Chicago Park District Powers its Vehicle Fleet By Turning Cooking Oil into Biodiesel Fuel

CHICAGO, Aug. 30, 2016 – The Chicago Park District will showcase its innovative, environmentally friendly biodiesel program at a Fleet Education Seminar hosted by the Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition on Thursday, Sept. 8.

The Chicago Park District’s program, which uses old cooking oil from local restaurants and events like the Taste of Chicago, enables the Park District to annually consume 8,700 gallons of ASTM-certified biodiesel at up to a 50 percent biodiesel/diesel blend. The high-blend biodiesel fuel is used in 56 of the district’s diesel fleet, ranging from lawnmowers to garbage trucks and log loaders.

“We made the move to clean-burning biodiesel fuel a few years ago,” said Michael Dimitroff, manager of art initiatives, Department of Cultural and Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District, a member of Chicago Area Clean Cities. “It has been paying off from the start, helping us to reduce vehicle emissions and save fuel, as well as save thousands of dollars annually on the cost of fuel.”

The program is a public/private partnership with Darling International, the Renewable Energy Group (REG) and the Chicago Park District. The Texas-based Darling International collects and recycles used restaurant cooking oil and byproducts from the beef, pork, and poultry processing industries. Darling makes a yearly donation of feedstock to the Chicago Park District. The feedstock is converted to biodiesel by REG in their Danville, Ill. facility and sent to the park district’s fueling site for fleet usage. The biodiesel meets BQ-9000 specifications, which is the highest quality biodiesel available.

In 2011, the Chicago Park District repurposed an underutilized fleet fueling site to enable biodiesel blending at the fuel pump. Indigenous Energy, based in Chicago, oversees the biodiesel program and operates the fueling site located at Lakeshore Drive and 39th Street.

Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. According to the U.S. DOE, it is a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel meets both the biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel requirement of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.

“Government fleets in Illinois are required to use at least 5 percent biodiesel, and all the park district’s diesel vehicles are complying with – or surpassing – that mandate,” said Pete Probst, director of research and development, Indigenous Energy. “We ensure a seamless integration of high blends of biodiesel by maintaining fuel integrity and closely monitoring the health of the fleet. The CPD stores the biodiesel in underground tanks and directly fuels their fleet from the blending dispenser and uses the CPD tanker truck to fuel vehicles at other locations throughout the city.”

The Chicago Park District has a fleet of more than 550 vehicles, including nearly 200 vehicles that use a 10 to 20 percent blend of biodiesel, 56 that use up to 50 percent biodiesel, 80 that use E85 fuel, more than 50 hybrid-electric vehicles, and 12 that use clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG).

“The benefits of using renewable fuels and electric vehicles include reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, decreasing vehicle emissions, lowering demand for fossil fuels, increasing demand for domestic based fuels, which increases fuel security, and saving money,” Dimitroff said. “We’re also proud that the Chicago Park District has become a benchmark for other municipalities and fleets that want to go green with their fleets.”

Nearly 50 percent of biodiesel feedstock in the U.S. is derived from soybean oil, according to John DeRosa, director, environmental health for the American Lung Association in Illinois (ALAIL), who will highlight the environmental and health advantages of biodiesel at the seminar on Sept. 8. In partnership with the Illinois Soybean Association, the ALAIL is a joint sponsor of the B20 Club of Illinois, a checkoff-funded program that recognizes and rewards Illinois-based fleets running on biodiesel blends of 20 percent.

The biodiesel workshop will be held on Sept. 8 at the Maple Meadows Golf Course, 272 S. Addison Road, Wood Dale, 60191. Representatives from Clean Cities and the B20 Club will be available to demonstrate the benefits of using clean-burning, domestically produced biodiesel fuel. To register, go to:

About Chicago Area Clean Cities

Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC) is a nonprofit coalition focused on promoting cleaner energy for commercial and government fleets in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. CACC is one of more than 90 coalitions across the country that are affiliated with the U.S. DOE’s Clean Cities program, which brings together stakeholders to increase the use of alternative fuel and advanced-vehicle technologies, reduce idling, and improve fuel economy and air quality. CACC concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county Chicago area, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. To learn more, visit

About the B20 Club

The B20 Club is a partnership of the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program and the American Lung Association in Illinois. The Club was initiated in 2015 as a way to recognize and reward Illinois-based fleets running on biodiesel blends of 20 percent. In addition to rewarding members for their environmental stewardship, the checkoff-funded Club also promotes biodiesel as an easy way for fleets and municipalities to improve the air quality in their communities, reduce their carbon footprint, and support the local economy and Illinois farmers. To date the B20 Club Members have used more than 6.9 million gallons of B20 biodiesel and reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to planting more than 150,000 trees. For additional information, visit

About the Chicago Park District

The Chicago Park District is the 2014 Gold Medal Award winner, recognized for excellence in park and recreation management across the nation. For more information about the Chicago Park District’s more than 8,300 acres of parkland, more than 585 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, 12 museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, nearly 50 nature areas, thousands of special events, sports and entertaining programs, please visit or contact the Chicago Park District at 312/742.PLAY or 312/747.2001 (TTY).


News Media Contacts:

Joe Koenig
Chicago Area Clean Cities
(708) 414-1065
Twitter: @ChiCleanCities

Jessica Maxey-Faulkner
Chicago Park District
(312) 742-4786
Twitter: @ChicagoParks


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