Port of Seattle Pushes for Statewide Renewable Fuel Standard

File image courtesy of Port of Seattle

Published Feb 27, 2020 2:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Seattle, Washington is calling for the enactment of a statewide clean fuels standard mandating the use of renewable diesel, arguing that it would reduce carbon emissions and lower the procurement cost for the fuel. 

California and Oregon have already implemented clean fuel standards, and the Port of Seattle pointed to its southern neighbors' experiences to argue for enacting similar policies. California has avoided the use of more than fifteen billion gallons of petroleum fuel since enacting its
standard in 2011, the port said, and more than thirty new biorefinery projects have been announced to serve that
market over the same period. At the same time, gas prices in LA are lower today than they were in 2011. 

Part of the benefit of legislation would be creating a large enough market for sustainable fuel to drive down the price. Washington State's petroleum refiners serve a captive market and are remarkably profitable, reporting earnings of 70 cents per gallon for diesel as of January. These high margins are greater than the highest estimates for the extra cost of producing biorefined fuels at scale; a legal requirement to buy would produce the demand signal needed for biorefinery investment at the scale needed to drive down biofuel prices. 

Other states' experiences indicate that this can cut the price of fuel. Californians pay about $1.60 per gallon for renewable diesel versus $2.85 per gallon for conventional over-the-road ULSD; by comparison, the Port of Seattle pays a premium for renewable diesel. 

"Both California and Oregon created strong demand for these fuels through legislation that sets standards for cleaner fuels. These policies, referred to as a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in California and a Clean Fuel Standard in Oregon, have dramatically increased the demand and hence availability of RD, renewable natural gas, and other renewable fuels at much lower prices than we currently see here in Washington," the port contends. 

The Port of Seattle is an airport operator, and it wants to see sustainable aviation fuel make up 10 percent of the supply at Sea-Tac Airport by 2028. Studies have shown that these alternative fuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent and fine particulate emissions up to 70 percent, which would improve the air quality in local communities near Seattle's seaport and airport. 

Renewable diesel is made by hydrogenating natural fats like waste grease, vegetable oil and tallow. The hydrogenation process is derived from a method used for refining crude oil. The final product burns more cleanly than petroleum diesel and can be used at any blend ratio.