Biodiesel problems move north of the border

| 2/7/2006

There’s something fishy about the biodiesel they are using in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Fishy in more ways than one.

In 2005, the Halifax Regional Municipality switched to a fish oil-based biodiesel blend for its Metro Transit bus fleet. However, according to The Chronicle Herald, a local newspaper, the municipality stopped using the biodiesel in December 2005 after a series of problems with the buses.

Paul Beauchamp, general manager of fleet services for the municipality, told The Chronicle Herald that buses were stalling and not running properly. He also said the problems could not be blamed on the weather.

“It is not a cold weather issue because last August, we had a dozen buses that one day just would not start,” he said.

Instead, what the city officials said they found was that, over time, the biodiesel was creating a sticky substance that was clogging the fuel systems of the buses.

However, officials with Wilson Fuel Co., which supplies the biodiesel for the buses, maintain that there is nothing wrong with the fuel. In fact, Dave Collins, vice president of Wilson, told The Chronicle Herald that he believes it’s a problem with the engines themselves.

“What it has led back to each time we go through this process, is there is something with the underlying engineering as opposed to the fluid itself,” he said.

Collins said it is a matter of finding the right blend to work with the engines in the buses.

Beauchamp said he doesn’t believe it is an engine problem, as the city has had problems with Cummins, Ford and Detroit Diesel brand engines. He said they’ve also had engines from each of those companies that have worked just fine, The Chronicle Herald reported.

The city has suspended use of biodiesel indefinitely until the source of the problem can be identified and remedied.

-- Terry Scruton, senior writer