TriMet: All B5, All the Time

The Oregonian is reporting that TriMet will use B5 Biodiesel in its entire fleet (they had previously tried this with the Lift fleet). While 5% may not seem like a big deal, TriMet is such a large customer that this commitment should go a long way to help develop biodiesel infrastructure in the region.


4 responses to “TriMet: All B5, All the Time”

  1. What would happen if we had ” a biodiesel infrastructure in the region” here in Oregon. Sounds like there are a lot of technical issues that still need to be resolved before it becomes a fuel that produces an overall decline in air pollution or greenhouse gases.

    I’m all for a switch to biodiesel–if it can be produced economically and if the implementation of it–to vehicles designed for petroleum diesel–can be achieved without significant expense. I don’t want to get into the analysis of how much pollution is generated by people going to work to pay the additional tax burden vs. them doing something else. I think the consumption of Natural Gas and Coal, throughout the wintry, cold majority of the US landmass is a bigger concern for global warming.

    The Central Ohio Transit Authority has gone to a program of using an average of 49% biodiesel in its buses. Has it proven to be cost-effective overall? Interestingly, the article I saw on Ohio’s program stated that biodiesel was virtualy the same cost as petroleum diesel. What happens if the cost of regular diesel falls? Biodiesel would then be a cost burden. And there are some other limitations–mainly making sure that a powerplant designed for petroleum will not break down using biodiesel. The Ohio program works well because of the flat topography of the region. The article remarked that additonal horsepower is required in hilly regions. Perhaps designing diesel engines that can safely alternate between various blends would be smart–there’s no guarantee that supplies of either type will always be abundant or economical. For example, soy plants are vulnerable at certain stages of their growth cycle.

    It’s a great strategy–but lot’s of details to work out.

  2. You can run up to 100% biodiesel in modern diesel engines with no more than the replacement of rubber fuel line with synthetic tubing. It is a much better detergent than regular diesel, so plan on replacing the fuel filter more often. Emissions are lower, and the greater lubricating properties of bioD are good for engine life.

    The really promising future of biodiesel is in algae. In New Zealand, they have started making it from the alage that is used to break down sewage.

  3. This is great news. Like Some Jerk says, as long as the buses have synthetic tubing and the Tri-Met maintenance guys stay on top of the fuel filter issue, this shouldn’t have any adverse effects on the fleet — especially at only a 5% blend, but also all the way up to 100%. My experience in talking with fleet managers who are already running 100% fleetwide, in hilly areas, is that biodiesel actually delivers as much horsepower as regular diesel. I believe that it just does so at a slightly lesser gas mileage (perhaps 2-3% less) due to its slightly lesser fuel density. But, the bus will climb the hill just as fast, with just as many passengers.

    Finally, I’ve very intrigued by the suggestion that algae may provide the future of biodiesel. I looked into this a little bit more, and the more I read, the more excited I get. We’re not talking about algae in the abstract here. Apparently, the most successful breed of algae is that growing on top of sewage ponds. So, our sewage treatment plants could be used to produce our biodiesel!!! I’m not sure exactly how much output, say, the City of Portland’s plants would have in relation to how much diesel Tri-Met uses, but the fact that we could be turning sewage into diesel is very, very exciting. But, it makes perfect sense. Oil is just… very, very decayed organic matter. And so is sewage.

    And if human sewage will work, so will cow, horse and pig sewage. So, this is not just an urban solution.


  4. According to Fred Hansen on OPB radio tonight, the only stopping TriMet from running a higher percentage of Biodiesel is that the bus manufacturers won’t warranty anything beyond B5. So, as they lighten up on the warranty standards, TriMet will move to B20…or beyond.

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