Posted - 04/14/2006 : 6:13:24 PM
| Check this out! A school district is converting ALL their buses to bio diesel!
*edit: text of article so when the article disappears it can still be read
Gloucester school buses switching to biodiesel fuel
In a trial, five buses burn a mixture that is 20 percent biodiesel, made from soybeans.
BY MATHEW PAUST
[email protected] 757-247-4760
April 14, 2006
GLOUCESTER -- Gloucester County's school buses may soon be burning more vegetable oil than any other school buses in Virginia.
Already 10 of the fleet's 45 diesel buses are fueled by a mix that contains 20 percent biodiesel, which is made from soybeans at a plant in New Kent County.
After testing the mix for more than a month in five buses, Schools transportation director Roger Kelly said Tuesday that he plans to use it in the entire fleet by the start of the next school year in September.
Kelly's fleet foreman, Larry Lawson, said another five buses have started using the mix. He and Kelly said none of the buses has experienced a single fuel-related problem.
"It's cheaper, it's cleaner and it's renewable," Kelly told the board.
The only other school district in Virginia known to be using a biodiesel mix is Arlington County's, in Northern Virginia, which uses a 2 percent mix. According to the National Biodiesel Board, Arlington is one of more than 250 school districts in the country using a mix of 2 percent or greater.
Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said that while he knew of several school divisions in Hampton Roads that use natural gas in their buses, he was unaware of any others in the state using biodiesel.
"We're going to do a survey," Pyle said.
Kelly rattled off a list of pluses that include the detergent characteristics of biodiesel, which, simply by flowing through the fuel lines and burning in the engine, scrub mineral deposits and other buildups from fuel injectors, fuel lines and even storage tanks.
It burns cleaner, as well, he said, noting that starting in June the Environmental Protection Agency will require that sulfur contents in petroleum diesel fuel be lowered from 500 to 15 parts per million.
Sulfur acts as a lubricant in the fuel, but it's also the main cause of smoke and nasty-smelling exhaust, Kelly explained.
"Biodiesel puts the lubricity factor back and lowers the EPA's more stringent standards," he said.
Petroleum diesel now costs more than $2 a gallon. Biodiesel costs $1.95.
Kelly said he surveyed the drivers who have been using it in their buses, and the response has been enthusiastically positive.
Sandy Shipley, who has been driving Gloucester school buses for 21 years and is one of the five who drove the buses testing biodiesel, said she noticed a "big difference right away."
"Especially the exhaust smell. It's a much lighter scent than regular diesel," Shipley said. "I used to run by the exhaust before because of the smell."
She said one of her young passengers had allergies and was terrified of the exhaust smell, but hasn't complained at all of the barely noticeable biodiesel exhaust.
Kelly told the School Board the biodiesel exhaust smells "a little like french fries," but a first-hand sniff Wednesday afternoon fell short of confirming that comparison. Actually, the odor right at the end of the exhaust pipe while the engine was running was so subtle it's hard to compare to anything.
Daniel Burnett, a bus mechanic, said the raw biodiesel looks and smells cleaner than the petroleum variety.
A Gloucester company, Phillips Energy Inc., is supplying the fuel mix for the school. Phillips buys the soybean oil directly from Virginia BioDiesel Refinery in New Kent County and then mixes it with the petroleum diesel.
"We hope to be able to provide enough for all the school buses by May 1," said the company's president, John Phillips. He said shortly after that, he hopes to have a retail pump installed and accessible to any diesel vehicle.
"We've had a lot of requests from farmers and off-road construction users," he said.
Edited by - vabuslover on 04/17/2006 09:53:19 AM