Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: PNM, Sandia Labs, UNM take a ride with biodiesel

This is a sidebar to an article about biodiesel, “Pumped for the Future.”

Biodiesel has grown in popularity throughout the state and country as more Americans look to alternative fuels that offer renewability, gently treat the environment and don’t rest in foreign countries.

Here’s a rundown of some New Mexico companies and organizations using biodiesel:

Public Service Company of New Mexico

In June, PNM hitched onto a mix of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel – commonly known as B20 – despite the fuel costing 9 cents to 15 cents more per gallon. Two-hundred forty-three of its diesel-powered fleet of 426 vehicles regularly use the mix.

The company has gulped 53,000 gallons of the fuel so far, and expects to hit 100,000 gallons by the end of the year. Next year could see around 240,000 gallons of B20 being consumed.

The benefits: It’s easier on the engines, burns cleaner and could cut costs in the long run. PNM buys the fuel on a month-by-month basis but hopes to finalize a long-term supply contract soon.

Santa Fe Southern Railway

In April, the 1,600-gallon tank of the Santa Fe Southern Railway’s locomotive began accepting B20 fuel – a mix of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel.

The locomotive goes through 900 gallons of fuel a week during the busy season. According to a company spokeswoman, Vickie Pozzebon, the black plume of exhaust rising from the locomotive has gone beige, and its smell has lost some potency.

Sandia National Laboratories

The national lab first experimented with biodiesel in 2003, but didn’t go full swing until July 2005. Up to the end of September, 82 vehicles of its local fleet of 684 vehicles used 32,304 gallons of B20 fuel, says Mark Crawford, the labs’ manager of fleet services.

Part of its motivation to start was Executive Order 13149, implemented in 2000. The order states: “Each agency operating 20 or more motor vehicles within the United States shall reduce its entire vehicle fleet’s annual petroleum consumption by at least 20 percent by the end of FY 2005, compared with FY 1999 petroleum consumption levels.”

The city of Albuquerque

In September 2004, about 750 vehicles in the Duke City’s fleet of 3,000 began regularly using B20 fuel. The fuel costs 19 cents more per gallon, but burns cleaner and is easier on the engines.

However, its lubricity – or slipperiness – cleans the grime out of old engines that, when let loose in the system, can cause problems. The city’s consumption comes to about 15,000 gallons a month, says Paul Alexander, assistant fleet manager.

University of New Mexico

UNM began moving to biodiesel use in April 2003 and today has 35 vehicles – from lawn mowers to buses – running off B20 fuel. They go through 800 gallons of the fuel a week.

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