• The National Biodiesel Board

B20 biodiesel powers Chicago Park District vehicles as temperatures plunge


With much of the country facing the onslaught of winter weather and the challenges it can bring, many fleets will power their diesel vehicles with biodiesel blends throughout the winter months, including the Chicago Park District.


Biodiesel blends up to 20 percent (B20), and sometimes even higher, are being used successfully throughout the nation year-round. If properly managed, blends of ultra-low sulfur diesel and biodiesel of any feedstock can be used successfully in challenging winter climates.


“Here in Chicago, winter temperatures can drop to well-below zero and we need to be sure our diesel vehicles operate smoothly even in extreme weather conditions,” said Mike Dimitroff, manager of the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources, Chicago Park District. “The park district uses a B20 biodiesel blend to fuel heavy pick-ups, stake trucks, forestry trucks, tower trucks and more, all winter. We take a few precautions to ensure smooth operation, just like we would do with petroleum diesel, and have had no problems.”


Since 2013, the park district has powered its diesel vehicles and equipment with biodiesel blends, gradually increasing to an average year-round blend of 26 percent by 2020. The district uses biodiesel blends as high as 50 percent seasonally, in a variety of unmodified equipment ranging from lawnmowers to log-loader trucks. In 2019, the park district outfitted two refuse haulers with a biodiesel system made by Optimus Technologies to allow the use of 100 percent biodiesel (B100). The B100 fleet was recently expanded to include three bucket/tower trucks.


All diesel fuel, including petroleum diesel and biodiesel, must be managed to ensure proper cold-weather performance. Like petroleum diesel, biodiesel blends can be enhanced for cold-weather performance using field-proven additives and proactive tank management determined by knowledge of climatic conditions. These steps will ensure optimum winter operability as benchmarked by cold filter plugging point testing, which is the universal measurement of diesel fuel operability. This cold flow infographic tells the story.


According to Dimitroff, the Chicago Park District takes several important steps to ensure optimal winter performance with biodiesel blends, including sourcing high-quality fuel from a BQ-9000-certified supplier, ensuring proper blending, keeping water out of fuel storage and vehicle fuel lines, and using anti-gel additives.


“Biodiesel plays a key role in the park district’s sustainability and carbon reduction goals,” Dimitroff added. “It’s one of the easiest things we can do to make a difference right now, lowering emissions and protecting the health of Chicago residents. We’re proud of our work to continually increase biodiesel blend levels in order to achieve maximum clean air and public health benefits.” B20 reduces carbon emissions by 14.8 percent.


As a biodiesel leader, the Chicago Park District is a member of the B20 Club, a partnership between the Illinois Soybean Association and the American Lung Association. It recognizes Illinois-based fleets committed to operating with biodiesel blends of 20 percent or higher.


“Biodiesel performs reliably in some of the coldest winter climates and is a proven carbon reducer,” said Dan Farney, an Illinois soybean grower and United Soybean Board past chairman. “Soybean farmers are proud of our early investment in biodiesel that has resulted in the high-quality, high-performing fuel for Chicago Park District and fleets throughout the nation.”

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