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Biodiesel Initiative at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont

B is for Biodiesel
Here’s a puzzler for you: what could Smuggs possibly have in common with country singer Willie Nelson and the University of Vermont’s campus transportation system? Answer: All three are pursuing the use of biodiesel as an alternative fuel source. Biodiesel is a vegetable oil-based fuel that is usually made from soy or canola oil, but can also be made from recycled fryer oil from restaurants. Willie Nelson promotes biodiesel with the BioWillie BioDiesel logo on items ranging from mousepads to t-shirts. While we at Smuggs have not yet gotten into biodiesel logowear (featuring BioBillyBob perhaps?), we do want to spread the word on how the Resort is incorporating this environmentally friendly fuel into daily use.

After receiving a federal grant from the Department of Energy through the Vermont Biodiesel Project to conduct a commercial scale pilot project with our snowmaking compressors during the 2005/06 Winter season, Smuggs decided to try its own program. This included switching during the Summer of 2005 to biodiesel for all of our Village-based off road diesel equipment. The Village Services diesel tank is now filled with B20, a blend of 20 percent vegetable oil and 80 percent regular diesel. The equipment that uses this fuel includes the Woods disc golf lawn mower, the Bobcat, the Terex backhoe, one Kubota tractor, and Corporate Development’s all terrain forklift. Village Services manager Paul Luneau comments that overall, the cost of using biodiesel is just a few cents more than diesel, with an improvement in equipment performance and benefits for the environment.

One immediate benefit of using biodiesel is reducing emissions, which translates into less pollution. In fact, pure biodiesel, known as B100, contributes almost zero emissions to global warming. Engine benefits include less maintenance and longer life because of biodiesel’s excellent lubricity. Researchers from Keene State College in New Hampshire will be performing air quality testing in conjunction with the Resort’s use of biodiesel at the compressor station. The testing will help quantify some of the environmental benefits of the fuel in terms of emissions.

Biodiesel is also sustainable and, when used in its purest form, non-toxic. And forget that traditional diesel odor. Descriptions of biodiesel fumes range from “donuts frying” to “French fries.” Indeed, Paul Luneau remarks that when operating biodiesel-fueled equipment at Smuggs, "sometimes you feel like you are sitting in McDonald’s.”

With all of these benefits, you might wonder why we aren’t using pure biodiesel at Smuggs. Unfortunately, biodiesel does have a higher gel point than straight diesel, and at temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, pure biodiesel can get a little slushy. But B20 has a gel point of 7 degrees to —15 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a better choice for Vermont’s cold winters. The gel point can be lowered further with additives if needed.

In a test program during Winter 2005-2006, we used B20 to fuel all of our snowmaking compressors. The 400-horsepower compressors power the Resort’s snowmaking operations and use substantial amounts of fuel. More than 200,000 gallons of B20 are expected to be used over the course of the summer and winter seasons. Jack F. Corse, Inc., located in Cambridge, is supplying the biodiesel to Smuggs.

“We’re expecting that using the B20 during our two busiest seasons will allow us to assess whether this alternative fuel will serve the Resort’s needs for long term usage,” said Tom McGrail, environmental compliance manager at Smugglers'. “With its many positive implications for the environment, integrating biodiesel at Smuggs is an exciting project to be a part of.”

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