The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Biodiesel Stands Up to Sub-Zero Temperatures

December 7, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Citing two fleet examples of how to use biodiesel fuel in cold weather, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) trade association offers advice on successfully powering vehicles with B-20 during winter months.

Like regular diesel fuel, biodiesel can gel at very low temperatures. Richard Nelson, director of engineering extension for Kansas State University’s College of Engineering, says users can prepare for this situation in a number of ways. Common winter practices to ensure diesel engines have a warm reception for B-20 include:

  • Blending biodiesel with kerosene.
  • Blending biodiesel with diesel that has been treated with cold weather additives.
  • Block and filter heaters.
  • Indoor vehicle storage.

    “The most important precaution users can take is to make sure they work with a reputable supplier and are using biodiesel that meets the national standard, ASTM D 6751,” Nelson said. “Secondly, they need to understand that good fuel management is extremely important, and that is amplified in winter.

    New Hampshire Ski Resort Confident of B-20
    When snow falls at a rate of several inches per hour and all signs point to perfect weekend ski conditions, Jim Mersereau knows he has a lot riding on successful operation of his snow grooming equipment. Because thousands of skiers depend on him, he must be confident that his biodiesel-powered Bombardier groomers will operate on the coldest, darkest New Hampshire nights.

    “We know that even with heavy snow falling and temperatures hovering around 20 below, we can count on our biodiesel-powered vehicles to start up and perform with no problems at all,” said Mersereau, Operations Director for New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain Resort. “We have been very pleased with biodiesel’s performance and have had absolutely no cold weather problems In 2003, Cranmore Mountain, located in North Conway, N.H., joined other ski resorts nationwide, such as Aspen, Colo., in fueling its snow grooming fleet with B-20 (a blend of 20-percent biodiesel and 80-percent petroleum diesel). A grant from the Granite State Clean Cities Coalition (GSCCC) helped Cranmore make the switch to B-20 and install a 4,000-gallon above-ground fuel storage tank. Since then, Cranmore has continued to use B-20 in its equipment and is now using Bioheat fuel to heat its buildings as well.

    “Cranmore Mountain is one of many examples demonstrating that it is a myth that you can’t use B-20 in cold weather,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB. “As we enter the coldest time of year in many parts of the country, biodiesel users can rest assured that precautions such as using high quality fuel and following proper blending procedures, biodiesel blends are reliable even in sub-zero temperatures.”

    Biodiesel a ‘Dynamic Triangle’ for Harvard
    This will be the fifth winter Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. has put such practices in place using B-20 in its 70 diesel vehicles. The fleet includes snow plows, shuttle buses, solid waste and recycling trucks, landscape services vehicles, tractors, and pick-up trucks. David E. Harris Jr., general manager of transportation services, says Harvard’s original decision to use biodiesel “was all about going to a cleaner-burning fuel and reducing emissions in and around Cambridge and Boston. We wanted to get ahead of the regulations and be a leader in this area. Now we see biodiesel as a dynamic triangle: it’s cleaner burning, renewable, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”

    Harris added that the precautions he takes with biodiesel are good practice with diesel fuel, as well.

    Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative fuel that can be used in any diesel engine. A domestically produced, renewable fuel, it can be made from animal fats or vegetable oil. The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

    For technical guidance on using B-20 in cold weather and for additional examples of “Cool Customers” who successfully use biodiesel blends year-round, visit

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