Breckenridge temporarily stops biodiesel use
BRECKENRIDGE – Biodiesel has stalled in Breckenridge.The town has discontinued using its winter blend of biodiesel in its fleet vehicles after the fuel began gelling at cold temperatures, bringing diesel-operated vehicles to lurching halts.”We’re having a mixing problem at this elevation, and it’s related to temperature,” said Terry Perkins, Breckenridge’s public works director. “They seem to think they’ve got something squared away; we’ll just have to wait and see.”The county has discontinued using the fuel at all but its Breckenridge fueling sites, and there, officials are keeping a close eye on the situation, said county fleet manager Steve Stephens. The county, which operates off a separate tank than the town, has had to change a few fuel filters, but hasn’t had the vehicular problems Breckenridge has, he said.”Why we haven’t, we really don’t have a clue,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating, especially when you get to the point of shutting stuff down. But for the time being, we’re still giving it a shot.”The town began using biodiesel, called B-20 for its 20 percent mixture of soybean product with an 80 percent mixture of diesel fuel, in the summer of 2003. It was deemed an overwhelming success – in the summer.The real test came that winter when town public works officials watched to see if freezing temperatures would cause the fuel mixture to gel as they’d heard it might. When it did, they immediately reverted to regular diesel fuel.And it’s happening again this winter, clogging fuel filters and shutting down vehicles instantly, Perkins said.”The only way we can fix it is to take the filters off, drain the tank and start all over,” he said. “It’s time-consuming and expensive.”Breckenridge assistant public works director Dan Bell is working with the supplier, Blue Sun Oil of Denver, to develop a new mixture. He has taken a shipment of the new fuel to Mallet Oil in Leadville for testing and will return today to see if the new mixture has gelled.If it hasn’t, the town will bring a shipment back to Breckenridge and try it in a few vehicles.If it has gelled, however, the company will either continue to work on a mixture that won’t gel, or the town will try a B-10 mixture – 90 percent diesel fuel and 10 percent soybean product. If neither works, they might have to use diesel fuel in the winter and biodiesel in the summer.Once the county needs to refill its tank, Stephen said, he’s not sure if they’ll use the winter blend.The county, using blends with 5 and 10 percent soybean blends, had no problems last year.”It’s a setback, but we have faith this is going to work,” said Councilmember Jim Lamb, who was instrumental in convincing the town to switch from diesel to biodiesel. “It’s a glitch. It’s still working in other places; we just don’t know what’s going on here. We will know eventually, and we will fix this – there’s no doubt about that.”The fuel has been proven to reduce particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions in the air. It costs less to make than other alternative fuels, for which costs often outweigh the benefits. Biodiesel is less toxic than table salt, biodegrades as fast as sugar, requires few – and then, only minor – changes to diesel engines, reduces the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and is easy to implement.Stephens said he believes biodiesel is still a success story.”It’s some technicalities that need to get worked out,” he said. “Once that’s accomplished, I think it will be a great success story. We just have to keep plugging away at it.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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