Editor's Note: Reporters and photographers are invited to a press conference on Friday, Sept. 12, at 10 a.m. at Bartkus Oil, 3501 Pearl St. in Boulder. City, CU-Boulder and Blue Sun officials will be on hand with a fleet of buses, passenger cars, tanker trucks and utility vehicles demonstrating the utility of biodiesel in different engine types. After the press conference, a CU Biodiesel Rally featuring actor Woody Harrelson will be held at noon at the University Memorial Center at Euclid Avenue and Broadway. Call Carol Rowe at (303) 492-7426 for information.
The Boulder community will breathe cleaner air and take a step toward greater energy independence on Sept. 12, when the first commercial biodiesel pump in Colorado opens at Bartkus Oil, 3501 Pearl St. in Boulder.
The pump, which has been converted to deliver a 20 percent biodiesel fuel blend, is open to public and private sector fleets as well as privately owned diesel vehicles. Pure 100 percent biodiesel is also available.
The biodiesel pump at Bartkus Oil responds to an interest from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the City of Boulder to fuel their fleets with biodiesel, a clean burning fuel. Blue Sun Biodiesel is supplying the alternative fuel. Blue Sun is a privately held company working with the agricultural sector to produce and promote high-grade biodiesel from crops grown in Colorado.
Biodiesel is a non-toxic, renewable fuel made from vegetable oil, which dramatically reduces harmful emissions. In opening its new retail biodiesel station, Boulder joins a number of other U.S. cities, including Atlanta, San Diego and Portland, Ore., in opting for cleaner air.
The 20 percent biodiesel blend, known as B20, currently retails at about 20 cents per gallon more than conventional diesel, but prices are expected to drop with increased demand. Pure biodiesel, known as B100, costs about $1 more per gallon.
CU-Boulder Transportation Services plans to run all 13 of its diesel buses on the alternative fuel, including three buses that will run on pure biodiesel. CU's commitment comes after a test on a single "Buff Bus" last spring showed no difference in engine performance or fuel economy and a significant improvement in emissions. "This should help address the growing concern on campus about diesel fumes," said CU Transportation Director Bryan Flansburg.
The city of Boulder is currently evaluating the use of B20 fuel in seven fleet vehicles. The evaluation period is expected to last through January, and a recommendation will be made in February or March on whether the B20 fuel should be used in all non-emergency diesel-powered city vehicles.
Bill Boyes, facilities and asset manager for the city of Boulder, said the city is committed to the community effort to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels. City of Boulder vehicles currently using B20 are three flatbed trucks, one 3/4-ton pickup, one skidsteer, one large mower and one emergency command vehicle.
Eco-Cycle, Boulder's non-profit recycler, and Special Transit, a non-profit transportation service that runs the HOP, also plan to switch their operations over to biodiesel after a test period. Special Transit already is operating one HOP bus on B100 to learn more about the fuel, while Eco-Cycle is testing the B20 blend on one of its trucks.
Bartkus Oil President Joe Swank said he has converted a 10,000-gallon tank to biodiesel to meet the demand. "I'm excited about offering biodiesel to the community because it can be grown locally and it will reduce harmful emissions," Swank said.
Biodiesel and CU-Boulder
At CU-Boulder, the switch to biodiesel started with a student project in fall 2002.
Undergraduate engineering student Andrew Azman led a team of students in designing and building a processor to convert vegetable oil into fuel-grade biodiesel. The processor, which was built for a class in sustainable engineering design, removes the glycerin and decreases the viscosity of vegetable oil through a chemical process called transesterification.
The students got an A on the project, but Azman didn't stop there. He formed a student group, CU Biodiesel, to collect used cooking grease from residence halls and other kitchens on campus to convert into biodiesel.
The students then joined with CU-Boulder's Environmental Center and Transportation Services in launching the first biodiesel bus on campus. Dubbed "The Fried Ride," the bus has been running on student-made biodiesel since April 2003.
CU Biodiesel also sponsored a referendum for a 49-cent per semester student fee to further expand the use of biodiesel on campus. The referendum, which students approved last spring, will raise about $30,000 per year to subsidize CU's purchase of biodiesel and fund construction of a larger processor that eventually will produce more of the fuel from campus and community sources.
"CU students are helping the university reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and become more energy independent," said Azman. "We have been able to transform biodiesel from an alternative fuel to the 'fuel of choice' at CU-Boulder, and we're excited about helping other universities throughout the country do the same."
Biodiesel and the City of Boulder
The city of Boulder is testing the fuel to help meet City Council's Environmental Sustainability goals, specifically the council's Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Pollution Reduction goals. The city's goal is to enact and enhance policies that cause the Boulder community to become a nationwide environmental leader among communities and a model of exemplary environmental practices.
"The city of Boulder has had a long-term commitment to environmental quality and to increasing the use of renewable energy," said Mayor Will Toor. "We also have a goal of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from within the city. The use of biodiesel will contribute to all of these goals."
The city has actively pursued the acquisition of alternative-fuel vehicles. In 2002, the city installed a 2,000-gallon ethanol fuel tank and purchased nine ethanol (E85) fuel vehicles. Boulder has continued to purchase hybrid (Toyota Prius) and bi-fuel (gasoline/propane) vehicles. This pilot program is another step in supporting the council's objective of pursuing alternative fuel sources.
About Blue Sun Biodiesel
Blue Sun Biodiesel is a privately-held agriculture energy company developing oilseed energy crops to bring high-performance biodiesel to the west-central United States. The company was founded in 2001 to take advantage of anticipated growth in biodiesel sales. Blue Sun was recently awarded a Department of Energy Small Business Innovation and Research grant to work with regional farmers to develop low-cost energy crops for biodiesel. Through cooperatives organized by Blue Sun, investing farmers are producing oilseed crops specially adapted to arid local growing conditions.
Blue Sun President and CEO Jeff Probst said he expects Blue Sun to have a significant impact on the Rocky Mountain region by "producing the lowest cost, highest quality biodiesel. Not only is this contributing to U.S. energy independence," he said, " but it's having a direct impact on our local economic development."
Blue Sun also is implementing state-of-the-art production and distribution facilities as part of its business. Blue Sun fuel is available at selected outlets through established alliances with suppliers and distributors, and is rapidly expanding the availability of biodiesel in the region. Current Blue Sun customers include the City of Boulder, the University of Colorado, Aspen Homes of Colorado, Waste-Not Recycling, Eco-Cycle, Peak to Peak, Agland Cooperative, Bartkus Oil and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Biodiesel Fact Sheet
* Biodiesel can be made from a number of sources, with the highest quality fuel extracted from soybean, rapeseed and other oilseed crops. Used restaurant grease can be used if it is properly refined and filtered.
* Biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable, and significantly reduces all types of harmful emissions except nitrogen oxide, which is slightly higher than that of conventional diesel.
* Pure biodiesel, known as B100, reduces particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons by about 50 percent compared to petroleum diesel, while a 20 percent blend (B20) reduces these same emissions by 10 percent to 20 percent.
* Biodiesel has greater lubricity than petroleum diesel, which reduces engine wear and maintenance costs.
* Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine without modifications, but fuel filters should be checked when converting to biodiesel, because biodiesel can dissolve the sediment left by petroleum diesel in fuel lines, tanks and delivery systems.
* Biodiesel and biodiesel blends meet federal fuel standards and have been used in more than 50 million road miles in the United States.
* Currently there are 150 retail biodiesel pumps in the United States, according to the National Biodiesel Board.