Synthetic diesel shuttles launch at Hobby Airport

Several car rental shuttles at Hobby Airport have started running on synthetic diesel made from waste cooking oil and animal fats in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Shuttles for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car have been outfitted with decals noting that their tanks are filled with a renewable form of diesel, distributed by Mansfield Oil Company. The Georgia-based transportation fuel company sources the diesel from the Dynamic Fuels plant in Louisiana, which produces 75 million gallons of synthetic fuel per year.

Animal by-products, used vegetable oil and other waste are processed into a clear, odor-free fuel that burns cleaner than petroleum-based diesel and cuts tailpipe pollutants, said Mansfield Oil President Doug Haugh. He said the synthetic fuel will reduce the shuttles’ carbon emissions by up to 70 percent.

“It looks like water,” Haugh said. “It doesn’t have all of the impurities that traditional diesel does.”

Mansfield Oil is partnering with Enterprise Holdings, owner of the three rental car operations, in the pilot program at Hobby and Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. The fuel is trucked from the Louisiana plant to Enterprise fueling facilities in Houston, Haugh said.

The synthetic diesel is a drop-in fuel, meaning it is structurally identical to traditional diesel and requires no modifications to the vehicles.

It’s the latest foray into alternative fuels at Houston’s airports. Already, many parking shuttles at Bush Intercontinental Airport run on natural gas, which burns cleaner than conventional diesel.

“By using synthetic diesel and embracing alternative fuels, we are following our ongoing commitment to help grow the clean fuel market and increasing opportunities for alternatives to become commercially viable,” said Lee Broughton, head of corporate sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, in a written statement.

Both companies have a history in expanding the use of alternative fuels. Mansfield Oil has announced plans to install several compressed natural gas fueling stations in Colorado and Ohio over the past year. And Enterprise’s Institute for Renewable Fuels supports research and development of biofuels from nonfood plants, including switchgrass and algae, for use in cars, trucks and aircraft.