvard Winter

John Davis

nBBWhile we’re in the midst of winter’s icy grip, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) remind us how the green fuel can take on the coldest, snowiest winters. They point to last winter in Boston, when the city received nearly 10 FEET of snow, and Harvard University’s biodiesel-powered fleet didn’t miss a beat.

David E. Harris Jr., Harvard’s Director Transit and Fleet Management, reports they had no problems even on the most frigid days. “After the snowiest and coldest winter since we started using biodiesel 11 years ago, we were up and running providing transit service and keeping campus operations running smoothly,” Harris said. “Biodiesel is the fuel that helped us do that.”

Harvard uses approximately 2,000 gallons of B20 per week, for a total of more than 100,000 gallons a year. Their diesel fleet includes about 75 service vehicles – such as shuttle buses, solid waste and recycling trucks, mail delivery vehicles and more – and about 25 pieces of off-road maintenance equipment.

Harris, who shares his biodiesel know-how as a volunteer Biodiesel Ambassador, adds that the precautions he takes with biodiesel in cold weather are good practice with regular diesel fuel as well. He emphasizes that ensuring good quality fuel is priority one.

NBB adds that biodiesel can gel in very cold temperatures, and there are some things you need to keep in mind when using biodiesel in cold climates:

• Use high-quality fuel that meets the ASTM spec purchased from a reputable supplier.
• Be sure to discuss fuel options with your supplier to ensure that both the diesel fuel and biodiesel are blended only after meeting their respective specifications.
• Develop a good fuel management plan, in partnership with your supplier, that includes additization (just like for regular diesel) to improve cold weather operability.
• Test fuel periodically to verify its cold weather properties.
• Make sure you understand your fuel’s cold flow characteristics and have appropriate fuel handling and storage plans in place.
• Remain diligent on your tank maintenance program to help ensure fuel cleanliness.

Biodiesel, NBB