In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is the first of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.
Myth #1 – Biodiesel Cannot Be Used in Winter
While it is true that biodiesel can gel during the winter time, so can regular diesel. The fact that biodiesel gels at a higher temperature than diesel fuel can be mitigated by adding the same anti-gel additives that are already added to regular diesel fuel in the winter time. All diesel fuel, petroleum or bio-based, gets anti-gel additives added to it in climate zones where the potential for gelling can occur. In even colder climates, the fuel may be blended with #1 Diesel (kersosene) in order to reduce that gel point further.
There have been many studies showing biodiesel suitable for cold climates.
- Yellowstone National Park powers about 300 vehicles, boilers and other diesel equipment using biodiesel, at least a B20 blend, all year round.
- Brooklyn Park, MN has used biodiesel blends since 1999 in its fleet of over 100 vehicles, including fire trucks, utility and police vehicles.
- Cranmore Mountain Resort, located in North Conway, NH, joined other ski resorts nationwide, such as Aspen, Colo., in fueling its snow grooming fleet with B20.
- Harvard University has experienced great success with B20 for a number of years. Harvard’s 68 vehicle diesel fleet—which includes snow plows, shuttle buses, solid waste and recycling trucks, landscape services vehicles, tractors and pick-up trucks—relies on biodiesel year-round.
For very cold climates, we agree that B20 as the suggested blend to use for trouble free operation. However, there have been some examples of using pure biodiesel in cold climates, but inline fuel heaters were used and are probably not common enough to recommend the general use of higher blends in cold climates.
Here in North Carolina, our fleet and personal vehicles run B99 all year around, without heated fuel filters or tank heaters. Granted, we don’t get sub-zero winters here, but with our proprietary cold-soak biodiesel methods and anti-get additives in winter time, we have yet to have a failure, even on really cold February mornings. We did significant testing last winter on our fuels and additives to ensure we would get the cold temperature fuel performance necessary to keep our biodiesel flowing and our customers rolling.
Furthermore, biodiesel is quite commonly used as home heating oil (as in our case for our furnace at our production facility). Often mixed with diesel fuel, called Bioheat, this mixture is commonplace in the NorthEast for home heating oil. We don’t typically sell much Bioheat, as heating oil has been largely replaced by natural gas in the eastern North Carolina counties.
For more information about cold weather use of biodiesel, see the NBB website’s resource brochure on cold weather biodiesel: http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/fuelfactsheets/COLD_BIOFuelDistFactShtNOSOY.pdf