Agency offers a mix of incentives and technical expertise to support adoption of the alternative fuel.
SALEM – The Oregon Department of Energy is helping public entities across the state tap into the emerging renewable diesel market. The results include reduced emissions and a decrease in fleet maintenance for the Eugene Water & Electric Board, which began testing this innovation in alternative fuel in September 2015.
Renewable diesel, like petroleum-based diesel, is made through a hydrogenation process instead of the chemical process by which biodiesel is derived. But unlike petroleum fuel, renewable diesel is a product of natural fats or vegetable oils, making it a cleaner, lower carbon content fuel option for diesel vehicles.
“Public agencies and companies across Oregon are working on ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and reach their climate goals,” said ODOE Director Michael Kaplan. “ODOE helps them get there by offering expertise on fleet management and innovative products like renewable diesel.”
In 2014, ODOE issued the Eugene Water & Electric Board a tax credit for installing an alternative fuel fueling station to run its fleet of vehicles. The station was designed to pump biodiesel, a well-known alternative fuel also made from natural fats and oils. But ODOE Senior Policy Analyst Rick Wallace thought EWEB could go even “greener” by using renewable diesel rather than biodiesel.
EWEB was enthusiastic about giving the product a try. “Moving our fleet to biodiesel helped us achieve our carbon reduction goals,” said EWEB Fleet Manager Gary Lentsch. “Switching to renewable diesel has taken us to another level.”
EWEB quickly realized the benefits of switching to renewable diesel for its fleet of 85 diesel vehicles. Using a regular gallon of diesel fuel emits more than 30 pounds of greenhouse gases into the air. Using a gallon of renewable diesel emits fewer than 10. EWEB is currently using about 6,100 gallons of renewable diesel a month.
EWEB also discovered that renewable diesel is much easier on vehicle engines and diesel particulate filter systems. After making the switch, Lentsch noticed a significant decrease in maintenance issues. “We have telematics on all of our vehicles and equipment so we know what’s going on with our fleet,” he said. “It wasn’t uncommon to get alert codes on our vehicles, and our shop would have to manually empty the filters (known as regeneration). After we switched to renewable diesel, our trucks don’t require regeneration as often as when they were using regular diesel. As a matter of fact, the shop hasn’t done a manual re-gen since the switch. Now, our trucks are staying in service longer with less down time.”
Renewable diesel is an emerging market, so ODOE and EWEB worked together to identify Eugene supplier The Jerry Brown Company. ODOE provides guidance to make sure production of the imported fuel doesn’t have other negative environmental effects, such as deforestation.
Cities and municipalities across the northwest are already making the switch, including the City of Portland; Lane County Public Works; Clark County PUD in Washington; and more. Oregon’s new Clean Fuels Program went into effect on January 1, with the goal to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in Oregon by 10 percent over the next ten years. Alternative fuels like renewable diesel will play a role in helping the state reach that goal.
Kaplan praised the efforts by Wallace and others. “ODOE staff have the passion and expertise to help Oregonians pursue more efficient energy choices. Our team is eager to help other cities and organizations that want to power their fleets with renewable diesel.”
About the Oregon Department of Energy: The Oregon Department of Energy helps Oregonians improve the energy efficiency of their homes, provides policy expertise to prepare for Oregon’s future energy needs, staffs the Energy Facility Siting Council, provides technical and financial assistance to encourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, promotes the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site, and ensures state preparedness to respond to emergencies at energy facilities.