The flagship research center of the Agricultural Research Service will be one of the beneficiaries of the largest-ever single contract for the biodiesel fuel known as B20 --a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has contracted to have more than 1.5 million gallons of B20 delivered to military and civilian locations nationwide through July 2002.

Under this contract, the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center, which uses more than 100,000 gallons of B20 per year, will now get pre-blended B20 biodiesel fuel delivered. The center uses biodiesel in its entire fleet of more than 150 diesel vehicles, in standby generators, and in boilers to provide steam for heating buildings and for research equipment that uses steam to sterilize.

The DOD contract allows federal agencies to buy B20 biodiesel at a low price--currently 82 cents per gallon, which is competitive with petroleum diesel wholesale and retail prices. The federal government is turning to biodiesel as a cleaner-burning alternative in diesel-powered vehicles and equipment.

The Beltsville center expects that heating use will expand its demand for B20 to more than 300,000 gallons a year, especially in severe winters. At that usage level and at today's price, the center would save $144,000 a year in biodiesel costs because of the DOD contract.

Biodiesel can be made by the reaction of vegetable oils, animal fats or spent cooking greases with alcohol.

More information on the ARS bioenergy program can be found in the April 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/apr02/bio0402.htm

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.