Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC)
Workshop Demonstrates Benefits of Sustainable, Renewable, Domestically Produced Biodiesel
TAMPA, Fla. (September 9, 2016) – On Tuesday, August 23, Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC) partnered with the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) to host "Benefits of Biodiesel", a half-day workshop that featured presentations from the region's leading biodiesel industry and research experts. Over 30 local stakeholders, including city and county governments, environmental organizations, and industry representatives, attended the workshop to learn how this plant-based alternative fuel can help fleets reduce both operating costs and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Prior to presentations, attendees gathered in the front lobby to network and meet with representatives from Targray, Florida Power & Light (FPL), and THEA.
The workshop kicked off with a welcome by Joe Waggoner, CEO of THEA, who commended the region's efforts with biodiesel and emphasized the importance of fuel diversification as the city continues to grow. Steve Reich, coordinator for TBCCC, followed with a general overview of the Tampa Bay area's progress toward biodiesel adoption, stating that while production and use are not as high as in other states, interest in this alternative fuel is on the rise in Florida.
Back in January, the National Biodiesel Board—the national trade association for the biofuels industry—hosted its annual conference and expo at the Tampa Convention Center, with plans to return the conference to Tampa on a rotating basis.
"Tampa Bay Clean Cities is pleased to be able to inform people in our region about the benefits and characteristics of this domestically produced transportation fuel," said Reich. "For those using or managing diesel fleets, the switch to biodiesel is incredibly easy, inexpensive, and results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced from 15 percent up to 75 percent over petroleum-based diesel depending on the biodiesel blend."
Kevin Herdler, coordinator for St. Louis Clean Cities Coalition and Clnfuels consultant, explained the basics of biodiesel production and detailed the fuel's economic and environmental advantages.
This workshop brought together a variety of those involved in the biodiesel arena," said Herdler. "This is a good opportunity to grow the biodiesel market in the Tampa Bay region."
Patti Earley, fleet fueling operations specialist for FPL, reviewed the advantages of biodiesel from both fleet and supplier perspectives. FPL began experimenting with biodiesel in 1999 as a way to earn alternative vehicle compliance credits for EPAct. Earley noted that as the program's success grew, FPL increased its biodiesel usage from 40,000 gallons of B100 to current usage of more than 400,000 gallons per year. FPL blends the fuel to create B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel), which is used to power its 1,800-plus vehicle fleet.
"Biodiesel is renewable, sustainable, domestically produced, and non-toxic," said Earley. "Combined with the fact that it is also a drop-in fuel makes biodiesel an optimal fuel option for fleets."
Following a short break, University of South Florida (USF) researchers Dr. Aydin Sunol from the College of Engineering and Dr. George Philippidis from the Patel College of Global Sustainability presented on the university's renewable biodiesel initiative and the role of advanced and sustainable biofuels. The USF Bull Runner Transit System provides students, staff, and faculty with free transportation around the campus and a few locations off-campus, and since 2002 has been fueled by various biodiesel blends. Under the directive of the Colleges of Engineering and Sustainability, a student-led project was developed to fuel the transit buses with renewable biodiesel made from local sources, including waste oil from restaurants and alcohols from hospitals.
"The mobile biodiesel mini-plant effort at the University of South Florida is a grassroots
community integration project," said Sunol. "The novel process utilizes a fast, catalyst-free,
green, and robust technology which we have expertise in, and the program is run by
undergraduate and graduate students, students' parents, alumni, and faculty from several
colleges and campuses."
In addition to the biodiesel mini-plant project, the university is also at the forefront of research into the commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts. Dr. Philippidis leads a research team that focuses on market applications of algae cultivation, biomass conversion, and renewable biodiesel production.
"Developing more sustainable ways for producing biodiesel at a large scale—using waste oils and algae and reducing the use of chemicals and water—will further enhance its potential to replace fossil fuels in both transportation and power generation around the world," said Philippidis.
Attendees were then invited to participate in a tour of the Transportation Management Center (TMC), a joint venture between the City of Tampa and THEA. The TMC is the city's traffic management nerve center where data about the traffic signal system is collected, processed, and fused with additional data that allows real-time monitoring of Expressway and city traffic operations. Attendees watched as operators changed traffic direction on the Selmon Expressway reversible express lanes (REL) in real-time.
Reich wrapped up the event with a brief introduction to the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot project, which is a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) initiative to test cutting-edge connected vehicle technologies. Last year, Tampa was selected by USDOT as one of three pilot sites to deploy these technologies.
The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at USF is working with THEA to evaluate safety and mobile applications on and in proximity to the reversible freeway lanes in Tampa.