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Renewable diesel 'proven, available' for immediately reducing greenhouse gas: ETF study

Oct. 20, 2023
The Engine Technology Forum looks to biobased fuels as an immediate solution to lower carbon emissions, no transition needed.

A recent study from the Engine Technology Forum shows that renewable biobased fuels, such as biodiesel and renewable diesel (RD), are a "proven and available strategy for immediately reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions."

RD supply has grown rapidly since 2019 due to demand fueled by lower carbon fuel regulations, doubling from 800 million gallons to 2.6 billion gallons (BG) as of March 2023with 83% of all RD consumption occurring in California in 2022according to the white paper Benefits of Renewable Bio-Based Diesel Fuels developed by Transport Energy Strategies, a leading consultancy on global transport energy issues.

The consultancy projects the United States’ RD production capacity could reach 5.9 billion gal/y by the end of 2025.

“As we look for opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions, the use of low carbon fuels like renewable diesel and biodiesel, offers tremendous benefits for near-term carbon reduction. These low carbon fuels can be used immediately in any one of the millions of diesel engines, tractors, machines, and back-up electric power generators working in every sector of our global economy,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Engine Technology Forum. 

ETF says RD fuel can be used as a “drop-in” biofuel that can be easily transported and sold at retail stations, with or without blending with petroleum diesel. For both new and existing diesel engines across all applications, RD is approved by manufacturers for use in a wide variety of diesel-powered engines, machines, equipment, and vehicles.

A 2022 study by Stillwater Associates for ETF (named Diesel Technology Forum at the time) found that fueling diesel vehicles with 100% RD fuel resulted in six times larger cumulative GHG reductions potentially by 2032 than the EV scenarios considered for medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles. That also means lower PM than for EVs since RD has a high cetane (70-95). ETF says this ensures clean combustion making it suitable for use in cold weather conditions and its storage properties that promote no deterioration of the fuel.

See also: What cold weather means for CEV batteries

During 2022, six RD plants began operations in the U.S., including Diamond Green Diesel LLC in Port Arthur, Texas; Calumet Montana Refining in Calumet, Montana; Holly Frontier in Artesia, New Mexico; CVR Energy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Cheyenne Renewable Diesel Company LLC in Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Seaboard Energy in Hugoton, Kansas, bringing the total to 16 facilities in the U.S.

The research also looked at backup generators in data centers, hospitals, military, and other generator customers where the interest of biobased diesel fuels is growing significantly.

ETF says diesel generators dominate the backup power market due to their unique combination of power-density and full electrical load handling, rapid response time, reliability and self-contained fueling supply, including in California during the planned safety power shutoffs (PSPS) for wildfire season.

“The challenges and uncertainties facing our electric power system today are unprecedented, from needed transmission line upgrades, to increasing frequency of natural disaster and weather-related events, to a greater overall reliance on electricity. Coupled with the transition to more intermittent renewable fuels like wind and solar, ensuring continuous electrical power to communities and businesses is of greater importance than ever before,” said Schaeffer. 

About the Author

Cris Beaulieu

Cris Beaulieu is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She joined the team after working in local news media. She earned a bachelor’s in journalism at Cleveland State University along with a TV and Radio Broadcast degree at Ohio Media School.