Biodiesel is an Illinois soybean producer success story. Since the mid-1990s, the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program has invested significant funds, time and expertise in building the industry from the ground up. ISA remains one of its primary visionary leaders.

Today, Illinois is one of the largest biodiesel-producing states. Five plants can produce up to 170 million gallons of biodiesel per year — a significant market, as the oil from one bushel of soybeans can produce 1.5 gallons of the fuel.

Biodiesel production also supports nearly 2,000 jobs across the Illinois economy. Between 2004 and 2015, Illinois biodiesel generated $1.6 billion in household income and more than $3 billion of the state’s gross domestic product.

So, how did biodiesel attain this level of success in Illinois? Early in its inception and development, ISA farmer leaders voted to help conduct critical research to prove biodiesel’s positive health and performance effects. From there, ISA has participated in developing and promoting biodiesel’s use in a variety of transportation and equipment applications.

ISA has earned a reputation for investing in opportunities for biodiesel that might otherwise have been overlooked for their possible positive impact on the industry.

Most recently, ISA secured a research firm to conduct a soon-to-be-completed study on potential for greater biodiesel use by the maritime industry.

With new International Maritime Organization regulations taking effect in 2020, tens of thousands of ocean-going vessels will need to rethink current fuel use in favor of options with lower sulfur emissions, such as biodiesel. ISA is helping determine economic feasibility and promising pathways to introduce biodiesel here.

At the same time, ISA continues to look for ways to help current biodiesel users successfully expand the percent of biodiesel they consume. For example, ISA is funding a project that is analyzing fleet performance when vehicles run on B100.

The pilot project is underway at the Chicago Park District using an innovative fuel system from Optimus Technologies, a company focused on high-performance biodiesel solutions for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. With the technology, CPD equipment operators are usingB100 in existing diesel vehicles to lower harmful particulates and reduce greenhouse gases.

The project stems from CPD’s membership in the B20 Club, a partnership between ISA and the American Lung Association supporting Illinois-based fleets devoted to 20% biodiesel use.

The Chicago Park District has been strongly committed to vehicle sustainability and has pushed the envelope for biodiesel blends in its park maintenance fleets. Diesel vehicles, ranging from lawn mowers to log loaders, already run on up to 50% biodiesel blends through the year.

Last fall, the CPD installed Optimus’s system on two refuse trucks. They allowed the trucks to run on B100 for much of the workday without interaction by drivers.

As refuse haulers help maintain the park, telematics units track several key engine parameters, like fuel economy and diesel particulate filter performance. The project will show how using biodiesel affects DPFs and help organizers understand how trucks perform on higher blends.

Several additional success stories of biodiesel use have been generated over the years, and ISA has developed an extensive library of biodiesel resources I encourage other Illinois producers to learn more and participate in this ongoing success story.


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