In the winter of 2006, Whitman Mission decided to test biodiesel as alternative, clean burning heating oil. The 3500 square foot maintenance shop, with a 700 gallon above-ground fuel tank, became our test facility. Since the park doesn’t have a transportation fleet, changing our practices to reduce petroleum use in transportation wasn’t a goal since we do not have a transportation fleet to target. Instead, we decided that reducing petroleum use for heating park facilities would be achievable. One of our EMS goals was to increase use of alternative fuel in the park (EMS Goal 3.A).
Biodiesel has been used in heating fuel applications at the B5 blend in other parts of the country, and some studies have taken place on B20 blends, but little information was available related to actual experiences using the B20 blend. This pilot demonstration project was set up in hopes of reducing harmful emissions and sharing the lessons learned with private, commercial, and government facility owners.
Biodiesel in any blend was not available in the local area. However, pure B100 soybean oil was available from a supplier 250 miles away in Portland, Oregon. Purchasing the B100 and subsequently blending on site made the transportation more manageable. We transported 140 gallons of B100 soybean oil back to the park. We manually mixed the B100 with 560 gallons of locally purchased diesel heating oil to get a B20 blend. After blending, we turned on the shop oil-fired furnaces for winter operation. We also added a recirculation pump to the shop furnace system to facilitate maintaining a homogeneous blend of the B20. Over the course of the winter we experienced outside temperatures down to 9 degrees Fahrenheit and experienced no equipment failures, fuel gelling problems, or comfort compromises to the heated spaces.
With the success of the pilot-test, we expanded our use of B20 to our 2000 gallon underground fuel storage tank used for heating to our 6,800 square foot visitor center. We also switched all diesel-powered equipment to B20. In less than a year, the park has gone from 0% to 100% in the use of B20 for all diesel fuel applications. This effort has also had the added benefit of reducing our annual fuel costs by 10%, making B20 biodiesel a cost-effective alternative fuel choice park wide.
The use of biodiesel reduces harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide, a gas linked to global warming. Whitman Mission’s use of B20 biodiesel has reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 16%. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions have also been reduced by 20% through the use of B20 biodiesel. Since biodiesel contains more oxygen by weight than fossil fuel, it burns more completely, reducing the unburned fuel emission toxics such as particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide released into the environment by 20 to 40%.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site is the only NPS site in the country utilizing B20 biodiesel as heating fuel oil. Since 2006, the park has increased the bio-blend an additional 10% to B30. As stewards of the many historic, cultural and natural resources of the park, Whitman Mission National Historic Site is committed to protecting of our unique environment. As such, we continue to seek opportunities to utilize environmentally sound products that preserve and protect resources.
Written by Bruce Hancock, Chief of Maintenance, Whitman Mission NHS. Written for 2006 EPA award nomination.
Did You Know?
Wagons used on the Oregon Trail had to carry nearly 2000 pounds of supplies. They traveled 2000 miles or more to the Oregon Country. Most wagons were pulled by oxen as they could eat the prairie grass and survive without lots of food for lengthy periods.