The Chicago Park District operates one of the most successful biodiesel-powered vehicle fleets in the United States. Biodiesel blends up to 20% (B20) and above are being used successfully year-round.
The Park District’s program, which includes using old cooking oil from local restaurants and events like the Taste of Chicago, enables the Park District to annually consume 8,700 gallons of ASTM-certified biodiesel at up to a 50% biodiesel/diesel blend. The high-blend biodiesel fuel is used in dozens of vehicles in the district’s fleet, ranging from lawnmowers to garbage trucks and log loaders.
“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,” Dimitroff said.” 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% by 2020.
The district uses biodiesel blends as high as 50% 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% biodiesel, known as B100. The B100 fleet was recently expanded to include three bucket/tower trucks.
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.”