The value of using biodiesel fuel for county fleets may not always show up on paper or in a spreadsheet. That is one thing the commissioners of Scotland County are all right with when they approved a contract to begin using B20 biodiesel in their county fleet this year.
In May, Scotland County was named as the newest Agri-Ready Designated County by Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition of more than 40 leading Missouri agricultural groups that grants designation to counties that create an environment that supports the state’s largest industry – agriculture.
Last year, Scotland County generated $158 million in agricultural sales according to a study conducted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Prior to its Agri-Ready designation, the commissioners were already looking for ways to support the county’s largest economic industry and using biodiesel fuel for its county’s road and bridge fleet seemed like the ideal fit.
“We talked about (using biodiesel) here amongst ourselves,” Associate Commissioner Brent Rockhold said. “We didn’t have any contact with other counties that are using it. At the MAC Annual Conference last fall, we talked with Matt Amick from the Soybean Association about using this type of blended fuel. Then we contacted Caterpillar and John Deere that we have equipment from and they said the fuel would work fine in their equipment and wouldn’t affect the warranty.
“With us being an agriculture community, we figured that it would be a good route to go.”
At the beginning of the year, the commissioners approved the bid for Prairieland FS to begin supplying the county with B20 diesel instead of their typical summer blend of regular No. 2 diesel.
It’s the first time Scotland County has ever used B20 biodiesel in its fleet equipment.
B20 diesel is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent conventional diesel. The B20 diesel fuel that Scotland County uses is produced with soy bean oil, but biodiesel can also be made from different vegetable oils and animal fat.
“We had several discussions about moving to soy-blend diesel and we ended up putting out for a bid of 28,800 gallons of biodiesel,” Rockhold said.
Prairieland FS was awarded the contract at a cost of $2.96 per gallon. Rockhold said the company will be getting the county’s biodiesel from Illinois, but believes it’s a great opportunity for his county and surrounding counties because it helps to support the agriculture community throughout the region.
While $2.96 per gallon of biodiesel may seem cheap now, it wasn’t the case when the commissioners had approved the contract earlier in the year.
At the time, regular No. 2 diesel, which doesn’t contain any blend of biodiesel, was slightly cheaper, but that didn’t matter to the commissioners because the value of biodiesel is not always found in dollars and cents.
“It’s a value-added opportunity for farmers to get a little extra out of their crops, and the environmental benefit of using a cleaner fuel and being a renewable fuel,” Rockhold said. “There are some benefits that don’t show up on paper.”
Biodiesel has been around Missouri since the early 1990s and its use has grown substantially in the state over that time. Missouri now currently produces 200 million gallons of biodiesel each year, which supports more than 2,600 jobs.
“Biodiesel makes sense for local government fleets,” says Matt Amick, Director of Biofuels and New Uses with Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “Biodiesel has a proven performance providing benefits such as higher lubricity, higher cetane and lower emissions, it’s a Missouri-made fuel produced using soybeans grown in the state and its cost effective. A recent study showed biodiesel helps save up to 4 percent on the cost of diesel by extending the supply of diesel fuel. At today’s prices, that’s over 20 cents.”
Amick says the number of local government and state agency fleets using biodiesel blends is growing every year.
“Scotland County, like so many other counties in our state, derive so much economic development and tax revenue from agriculture,” says Amick. “We don’t have any petroleum refineries in Missouri. By supporting biodiesel, counties like Scotland County are choosing to support the local farmers who make important contributions to the county and also supporting a fuel which is made in Missouri.”
The B20 biodiesel that Scotland County was contracted to receive was supposed to start coming in April and run through to October, but the first shipment wasn’t brought in until late May due to a mistake by the vendor who delivered regular No. 2 diesel in April instead of B20.
Still, after using it, Rockhold said there hasn’t been any reported problems.
“Our road boss was in the other day and said that we haven’t had any issues with what we’ve used so far,” Rockhold said.