Sheppard pumps alternative fuel

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Sheppard officially opened its new safer and greener military fuel service station Monday at 9 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

The new station is the fruition of two simultaneous contracts, at a cost of about $498,000 total, that started up in August 2004, one for environmental remediation and one to get Sheppard into the swing of using biodiesel and E85, environmentally friendly alternative fuels. 

"The new layout dramatically increases vehicle flow around and near the station," said 82nd Mission Support Group commander Col. Steven McKay during his speech at the event. 

They placed the dispensing pumps on a turn around to free up the main road while tank trucks offload fuel. Before the redesign, tank trucks blocked access to the main road, creating unsafe traffic conditions. 

The new station's above-ground piping, secondary containment reservoir and high-level shut off valves with tank-specific alarm systems almost eliminates the possibility of tank overflow and fuel leaks. The design also allows for fuel recovery and filtering in the unlikely event of a leak, the colonel said. 

They also brought in pumps for biodiesel, or B20, and E85 ethanol, to conform to Presidential Executive Order 13123: Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management. Now, about 183 out of the 203 diesel vehicles at Sheppard will run off of B20, a biodegradable fuel that burns cleanly and is made from a renewable source. 

"The active lead Sheppard is taking in becoming less wasteful and more conscious of our role to be good stewards of our planet will leave a better place to call home for those who come after us," Colonel McKay said. 

B20, made up of 80 percent low-sulfur diesel and 20 percent biomass, is made primarily from soybean oil and used restaurant cooking oil. 

It is nearly free of sulfur and carcinogenic benzene, two of the components of petroleum diesel that the Environmental Protection Agency and state emissions boards have issued regulations on because of environmental and health concerns. 

The fuel doesn't harm diesel engines as long as the fuel quality is good. 

"While no automaker recommends the use of biodiesel blends higher than B5 in the United States, all have done research on the use of biodiesel blends up to B20 and feel confident in its performance so long as the fuel is of high quality," said Charles Berry, project manager. 

Quality is one of the most challenging issues, he said. Fueling stations need to treat biodiesel differently than other fuels. 

The temperature is very critical. If it gets too warm, mold could grow. If it's too cold, it will thicken. These problems occur if the biodiesel isn't used quickly enough.
Sheppard has been using biodiesel for about two weeks, and 82nd Logistics Readiness Squadron former commander Lt. Col. Maria Garcia said they haven't had any problems with the fuel. 

Sheppard has also started using E85, which is 85 percent ethanol fuel made from corn and 15 percent gasoline. E85 is compatible with Flexible Fuel Vehicles. At the moment, 14 of Sheppard's vehicles can use E85. 

It burns cleaner than regular gas and oxygenates the environment with 40 percent less carbon monoxide and 15 percent less smog-forming compounds than gas. 

"The use of these alternative fuels signals a national consciousness dictating less waste, more efficiency with available energy resources, and a concerted effort to make those sources of energy renewable and home-grown right here in America," Colonel McKay said.