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Solutions - Oxygenated Fuels



One method for reducing emissions from snowmobile engines is the use of oxygenated fuels. The oxygenated fuel used in Montana is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent conventional gasoline. Use of oxygenated fuels reduces emissions of most harmful pollutants from gasoline engines in both snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

Research has shown that use of gasoline with 10 percent ethanol blend along with certain types of low-emission and/or biodegradable lubrication oil, can substantially reduce air pollution from two-cycle engines of the type used in most snowmobiles.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has persuaded snowmobile rental agencies in West Yellowstone to try out the ethanol blend fuel and alternative oil products. All of the West Yellowstone rental businesses use these products exclusively, with a considerable reduction in pollution.

Estimates based on the amount of fuel consumed in the 1997-1998 season suggest that use of low-pollution products by the rental machines (which are estimated to have traveled nearly 5 million miles) probably reduced emission of hydrocarbons (primarily unburned fuel and lubrication oil) by as much as 84 tons, and carbon monoxide by about 120 tons. This was a reduction of 16 percent in hydrocarbon emissions and 9 percent in carbon monoxide.

Another pollutant that was reduced was particulate matter, by as much as 70 percent, approximately one ton per year in Yellowstone and the immediate vicinity. Although the amount of particulate may seem small, it is significant because the size of the particles--less than 10 microns - makes it possible for them the enter the smallest airways of the human lung and remain there, where they can cause cancer.

Rental agents noted that use of the alternative products eliminated carburetor freezing and significantly reduced the need for engine repairs

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When Henry Ford first designed his Model T automobile in 1908, he expected ethanol, made from renewable resources, to be the major fuel used. Interesting Ethanol and Biofuel Links:

Perhaps the best research on oxygenated fuels used in snowmobiles was conducted by the University of Denver  Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for the Western Regional Biomass Energy Program. Researchers there measured the concentrations of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and toluene in snowmobile emissions in order to identify the effect on fleet average emissions when 8 percent ethanol was used in the fuel blend. The Biomass Program has published an easy to understand summary of the research titled Do Ethanol-Blended Fuels Reduce Snowmobile Tailpipe Emissions. The summary documents a reduction in carbon monoxide emissions from snowmobiles with the use of ethanol blended fuels.

The full report, Real-time Remote Sensing of Snowmobiles Emissions at Yellowstone National Park: An Oxygenated Fuel Study, 1999, also is available online.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also published a helpful guide – Reformulated Gasoline and Your Snowmobile – explaining how oxygenated fuels can reduce pollutions from snowmobiles.

Results of tests done on snowmobiles using biobased fuels and lubricant are reported in Emissions from Snowmobile Engines Using Bio-based Fuels and Lubricants, J.J. White, J.N Carroll, H.E. Haines, SETC Paper 972108 and JSAE 9734412 presented at the Small Engine Technology Conference 1997, Yokohama, Japan, October 27-31, 1997. (178 pages)

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality, through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska Regional Bioenergy Program, provided data and a demonstration of bio-based fuel and lube options for reducing potential pollution and health problems caused by snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Laboratory emissions tests compared the effects on emissions of biomass-based fuel and lubrication oils used in snowmobile engines to those emissions from conventional fuel and lubes. The 16-page report on the project, titled Biomass Alternatives for Snowmobiles: Emissions Testing and Demonstration of Bio-based Options for Emissions Reduction in 2-Stroke Snowmobile Engines in Yellowstone National Park, Snowmobile in the Park, was released in August 2001.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has also published two papers that discuss the issue of snowmobile pollution and the hope for a solution using reformulated gasoline:

The Snowmobile Dilemma, or Who Spilled What in the Refrigerator vs. Who's Going to Clean It Up?