Biodiesels are capturing fleet managers’ attention, especially when their operations face the challenge of complying with stringent state and federal air emission regulations. The biodiesel industry has grown steadily the past decade, with plants now in nearly every state across the U.S. In 2011 and 2012, the industry produced almost 1.1 billion gallons, according to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the trade association representing the U.S. biodiesel industry.

One operational advantage to using biodiesel is that managers do not have to spend capital funds to make major engine modifications to their fleets. Even so, fleet managers should be aware of one possible result of using this alternative fuel: Biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel storage. The NBB advises that these deposits may initially clog filters, so maintenance precautions should be taken.

But as winter comes, the question becomes, how can fleet managers continue to use biodiesel? In 2005, the NBB convened a Cold Flow Consortium, whose task was to investigate the blending of biodiesel into diesel fuel at temperatures similar to those experienced in a Minnesota winter. It concluded that high-quality biodiesel blends can be used successfully year-round, even in the coldest climates.

The group recognized the fact that, like regular #2 diesel fuel, biodiesel can gel at very low temperatures. But with good fuel management and fuel that consistently meets the ASTM D 6751 specification, fleet managers can count on a trouble-free winter, regardless of the climate.

Hot tips for cold weather

Since the composition and cold flow properties of diesel fuels vary widely, as do the cold flow properties of biodiesel, fleet managers must work with their suppliers to develop a cold weather management plan well before winter.

Here are some tips from NBB to help keep your engine running smoothly all winter with biodiesels:

  • Use high-quality biodiesel fuel that meets the national standard, ASTM D 6751. The website provides information about the biodiesel industry’s quality assurance program and which companies participate.
  • Use a B20 blend or below.
  • Blend biodiesel with kerosene.
  • Blend biodiesel with diesel that has been treated with cold weather additives.
  • Use engine block and fuel filter heaters.

The NBB’s website,, provides excellent examples of cold weather successes and includes more information about using biodiesel blends in cold climates. Also, learn more about Biodiesel.

A New In-line Fuel Warmer

Many fleet maintenance experts suggest using in-line fuel heaters to prevent fuel gelling. At the NTEA Work Truck Show last March, Arctic Fox launched the I-909BTEH-B100 Biodiesel-Compatible In-Line Diesel Fuel Warmer. Joining its other proven In-Tank and In-Line fuel warmers, the I-909BTEH combines engine coolant and 110V electric preheat. Operators using Arctic Fox fuel warmers can reduce the use of blended fuel and additives in cold weather. The unit works with all fuel blends, including biodiesel up to B100. It can be integrated into electric block heaters for easy plug-in options and it includes integral thermostat control to maintain optimum fuel temperature. It’s designed with easy mounting options and is often good for the life of the truck. For more information, visit