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Fuelling Up With Ethanol!

Correctional Service of Canada Installs E-85 Fuelling Sites and “Greens” its Fleet

To meet its climate change and regional economic development objectives, the Government of Canada is supporting the increased use of ethanol as a transportation fuel. In keeping with this policy, and with financial assistance from Natural Resources Canada’s Federal Vehicles Initiative (FVI), the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has installed six new E-85 fuelling sites in the Prairie Region. E-85 is a blended fuel that contains up to 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel. Unlike conventional gasoline, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The new fuelling sites are at institutions in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; and Drumheller, Edmonton, Grand Cache and Innisfail, Alberta. Two sites have 1500-gallon (5678-litre) tanks and the other four sites have 1000-gallon (3785-litre) tanks.

Correctional Service of Canada Garage Supervisor Carl Gundlach of Drumheller Institution fuelling a 2003 Dodge Caravan

CSC has 215 vehicles in the Prairie Region for hauling supplies and for inmate transfers, institutional maintenance and staff transportation. Forty of the fleet’s vehicles are flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs). FFVs are specially fitted vehicles with fuel management computers smart enough to automatically adjust the vehicle fuel mixture and timing to optimally use any mixture of gasoline and ethanol between 0 and 85 percent ethanol. FFV capability is available in many popular models – such as the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caravan, Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram – at costs comparable with those for regular gasoline vehicles. For the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, FFV capability is now standard on current year models. CSC is considering FFV availability whenever it is specifying vehicles for use at sites with E-85 fuelling facilities.

Federal Vehicles Initiative Plays a Key Role

The FVI provided financial assistance for the incremental costs of installing the six E-85 fuelling sites. Because of the higher alcohol content in the fuel, the fuel pumps, hoses and other fuel-dispensing components had to be carefully selected for compatibility with the special solvent characteristics of ethanol. FVI is also providing financial assistance to purchase the ethanol. In efforts to increase the use of E-85 fuel among the Government of Canada’s E-85 vehicle fleet, FVI is offering a subsidy that makes the fuel more competitive against gasoline.

The FVI’s role is to help departments reduce their GHG emissions from vehicle operations as part of the Federal House in Order (FHIO) initiative. The FVI plays a key role in promoting the purchase of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles and encouraging greater alternative fuel use in the federal fleet through education, tools and resources, and through the expansion of alternative-fuel infrastructure.

Benefits of Ethanol

CSC Prairie Region won an environmental award from CSC for adopting green fuelling technology. Ethanol reduces GHG emissions because it is made from plants (grain or other biomass). As they grow, the plants use energy from the sun (photosynthesis) to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and hydrogen from the water in the soil. When ethanol burns, the CO2 and water are returned to the environment in an endless and sustainable cycle. Although the conversion of the biomass to ethanol and the burning of the ethanol produce emissions, the net effect is a large reduction in GHG emissions compared with that for producing, refining and burning fossil fuels, such as gasoline. Almost all gasoline-engine vehicles can use low-level ethanol-blended gasoline (gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol). Ethanol blends of up to 85 percent can reduce CO2 emissions by half compared with gasoline. CSC Regional Fleet Manager Brian Grant says that with ethanol, the farmers’ fields essentially act as huge solar collectors by collecting and storing the sun’s energy in the growing plants during the long hot summer days, so energy can be released by burning the fuel during our cold dark winters. This ability to store and transform low-cost renewable solar energy for use during high-demand periods and to displace fossil fuels is what makes biomass so attractive.

CSC plans to install several more E-85 fuelling sites, in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The following sites are being looked at: Kingston and Gravenhurst, Ontario; Laval and Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec; and Abbotsford and Kent, British Columbia. Given that transportation is the single largest source of GHG emissions in Canada, accounting for approximately 25 percent of the total, this sector presents important opportunities and challenges for Canada in meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. “Ethanol-blended fuel is the best alternative fuel choice, because the fuel is a sustainable energy source that people aren’t afraid of and it’s totally compatible with existing vehicle engine technology and the fuel distribution infrastructure,” says Brian Grant, Regional Fleet Manager for CSC’s Prairie Region.

To find out more about how your department can become a partner in implementing the use of E-85 fuel and vehicles within your operations, contact the FVI.