Contra Costa County Fleet Uses B-20 to Replace ULSD Fuel

November 2006, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

One afternoon, Terry Mann, deputy director of Contra Costa County’s General Services Department, was thumbing through the San FranciscoChronicle. An article featuring a story about a Martinez, Calif., biodiesel fuel producer caught his eye. In it, Mann learned that switching to B-20 biodiesel would result in positive changes for thecounty’s fleet and the environment. So, he took action.

At the time, the Contra Costa County fleet was using ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). But, ULSD wasn’t ideal. “We had been having trouble with the ULSD,”Mann said. “It was corroding out, resulting in other problems.” After speaking with representatives from the local biodiesel manufacturer, Mann learned that B-20 is high in lubricityand would be easier than ULSD on the fleet’s engines.

B-20 Reduces Harmful Emissions
Using B-20 also benefits the environment and reduces the amount of several harmful emissions, including:

  • Greenhouse gases (12-20 percent).
  • Carbon monoxide and particular matter (each reduced by 12 percent).
  • Sulfates and total unburned hydrocarbons (each reduced by 20 percent).

    In terms of energy benefits, using B-20 meets Energy Policy Act (EPAct) requirements. Incidentally, EPAct-covered fleets (federal, state, and public utility fleets) using B-20 qualify as alternative-fuel vehicle purchases

    Mann also learned that B-20 use would comply with Contra Costa County’s Clean Air Vehicle Policy for the county’s fleet of vehicles and equipment. And, because B-20 reduces greenhouse gases, making the switch also fits into California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s greenhouse gas initiative.

    Switch to Biodiesel ‘Easy’
    Of the fleet’s approximately 1,500 vehicles and heavy equipment, 164 are diesels that were switched to B-20. These include buses, dump trucks, graders, heavy-duty trucks, and equipment. With an annualusage of around 75,000 gallons of fuel per year, the transition could have been laborious. But,Mann said the switch was simple.

    “The county accomplished the switch as soon as our ULSD tank reached a low level,” he said. “There were no barriers to overcome, and no modifications to vehicles or equipment were required. It’s easyto implement.We request a bid from each supplier when we need to refuel our tank. But, I would suggest meeting with vendors and having them present the benefits and potential problems before proceeding.”

    In all,Mann recommends other fleets consider making the switch: “For no additional cost, you get cleaner-burning fuelwith greater lubricity.”

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