National Academies Press: OpenBook

Use of Biodiesel in a Transit Fleet (2007)

Chapter: Chapter One - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter One - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Use of Biodiesel in a Transit Fleet. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23121.
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3PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES Made from domestically produced soybeans and other organic products, biodiesel can provide both transit agencies and the nation with several significant benefits that include reduced dependency on foreign oil and improved energy security. Biodiesel blends well with petroleum diesel fuel, is safe to use, increases the lubricity of diesel fuel, and requires little if any infrastructure modifications. Biodiesel’s positive effect on the environment can also enhance transit’s image. Obtaining benefits from biodiesel, however, requires transit agencies to become more knowledgeable about the fuel and the steps needed to ensure a trouble-free transition. Some transit agencies are currently using biodiesel in their buses, whereas others are interested in exploring its use but are unsure of how to proceed. This report synthesizes material obtained from a va- riety of sources—including those with biodiesel experiences— to provide transit agencies with the information needed to make informed decisions regarding implementation of this relatively new fuel option. Topics covered by this study include engine manufacturer requirements and warranty considerations, main- tenance implications, emissions testing results, cold weather operations, fuel specifications and procurement considerations, fuel storage, and delivery. TECHNICAL APPROACH The approach to this project began with a teleconference with members the Oversight Panel to obtain their comments and input regarding how to structure the report and present the material. From that discussion a work plan was developed, which included a draft report outline and survey question- naire. Once the work plan was finalized based on written feedback from the Panel, the survey questionnaire was circu- lated to agencies with and without biodiesel experience. A literature search was also conducted to obtain information from a variety of sources. Material obtained from the literature search provided es- sential background information regarding biodiesel, including how the fuel is made, blended, stored, and delivered to the end user. The material also provided more detailed information concerning the full range of benefits offered by the fuel, its unique features, and the areas of its use that must be managed to avoid drawbacks. Information obtained from the transit agency surveys identified those specific areas of biodiesel use that required special focus and provided actual agency experi- ences from which others considering the fuel could learn. Agencies with biodiesel experience responding to the survey represent a combined fleet of 5,959 biodiesel-fueled buses traveling 217,857,955 miles annually. Two of those agencies were selected as case studies for an in-depth presentation of the procedures they used to implement biodiesel and their result- ing experiences. REPORT ORGANIZATION Chapter two provides a basic overview and understanding of biodiesel. Chapter three builds on this foundation with greater detail about the subject and is intended for agencies seeking greater understanding of biodiesel to assist them in making a decision regarding the fuel and its implementation. Chapter four begins with an overview of biodiesel use in the trucking industry as an introduction to transit agency experiences pro- vided from the survey questionnaire. Chapter five takes an in-depth look at two transit agencies committed to biodiesel and includes their reasons for using the fuel, along with their experiences. The report concludes with a summary of study findings and a list of recommendations to assist those wanting to put biodiesel into operation. A suggested list of future biodiesel research topics is also provided (chapter six). CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 72: Use of Biodiesel in a Transit Fleet explores potential benefits offered by biodiesel in order to help transit agencies make informed decisions regarding its use.


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