Audi and Rentech demonstrate potential of synthetic diesel fuel
Although Audi has made great strides in promoting the wonders of its advanced turbocharged direct injected (TDI) diesel engines when it comes to helping reduce our dependence on petroleum and improve CO2 emissions, it's embarking on a new and even more promising chapter of the TDI saga. This week, a pair of A3 TDI models is undertaking a 1,000-mile tour of California to demonstrate the even-greater ecological benefits possible through the use of synthetic diesel fuel, specifically a formulation created by Los Angeles-based RenTech Inc. Starting out in Eureka on the Northwest coast, the "Eureka! Diesel Drives the Future" excursion is the final leg of the inaugural Green Car of the Year Tour, an event sponsored by Green Car Journal, which bestowed its top honor on the 2010 A3 TDI.
A long-time proponent of synthetic diesel fuel, Audi found a willing and capable partner in Rentech. Its RenDiesel can be produced from any number of sources that range from biomass to natural gas and produces emissions lower in particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx) and carbon dioxide (CO²) as well as fewer volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions than ethanol or traditional clean diesel. Currently in use as an ultra-clean synthetic jet fuel, Rentech says it has the potential be twice as fuel efficient as a car running on ethanol. Rentech has presented a proposal to open a new super-green production facility in Rialto, California, that coulld produce about 640 barrels a day of synthetic fuels and 35 megawatts of renewable electric power from urban waste diverted from landfills. It also claims the RenDiesel produced from the facility would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 97 percent compared to conventional clean diesel fuel -- and by a comparable amount over electric vehicles.
"Diesel vehicles such as the Audi A3 TDI and synthetic drop-in fuels such as renewable RenDiesel provide powerful solutions to reducing tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions as well as the need for domestically produced fuels," said D. Hunt Ramsbottom, President and CEO of Rentech. "These solutions are magnified when renewable RenDiesel powers an A3 TDI, making it one of the most viable and near-term means for emissions reductions."
At the moment, Audi only permits the use of five-percent biodiesel blends its TDI vehicles without voiding the warranty, a decision primarily driven by inconsistent global standards for alternative fuels. However, it felt the opportunity to work with Rentech on this effort to be a mutually beneficial undertaking that would showcase the future potential for using a properly formulated form of renewable syn-diesel. Johan de Nysschen, President, Audi of America underscored Ramsbottom's comments, noting "The answer that Audi TDI technology provides is ready now and future advances in fuels, such as RenDiesel, will only make the case for diesel more compelling. With TDI we can make an impact now and a bigger impact in the near-term."