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Illinois City’s Success with Biodiesel Influences Neighboring Communities

By selling B20 biodiesel to neighboring municipal agencies and organizations, Moline has expanded its impact on air quality across the Quad Cities region — and shown the community that improving air quality is a collaborative effort.

The City of Moline sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Rock rivers in northwestern Illinois. Its geography makes the city a major transportation hub with river barge traffic, rail lines and the convergence of two major interstate highways.

Moline is also a small urban watershed that contains a group of forests, home to a rich diversity of plant and wildlife. The city has worked hard to manage the tension between urban development and the environment.

In 1992, Moline took special interest in the negative impact of the burning of leaves and ultimately banned it altogether in 2002, with a goal of improving air quality. In 2005, the city took its environmental stewardship a step further.

Selecting a cleaner fuel for a city fleet

Moline began using ultra-low sulfur diesel blended with biodiesel for its diesel-powered fleet, including fire equipment, sanitation trucks, end loaders, snow removal equipment and other trucks up to Class 8. Made from soybean oil and other renewable feedstocks, biodiesel is commonly blended with petroleum diesel to create a cleaner-burning fuel. All major diesel engine manufacturers approve biodiesel blends of up to 20 percent, also known as B20.

Biodiesel is considered a “drop-in” solution for fleets looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Fleets of any size can implement this fuel immediately with no need to invest in new infrastructure, vehicles, engine modifications or technology. It also improves air quality by lowering tailpipe emissions, including unburned hydrocarbons and particulate matter, and reduces life cycle carbon dioxide by 78.5 percent on average.

Biodiesel marketed in the United States must meet standards for consistency and quality set by the American Society for Testing and Materials, now called ASTM International. The National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission also created a voluntary accreditation program, BQ-9000, for biodiesel producers and marketers. The BQ-9000 designation ensures the highest quality biodiesel and proper fuel performance.

Since implementing B20, the city has not experienced any fuel-related maintenance incidents, according to Sarah Mark, Moline’s interim fleet manager. During the transition to B20, drivers were not told about the new fuel until a few weeks after the implementation to avoid the creation of “ghost symptoms” or negative performance reports based on bias.

First-time users also should be aware of B20’s solvent-like ability to clean soot from engines and fuel tanks, which sometimes requires fuel filters to be changed more frequently during the first few months of biodiesel use. Fleet managers also recommended having tanks cleaned prior to switching to B20.

The Moline Public Works department uses about 70,000 gallons of B20 a year in 55 vehicles. The city estimates that the fuel program has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 127.6 tons a year. That’s equivalent to 126,803 fewer pounds of coal burned; 4,406 LED light bulbs installed; and 1,918 new trees planted.

The success of its program has inspired neighboring communities to make the switch. Moline now serves as the exclusive B20 provider to several fleets in neighboring communities, including:

  • The city of East Moline;

  • The Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department;

  • The Moline-Coal Valley School District;

  • The TaxSlayer Center, a 12,000-seat multipurpose arena;

  • Black Hawk College, a public community college

  • The Moline Housing Authority

By selling B20 biodiesel to neighboring municipal agencies and organizations, Moline has been able to expand its impact on air quality across the Quad Cities region, which has about 373,000 residents. By working with other agencies, Moline has sent a message to the community that improving air quality is a collaborative effort.

The city of Moline is a member of the B20 Club, a partnership of the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program and the American Lung Association that recognizes elite Illinois fleets operating their equipment on biodiesel blends of B20 or greater.