Going Green in the data center with Biodiesel introduces risks

Matt Stansberry with SearchDataCenter reports on problems with Biodiesel use in data centers.

Biodiesel mandates cause backup generator problems

By Matt Stansberry, Executive Editor
20 Aug 2010 | SearchDataCenter.com

Soybean-based fuels are fouling up the best-laid backup plans of some data center pros.

Today, some data center managers wrestle with state government legislation that mandates the use of biodiesel over traditional petro-diesel -- mandates that are designed to wean states off petrol dependence and move toward more environmentally sustainable fuels.

But these alternatives pose risks. Derived from vegetable oils or animal fat instead of petroleum, biofuel blends can increase water and biological contaminants in fuel supplies. If handled improperly, biodiesel fuels can stop a data center's backup systems cold, according to a recent report from the Uptime Institute.

With biodiesel, the water tends to stay in suspension, and it makes the fuel look cloudy.
Lamont Fortune, lead mechanical engineer of data center facilities at UnitedHealth Group

As many of has said government regulation is what will drive green data center action for many and requiring biodiesel, a green fuel compared to petro-based diesel is relatively easy for a government group to mandate.

Minnesota, Washington and Oregon have biodiesel mandates. Minnesota mandates the use of B5 and will switch to B20 by 2015. Oregon and Washington currently mandate the use of B2. Biodiesel legislation is pending in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Louisiana and Massachusetts.

Biodiesel backs up data center systems
Lamont Fortune, the lead mechanical engineer of data center facilities at insurance company UnitedHealth Group in Minnesota, knows firsthand how biodiesel can cause trouble for data center facilities. He was the driving force behind the Uptime Institute's biodiesel technical paper and co-authored it with Uptime VP Rick Schuknecht and other data center operators.