Washington County to run vehicles on 'ultra clean diesel'
In what officials say is an effort to transition to cleaner motor vehicle fuels, Washington County will begin using a renewable diesel blend to power its fleet.
The county agreed to be the first local customer for "ultra clean diesel," a patent-pending fuel blend produced by Renewable Energy Group Inc., or REG. Bretthauer Oil, which operates a chain of Pacific Pride commercial fuel stations — sometimes called cardlock facilities, after the card system used to purchase fuel — started selling the REG renewable diesel blend at two of its locations on Friday, Sept. 6.
Kevin and Alex Bretthauer, the brother-and-sister duo behind Bretthauer Oil, said their goal is to offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to standard diesel without the operational drawbacks of biodiesel, which can become gummy and viscous in cold weather, or the sticker shock of so-called renewable diesel, which is significantly more expensive than conventional diesel and difficult to find in Oregon.
The company, Kevin Bretthauer said, is "trying to make a big environmental push in an industry that's notorious for not being environmentally friendly."
The REG blend that Bretthauer Oil is now selling — at its Pacific Pride stations in downtown Hillsboro, near the Washington County Jail, and south McMinnville, near the McMinnville Airport — has a lower proportion of renewable diesel than the company would like, Kevin Bretthauer said, but he sees it as a step in the right direction.
"We think a lot of individual users are going to push some demand, and then hopefully some forward-thinking businesses are going to be a big part of this as well," he said.
Washington County officials have been interested in reducing the county's carbon footprint, said Tom Keyser, the county's vehicle fleet manager. One of the products they have been eyeing is renewable diesel.
"We've been trying to get it in the region," Keyser said. "It's really tough. We just don't really have the demand for it yet."
But when Bretthauer Oil, which is the exclusive motor vehicle fuel provider for Washington County, approached him about using the ultra clean diesel blend, Keyser said it seemed like an ideal fit. Switching to the more eco-friendly fuel won't cost the county more than a few extra cents per gallon, he said, and it could have cost savings in the long run because it's reputedly easier on diesel-burning engines than conventional diesel or biodiesel blends.
"In my opinion, the maintenance we're going to save with less wear and tear on the vehicles will outweigh (additional fuel costs)," Keyser said.
Both Bretthauer Oil and Washington County are starting fairly small.
Keyser said he will identify about five vehicles to begin using the ultra clean diesel blend this month. If that goes well, all diesel-burning vehicles in the county's fleet — a little under 100 vehicles in total, many of them used by the Department of Land Use & Transportation — will make the switch.
For Bretthauer Oil, the company chose two high-volume stations near the urban-rural divide to gauge how the new product will sell.
"We see Hillsboro and McMinnville as two hotspots where people are going to be interested in this product," Kevin Bretthauer explained.
Bretthauer Oil is based in Hillsboro, although its operations extend into Washington and California as well. It's a fourth-generation family-owned business.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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