Since I write for a blog called PumpTalk, you’d think that I’d know more about the evolution of fuel. But truth be told, I actually focus more on things like driving safety or advances in urban infrastructure. So, I was quite keen to talk to the Renewables Fuels team at Petro-Canada and learn about an exciting and innovative pilot program they started in British Columbia around the use of Hydro-Treated Renewable Diesel (aka HRD).
First, a little background on Biodiesel, a low carbon diesel that has been used for many years. Biodiesel is a biodegradable alternative fuel, used in diesel engines, and is made from renewable feedstock such as plant oils, waste cooking oil or animal fats. The production of Biodiesel is a chemical process that results in an oxygenated molecule called fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).
To support their commitment to be part of the total solution to meet energy demand (they did build the Electric Highway!) and reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation system, Petro-Canada is exploring the benefits of using higher blends of Hydro-Treated Renewable Diesel within commercial customer applications. HRD uses the same renewable materials in its feedstock as biodiesel but is produced through a chemical refining process called hydro-treating, which involves treating the feedstock with hydrogen under elevated temperatures and pressures. This process eliminates more impurities than biodiesel and is similar to how conventional fuels are produced, so the chemical properties of HRD are similar to conventional petroleum diesel. This similarity means that an organization can easily switch from regular diesel to HRD without a significant overhaul of their current operations.
BCIT tech working on an engine during lab trials of HRD
Renewable diesel has several expected environmental benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions as well as reusing waste products (and diverting them from landfills), along with operational benefits such as lower equipment maintenance costs and longer equipment longevity.
To support their commercial customers, Petro-Canada is testing the use of higher blends of HRD, starting with certain on-road fleet customers, as well as select municipal fleets and off-road applications in the province of British Columbia. Their HRD trial program includes lab and field tests for operational, performance and emission results to support customers in their switch to a more sustainable fuel, while allowing for their business continuity and growth.
Any questions about Biodiesel or HRD? Let us know in the comments and we can answer them in a future post!
~ Kate T.