As the start dates of federal and provincial legislation mandating minimum biodiesel contents get closer, one Saskatchewan retailer already has experience under its belt selling a mix of two per cent (B2) biodiesel in all the fuel it delivers to its customers.
Price Rite Fuels Ltd. of Weyburn, Sask., is an independent, farmer-owned company. Formed 22 years ago, it delivers bulk fuel to its member customers in the southern part of the province. “It was organized to have a little more control over what farmers in the area had to pay for fuel,” says Maurice Clark, the company’s manager.
Three years ago, Price Rite was approached by a biodiesel refiner in Moose Jaw, who offered to supply biodiesel for the company to blend with petroleum-based fuel. Clark says adding biodiesel to regular fuel improves lubricity, a particularly important consideration with the newer, ultra-low sulphur diesel now produced by mainstream refineries. The reduced sulphur content is the result of more stringent environmental regulations.
Prior to opting for the biodiesel blend, Price Rite had been using an additive to raise the lubricity of the diesel it sold, which reduces wear on an engine’s fuel pump. But, Clark says, the company’s board of directors liked the idea of switching to the more environmentally friendly option of using a renewable fuel. The fact it’s made from agricultural products also appealed to many of the company’s farmer shareholders.
Originally, a five per cent (B5) blend — or higher if the customer wanted — was offered as an alternative alongside regular petroleum diesel, but the firm has since gone to a standard two per cent mix. The B2 blend can be used during cold winter weather without causing problems unlike higher blends, which was part of the reason for the change. Price Rite installed dedicated biodiesel storage tanks at its facility and does its own blending, mixing biodiesel with each arriving load of petroleum-based fuel.
The company does sell a small amount of B100 diesel. Clark says a few customers purchase it to increase the biodiesel content of the fuel they burn, raising it to B30 or B40, but so far there has been very limited demand for anything other than the standard B2 blend.
“When we initially started, there were some government funds available to help with the cost of setting up (the biodiesel storage facility),” says Clark. But, he adds, there are no longer any financial incentives, and the increased cost of pure biodiesel has become an important consideration. So important, in fact, the company is surveying its members to see if there is support for continuing to offer the B2 blend.
“The board of directors and myself think it’s really good, but you have to go by what your customer base says,” notes Clark. “Dollars do make a difference.”
The future of Price Rite’s B2 blending program is uncertain. “It’s up in the air right now,” adds Clark. “It (biodiesel) is good for the farmers and it’s good for the environment. But without some dollars and cents from the government it’s hard to compete.”
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.
Contact him at [email protected]