It’s Time to Think About Your Winter Fuel Blends


/// Guest post by contributor Renewable Energy Group

Most of us probably don’t want to hear it, but winter is around the corner. That means truck stops, travel centers and fleets in cold-weather regions need to start thinking about their winter fuel usage.

It’s also a good time to talk about one of the lingering misperceptions about biodiesel: that it doesn’t perform well in cold weather.

The truth — which is backed by real-world results of retailers selling and fleets using biodiesel blends throughout the entire winter — is that high-quality biodiesel can be a high-performing part of your fuel mix year-round. 

The key to maximizing the benefits of biodiesel in the winter is to adjust your biodiesel type and blend based on weather conditions. That’s something petroleum diesel fuel sellers and users have had to do for decades. And, just like petroleum diesel, biodiesel can gel in very cold temperatures, so it’s important to understand the cold flow properties of both petroleum diesel and biodiesel when blending fuel for winter use. 

Biodiesel producers and other experts have been studying and fine-tuning cold flow properties for decades. Today REG tests each gallon to ensure it meets or exceeds industry ASTM standards and documents the results on the Certificate of Analysis (COA) included with each shipment of biodiesel.

Cloud Point is among the specs listed on the COA. Cloud Point is the temperature at which biodiesel begins to freeze ― not solidifies but just begins to become cloudy.

At REG we recommend these steps for keeping biodiesel in your fuel mix year-round.

  • Store biodiesel at least 10 degrees above the Cloud Point. Underground tanks at retail fueling centers typically remain in the 50-degrees-Fahrenheit range through the winter months, while above ground tanks may need to be heated or insulated.
  • Consider how blend percentage impacts Cloud Point. Petroleum diesel fuel has a lower Cloud Point than biodiesel. So when you use a B5 blend, the blended fuel is still 95 percent petroleum diesel, and it’s the petroleum diesel that’s having a bigger impact on the Cloud Point of the blended fuel. Work with your supplier to determine the right blend level as the mercury drops.
  • Distilled biodiesel could be an option. Biodiesel produced using distillation technology is the purest biodiesel available and has superior cold weather performance than even undistilled low Cloud Point biodiesel. It does this because distillation does an excellent job of removing minor components that can contribute to fuel filter plugging. This means that even at a higher Cloud Point, distilled biodiesel can outperform undistilled biodiesel with a lower Cloud Point in cold weather. Distilled biodiesel’s purity also allows you to sell higher blends in the winter, which could give you an economic advantage.  

Cold weather doesn’t have to send your sale of biodiesel into hibernation. Using storage and handling best practices, being aware of the quality of the fuel you’re buying and considering distilled biodiesel can keep the renewable fuel in your sales lineup delivering economic, performance and emissions benefits even when temperatures plunge. 

Contact your biodiesel producer or supplier for more advice on how best to manage biodiesel blends this winter.

Renewable Energy Group. REG is a leading North American advanced biofuels producer and developer of renewable chemicals. REG utilizes a nationwide production, distribution and logistics system as part of an integrated value chain model to focus on converting natural fats, oils and greases into advanced biofuels and converting diverse feedstocks into renewable chemicals. Learn more about Renewable Energy Group.

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