Fueled by French fries: Casco Bay Lines Runs on Biodiesel

Because we have such a close relationship with the sea, we’re always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact.

That’s why, in 2014, we partnered with the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) to switch our beloved fleet of ferries to a biodiesel mix—a renewable fuel made from a combination of traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and fats and oils sourced from local restaurants.

Earlier this month, we sat down with Jennifer Brennan, GPCOG’s Energy Project Manager, and Ben Lake, GPCOG’s Clean Transportation Manager, to chat about the transition and the impact it has had.

“This was something that aligned very nicely within our scope of work,” said Ben. GPCOG was the perfect partner to provide the technical support to guide us through this switch. With the help of their Maine Clean Communities program, which works closely with fleets like ours to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, we found Maine Standard Biofuel.

During the research process, Jennifer brought us down to the plant where Maine Standard Biofuels makes the fuel so we could learn a little bit more about how it would work for us.

“Any diesel engine can run on biofuel, there is no conversion needed and you can run it [biodiesel] in any amount,” Jennifer said.

Maine Standard Biofuels makes their fuel right here in Portland, over off Riverside Street. For our purposes a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel with regular ultra-low sulfur diesel keeps us chugging along nicely. And, as an added bonus, not only is the fuel locally made, but Maine Standard Biofuels sources the kitchen oil from restaurants right here in town.

Compared with regular diesel fuel, biodiesel significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions over its lifespan. Each year we purchase around 225,000 gallons of B20 biodiesel which, according to GPCOG estimates, has reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 846,092 lbs. a year.

Cost effective, local and clean – we made the switch! And we’ve been ferrying people to and from the islands of Casco Bay, 365 days a year, running on the biodiesel mix, ever since.

Not only has the biodiesel cut down on our emissions, but the crew and passengers have noticed a difference in their experience. Jennifer, who also happens to be a Great Diamond Island resident, described how she used to have to worry about soot ending up on her white sweater. Thanks to this change, everyone gets to experience cleaner air while they cruise Casco Bay.

Learn more about Maine Clean Communities and GPCOG.