Myth Buster: Biodiesel and Cold Weather

By Jon Scharingson, Renewable Energy Group Inc.

A year ago at this time, I wrote a CSD column about five common biodiesel myths. Today, I want to go deeper into one that is especially timely.

It’s the myth that biodiesel doesn’t work in the cold. I still hear this from people, but it simply is not true. There are retailers and fleets in cold-weather locations throughout North America that use biodiesel blends year-round.

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Here’s what they have to say.

Travel Center has ‘no problems’

Sapp Bros. Travel Centers operates 17 locations, most of them on Interstate 80 in places that get very cold in the winter. One of those is Peru, Illinois, outside Chicago. It offers a B11 blend of biodiesel throughout the winter. It will even go up to B20 on milder winter days.

“With a good cold weather additive and proper care of storage tanks, there are no problems,” said Kevin Cassidy, a Sapp Bros. vice president.

Also, people need to remember that in a B11 blend, 89 percent of the fuel is petroleum diesel, which impacts the Cloud Point and other cold weather performance properties of the finished fuel much more than the biodiesel does.

Fleet uses B20 all winter

Staying in Illinois, for-hire carrier G&D Integrated uses B20 in its fleet of more than 400 vehicles throughout the winter.

“We didn’t have one clogged filter. We didn’t have any engine issues. We didn’t have any gelling issues,” said Vince Buonassi, group manager of transportation programs at G&D Integrated.

C-stores benefit from biodiesel

Another retailer on board with biodiesel is Kum & Go, which operates more than 400 c-stores in 11 states. It sells biodiesel blends all year long — even in the middle of winter at stores in the upper Midwest and mountain regions.

Then there’s Farmers Win Cooperative, an ag co-op doing business in Iowa and Minnesota. Its energy division includes a c-store in northeast Iowa, where winters are brutally cold. The company sells biodiesel blends at the pump and also delivers fuel to farmers and other customers.

“There are a lot of customers that will want it year-round,” said Steve Neuendorf, who was the co-op’s petroleum division manager before retiring a year ago. “As long as you follow proper blending procedures, you will have no problems in the winter.”

Positive experiences with biodiesel

These companies’ experiences represent the rule, not the exception — millions of gallons of biodiesel have been used in cold upper-Midwest states each winter for the past several years with great success. As with petroleum diesel, it’s important to know a fuel’s Cloud Point, to use a good winter additive, and to properly store and handle biodiesel blends. For those c-stores that do these things, they and their customers can enjoy the benefits of biodiesel all year long.

I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about this topic or anything related to biodiesel. Contact me at Click here to learn more about REG.

Jon Scharingson oversees the sales and marketing efforts for REG, a leading biodiesel producer.