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Synthetic diesel fuel powers 1,000 miles of Audi

Tue, 19 Oct 2010

Audi began a 1,000-mile eco drive on Oct. 18 in a demonstration named "Eureka! Diesel Drives the Future." Two Audi A3 TDI test cars left Eureka, Calif., and headed south, filled with RenDiesel, a synthetic fuel from Rentech. The Audis will stop in Sacramento, San Francisco, Rialto and Los Angeles before ending the journey in San Diego.

Rentech, online at, is a renewable-energy company based in Los Angeles that specializes in making fuels from biomass.

The point of the trip is to raise awareness about the advantages of diesel fuels while specifically highlighting Audi's TDI and the synthetic diesel fuel from Rentech.

RenDiesel is a renewable fuel produced at the company's plant in Rialto, Calif. It meets all applicable fuel standards, is compatible with existing diesel engines and burns cleanly. RenDiesel emits less particulate and less pollutants that even the cleanest ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. It has the potential to be twice as efficient as a car running on ethanol.

Rentech's property in Rialto is designed to produce up to 640 barrels of synthetic diesel per day. The compound will also generate 35 megawatts of electricity using conventional high-efficiency gas turbines. That's enough to power 30,000 homes in the area.

To make the synthetic fuel, Rentech uses biomass gasification. It's a process that converts yard waste such as grass clippings to a gas, which is then made into synthetic diesel with help from the New Jersey-based company Honeywell. A similar fuel is being used in airplanes.

Currently, Audi only permits the use of 5 percent biodiesel blends under the warranties on its diesel vehicles. This is because of inconsistent standards for alternative fuels globally. But the advances in the fuel are still promising.

"Diesel vehicles such as the Audi A3 TDI and synthetic drop-in fuels such as renewable RenDiesel provide powerful solutions to reducing greenhouse gases 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."

By Jake Lingeman