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From Farm to Fuel Tank: The Promising Journey of Renewable Diesel

Decoding Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel is one of the latest environmentally-friendly diesel in the market, chemically echoing petroleum diesel but with a 100% green stamp. To appreciate its significance, let’s embark on a quick tour of its predecessors – petroleum diesel and biodiesel.

Petroleum Diesel: Extracted from ancient crude oil comprising hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and trace metals, petroleum diesel is birthed through the process of hydrogenation.

Biodiesel: Veering away from fossils, biodiesel springs from renewable sources like vegetable oils and animal fats. Its unique production, called transesterification, unfortunately, can cause freezing and storage concerns. Typically, biodiesel gets mixed with petroleum diesel, making up 5% to 20% of the mix.

Renewable Diesel: Stepping into the spotlight, renewable diesel, also harvested from nonpetroleum sources, has a production secret. Allen Schaeffer, a voice from the Diesel Technology Forum, notes, “As long as we grow soybeans and produce livestock, the waste…can be refined into a clean, low-carbon fuel.”

What sets renewable diesel apart? Its processing. It mirrors petroleum diesel, ensuring compatibility with existing diesel engines – without the blend. Plus, it’s a cleaner burn, and users evade challenges like freezing associated with biodiesel.

On-the-Ground Experiences

A slew of benefits accompany renewable diesel – sustainability, clean combustion, and compatibility with traditional diesel. Fleets switching have experienced no performance glitches or needed infrastructure changes.

Schaeffer reveals that many fleets embrace renewable diesel for a cost-effective path to sustainability. He says, “Renewable diesel fuel can allow fleets to substantially reduce carbon emissions…without sacrificing power, performance, or driving range.”

A case in point is the City of Oakland, Calif. Seizing the chance when renewable diesel hit the commercial market in Northern California, Richard Battersby, an authority from the city, noted, “Renewable diesel gives you the ability to convert your entire diesel-powered fleet to alternative fuel overnight.” The result? No differences in performance and zero complaints.

Similarly, Oregon’s Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) transitioned to renewable diesel, citing reduced greenhouse emissions and a decrease in fossil fuel reliance. Gary Lentsch, the fleet manager, emphasizes the drop in emissions, saying, “Using a regular gallon of diesel fuel emits more than 30 lbs. of greenhouse gases… Using a gallon of renewable diesel emits less than 10.”

Price Tag on Green Transition

Renewable diesel impresses with its performance and eco-credentials. But how about its cost? In regions like California, it’s neck and neck with petroleum diesel, thanks to policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCSF). Meanwhile, in Oregon, EWEB’s Lentsch mentions a price just above petroleum diesel, foreseeing an equilibrium soon.

Access and Availability

While renewable diesel has carved a niche in California, its spread to other regions faces obstacles. Distribution complexities and cost barriers, especially for inland states, can be hindrances.

However, absence of incentives like LCFS hasn’t deterred eco-conscious fleets. The New York City fleet is mulling over renewable diesel to shrink its carbon footprint. Keith Kerman, a city official, reflects on the rise of renewable diesel, saying, “We are excited about the recent growth…and we are beginning our own discussions with renewable diesel suppliers.”

Schaeffer projects a potential surge in demand, leading to increased availability, while Battersby remains optimistic about the fuel’s longevity.


The renewable diesel wave is on the horizon, promising environmental redemption and uncompromised performance. As more entities board this green train, the future seems promising.