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Contact: Lowman S. Henry (717) 939-9551 Ext. # 2934 September 18, 1996
SOYBEANS HELPING TO POWER TURNPIKE VEHICLE FLEET
Soydiesel requires no special facilities, reduces emissions
Harrisburg -- They've been ground to make burgers and roasted
to make snacks, now soybeans are being turned into fuel. And, the
next time you pass a Pennsylvania Turnpike vehicle, it could be
powered by soydiesel.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has taken delivery of nearly 2,000
gallons of soybean oil which will be mixed with 10,000 gallons of
regular diesel fuel to help power the Turnpike's vehicle fleet.
Since 75% of the vehicles owned by the Turnpike run on diesel, the
switch to soydiesel represents a significant effort on the part of
the Turnpike to switch to alternate fuels.
Jack Doyle, Fleet Equipment Systems Manager for the Turnpike
said that soydiesel has been used by vehicles refueling at the
Trevose and Devault maintenance sheds for the past two weeks and
"we've experienced no problems".
The addition of soydiesel to the two Turnpike fueling stations
comes after a test conducted last winter at the New Cumberland
maintenance shed in which 600 gallons of the 20% soy/80% regular
diesel fuel mix were used in a number of Turnpike pick-up trucks.
"That test went well so we decided to expand the program," said
Doyle. "Soydiesel will be used in all types of diesel-powered
vehicles including large trucks, small trucks -- even tractors."
The soydiesel mix is about $.50 a gallon more expensive at the
moment than regular diesel fuel. "That's basically because the
national soybean reserve is low and there isn't a large stock
available for conversion to fuel," Doyle explained.
But cost isn't the only factor in the Turnpike's experiment
with soydiesel. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) requires the
Turnpike to utilize alternative fuels in 10% of its vehicles under
8700 pounds gross weight by 1997. By 2001, 75% of the vehicles
purchased by the Turnpike in that weight category must run on
"The law covers most of the vehicles in the Turnpike's fleet,"
said Doyle. "All our cars, pick-up trucks, utility trucks, vans
and some small trucks fit into that category."
Biodiesel does not yet qualify as an alternative fuel under
federal law, but efforts are underway in Washington to have the
fuel included. "We hope soydiesel will qualify because there are a
number of benefits for the Turnpike," Doyle continued. "One of the
top advantages of soydiesel is that it doesn't require special
tanks, special handling or expensive alterations to the vehicles."
Soydiesel is also environment-friendly. It results in lower
emissions of smoke and particulate matter. During the Turnpike's
test program last winter, vehicles using soydiesel emitted 17% less
particulate matter. The fuel is also non-toxic and biodegradable.
"In fact," Doyle said there has been just one problem
identified with using soydiesel. "The exhaust smells like cooking
french fries so the equipment operators are getting hungry
The experiments with soydiesel are not the Turnpike's first
venture into alternative fuels. There are two natural gas-powered
pick-up trucks in the Turnpike fleet with fueling stations near
Gibsonia and Plymouth Meeting. In mid-October, the Turnpike plans
to take delivery of a propane-powered pick-up truck which will be
stationed at the Western Regional Office in New Stanton.
Efforts to introduce alternative fuel-powered vehicles into
the Turnpike fleet have been frustrated by the lack of available
refueling locations. "Basically we have to develop our own network
of refueling stations," said Doyle. If the expanded soydiesel test
program goes well, all 20 of the Turnpike's diesel refueling
stations will begin using the fuel.
"If soydiesel is accepted by the federal government as an
alternative fuel, it looks like the most economical way for us to
comply with EPACT regulations," Doyle concluded. "In the meantime,
we will continue our experiments with other environment-friendly
P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676 Phone: (717) 939-9551 Fax: (717) 986-9649