COLLECTION: Fueling a City's Needs

COLLECTION: Fueling a City's Needs

California's Chula Vista residents are adding another health craze to their list — using a blend of biodiesel and ester to reduce fuel emissions from garbage trucks.

Used in collection trucks by San Diego-based Pacific Waste Services (PWS), the biodiesel/ester concoction is made from 80 percent diesel and a 20 percent mix of biodiesel and Ethos Fuel Reformulator (Ethos FR), named B20 Ethos. Biodiesel typically is derived from soybeans and vegetable oils. Ethos FR is a nontoxic, nonhazardous ester.

Already, PWS is reporting emissions reductions of 63.9 percent after one month of using the B20 Ethos, and the company expects to reduce more than 500 tons of pollution annually.

PWS sought B20 Ethos when Chula Vista mandated that the company use an alternative fuel in its waste vehicles. “We initially looked into natural gas, but it was so expensive and we would have had to convert the entire fleet,” says Andrea Calbow, PWS recycling manager. “So we looked into biodiesel and also found that Ethos had helped to reduce emissions.”

With B20 Ethos, there also is no need to modify or convert the fleet — the diesel and biodiesel blend is delivered “ready to use,” and Ethos FR is added to the mixture once at PWS' facility, Calbow adds.

Biodiesel and Ethos FR can be used separately, but Ethos FR would not fulfill Chula Vista's requirements because it is not a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-recognized fuel alternative, as is biodiesel. Plus, when used together, “there is a greater percentage of biodiesel's benefits recognized,” Calbow says.

When PWS tested the fuel blend in a two-month pilot last spring, the company became the first fleet in the country to use B20 Ethos, engineered by World Energy, Chelsea, Mass., and San Diego-based Ethos Environmental Inc. PWS then began using Ethos FR and adding biodiesel in the fall.

The new fuel not only reduced emissions, drivers also reported vehicles were running smoother, Calbow says. The benefits, however, are not without costs. B20 Ethos costs PWS an estimated $50,000 more per year than diesel. Nevertheless, PWS says the increased fuel efficiency makes up for the difference.

Ethos FR also helps to reduce truck maintenance. The fuel removes carbon deposits and automatically cleans and lubricates the engine's internal parts without using petroleum-derived solvents, Calbow says. Over time, solvents cause engine wear and tear and lead to the release of hydrocarbons and increased emissions. Ethos FR also cleans the internal combustion engine because its molecules penetrate the metal, creating a layer to reduce friction and heat.

California mandates that fleets reduce their emissions. Before PWS began using B20 Ethos, its trucks already were operating within the state's emission limits. But laws may decrease emissions output again.

PWS plans to apply B20 Ethos to other operations in the future. For example, the company's San Diego fleet currently is only using Ethos FR, but will incorporate biodiesel later this year.

“With gas prices going up, more talk about pollution, and [the desire to] reduce maintenance costs and the effects on the environment, timing is everything,” says Ana Cobian, Ethos Environmental's vice president of communications.

“Giving other options to fleets could give us cleaner air at a lesser cost,” Calbow adds.