NEW OXFORD, Pa. — Conewago Valley School District (CVSD), in conjunction with Aero Energy and Soy Energy, has implemented the first voluntary clean school bus program in Pennsylvania, using a soy-based diesel additive. Dan Sharrer, president of Soy Energy, approached Conewago about beginning a clean fuel program at the end of the 2003-04 school year.
CVSD Transportation Director Bobbi Loy was receptive to the idea. “Last May we actually started running one bus as a pilot, to see how the soy would run, and it was wonderful, so we took it to our board this fall and they agreed to put it in our whole fleet of buses,” she said.
The bio-based fuel is being used in 51 buses, including nine operated by the district and 42 by two contractors.
Soy Energy’s new bio-based fuel is different from biodiesel, which is a combination of chemically processed soybean oil and petroleum diesel fuel. The most common blend is called B20, which has 20 percent biofuel and 80 percent diesel.
Loy said the cost of the biodiesel is about the same as regular diesel, and the buses are getting better mileage, about one mile more per gallon. “And there is no harsh smell at all,” she said.
Soy Energy’s purification process uses no chemicals, resulting in naturally refined oil. “We have a fuel station right here that has been willing to donate their tanks to us, so the soy is literally splash- blended with the diesel,” Loy said. The blend usually has 5 percent additive and 95 percent diesel.