PTL Marine Prepares For Future Renewable Diesel Needs

With its recent expansion to providing renewable diesel fuel at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, PTL Marine has taken another step toward eventually making it available on the Western Rivers.

“Renewable diesel is becoming a more readily available product, particularly right now in the West Coast markets,” said David Reynolds, president of the company, a division of Pilot Thomas Logistics.

While sometimes confused with bio-diesel, renewable diesel is not blended with conventional diesel and requires no engine modifications to run. As a result, vessels running on renewable diesel can switch back and forth between it and conventional fuel.

Renewable diesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats and greases instead of fossil fuels, so it creates a cleaner burning product overall. One of the largest feedstocks is restaurants recycling used cooking oil.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

Incentives in Place

California tax incentives, combined with a state regulation going into effect January 1 that will require renewable fuels for commercial harbor craft, make it the right time for PTL to expand its offerings on the Pacific Coast, Reynolds said. The company had already offered renewable diesel in the San Francisco Harbor for the past three years.

When renewable diesel will be available on the rivers will depend on such factors as whether other states offer tax incentives and how much demand there is from shippers.

Following implementation in California, he said it is more likely the other Pacific Coast states—Washington and Oregon—will move forward with its use.

“How that ultimately translates to the inland waterways where you have multiple legislative arms at play, we’re not exactly sure, but we’re starting to receive multiple inquiries from our customers asking about renewable diesel and bio-diesel,” Reynolds said.

Common Questions

The company’s business development manager, Steve Taylor, who serves PTL out of its California operation, said most product inquiries from customers revolve around renewable diesel’s availability and compatibility with conventional diesel. 

“Since it’s essentially a new product being introduced to the marketplace, I most commonly field questions about supply and delivery,” Taylor said. “Since PTL Marine has been on the front-end of the adoption of renewable diesel, it has actively worked with its partners to secure supply.”

Additionally, Taylor answers customers’ questions about blending fuel types.

 “Since no one brings us an empty tank, there are often questions surrounding the combination of renewable diesel with other conventional diesel products,” Taylor said. “I share with them there should be no issues with combining these different fuels.”

Moving Forward

There is no doubt that both demand for renewable fuels and their production capacity are increasing in the United States.

In 2020, 960 million gallons of renewable diesel was consumed in the United States, with the great majority of it used in California.

There are several refineries that are expanding their renewable diesel capabilities or that are in the process of converting to renewable diesel,” Reynolds said.

The industry is expected to increase its capacity by 2 billion gallons of renewable diesel in the next three to five years, he said.

Reynolds is vice chairman of the American Waterways Operators’ Midwest Region and also on the board. He said an AWO task force plans to meet in September to talk about the future of decarbonization on the rivers.

“I think there will be a place for renewable diesel on the inland waterways that will be part of a multi-pronged solution to help the industry and its customers meet their respective sustainability goals,” he said. “PTL Marine looks forward to participating in support of those initiatives.”