Sapp Bros., Inc. has found that the financial, performance and environmental benefits of biodiesel help give it an edge in the competitive travel center market along Interstate 80.
Sapp Bros., Inc. has experienced the benefits of biodiesel across its 17 travel center locations stretching from Salt Lake City to Pennsylvania, many of them along Interstate 80.
“Economically, biodiesel is a good thing to do,” says Kevin Cassidy, vice president of both the travel center and petroleum businesses run by Sapp Bros. “It’s also a sustainable fuel. It’s made us more competitive.”
The company’s travel center in Peru, Illinois, offers a case study in these benefits. Located 100 miles west of Chicago on I-80, Sapp Bros. Peru is a full-service location that sees 750,000 customers a year. It was one of the first travel centers in the state to offer biodiesel blends when it introduced the alternative fuel in 2005, according to Cassidy.
“The state of Illinois established a sales tax exemption on blends of B11 and higher that still stands, and it made sense to do it,” he says. “The B100 was priced attractively, below what our petroleum diesel cost. And we were able to offer a B11 blend at 8 cents per gallon below our No. 2 ULSD. It went over very well with our customers.”
Quick ROI with Biodiesel
The infrastructure changes needed to introduce biodiesel were relatively simple.
Sapp Bros. Peru converted a 12,000-gallon underground storage tank to hold straight biodiesel, or B100. Biodiesel is piped over to a loading station where petroleum fuel trucks come in, and Sapp Bros. uses splash blending by loading the B100 into the top of a truck’s tank. The truck then unloads the blended fuel into tanks that feed the diesel islands.
“To get started with biodiesel, our infrastructure upgrades were minimal,” Cassidy says. “It was around an eight-month payback on the cost.”
Higher blends year-round
Sapp Bros. Peru can easily adjust the blend level and frequently goes up to a B20 blend.
“The blending economics make B20 a smart choice for us,” Cassidy says. “And I’ve had drivers say it’s cleaned up their fuel systems, cleaned their fuel injectors, and they actually get better mileage with biodiesel blends versus a regular No. 2 ULSD because of the clean injectors.”
The Peru location uses B11 throughout the winter, and on milder winter days will move up to B20. Cassidy says by using a good cold weather additive, they’ve had no issues in storage tanks, at dispensers or with customers.
No matter the weather, he advises other travel centers and convenience stores to do their homework on producers and to purchase quality fuel.
Attracting more customers
Other Sapp Bros. retail locations also offer biodiesel blends, finding the fuel to be a winning combination with its positive economics, lower emissions and strong performance. It’s not just about fuel sales, however. There’s also an in-store boost.
“Having a diverse lineup of fuels attracts a bigger customer base,” Cassidy says. “Besides filling up with fuel, they’re inside your stores. They’re shopping, maybe getting something to eat. There are benefits to bringing in new faces.”
For more information about biodiesel visit regi.com.