Alternative Fuel Choices Limited For Construction Equipment

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2009 Vol. 64 No. 8

"Check with your engine manufacturer as to the level of biodiesel that is approved for use in your specific engine or piece of equipment," he advised. "Also, owners and operators need to be aware of current regulations regarding fuels – some states have mandates requiring a certain amount of biodiesel in diesel fuel. Generally, those requirements are the responsibility of the fuel supplier."

For existing equipment, Suchecki said, use of biodiesel can reduce certain emissions of particulate matter and hydrocarbons, but may increase NOx emission under certain conditions. However, once EPA Tier 4 emissions requirements are implemented starting in 2011, the emissions control equipment needed to reduce emissions to the Tier 4 level will reduce emissions to near zero levels. For those new engines and pieces of equipment, any emissions advantage between the use of biodiesel and petroleum diesel will disappear. [That already has occurred with EPA standards established in 2007 for on road trucks that eliminate the biodiesel emission advantage on model year 2007 and later vehicles.]

Suchecki believes that as federal and state governments seek to decrease dependence on petroleum and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, programs will encourage increased use of alternative fuels.

"We expect that the use of alternative fuels will increase in the future and eventually become a more common component of the fuel supply," he said. "To achieve this, two things will need to happen:

"First, the capacity and cost effectiveness of producing biofuels will have to significantly improve. We will have to change the current focus of producing fuels from food crops such as corn and soybeans to include a wider supply basis that includes crops specifically designed to produce fuel oils, other biomass and waste streams, or even unique new sources such as algae. If we are to significantly increase the use of alternative fuels, better and expanded sources of biomass will be needed, together with more efficient processes and infrastructure to convert those sources intofuels.

"Secondly, issues regarding the quality, performance and compatibility of alternative fuels will have to be resolved so that increased percentages of biofuels can be used in engines and equipment."