Memorial Day closure

Most City of Portland offices will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are frequently asked questions about the Renewable Fuel Standard. This page will be updated during program development and rulemaking to address new questions or comments.
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Definitions (types of fuel, carbon intensity)

Q. What is petroleum diesel?
A: Petroleum diesel is a liquid petroleum product made from decayed plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. It is used as a source of energy and is suitable for use as a fuel in diesel-powered vehicles and equipment.

Q: What is a renewable fuel?
A: Renewable fuels is a general term for fuel products that are produced from non-petroleum sources, such as plants and animal byproducts. Renewable fuels can include biodiesel, biomethane, renewable alcohol, clean hydrogen, renewable diesel, renewable gasoline, renewable propane, renewable naphtha, sustainable aviation fuel, and ethanol. Renewable fuels have a lower lifecycle carbon intensity than fossil fuels because they are made from plant and animal material from the current carbon cycle, rather than from fossilized products from millions of years ago.

Q: What is renewable diesel?
A: Renewable diesel is a renewable alternative to diesel fuel, which is produced through various thermochemical processes, such as hydrotreating, gasification and pyrolysis. It is chemically the same as petroleum diesel fuel. Renewable diesel meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specification (ASTM D975) for petroleum diesel and may be used in existing petroleum pipelines, storage tanks and diesel engines.

Q: Who manufactures renewable diesel?
A: There are many renewable diesel producers around the world, ranging from companies that focus solely on renewable fuels to more traditional fossil fuel companies like Chevron and BP. In the United States, renewable diesel is produced in California, North Dakota, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Washington State.

Q: What is biodiesel?
A: Biodiesel is a renewable alternative to diesel fuel, which consists of mono-alkyl esters of long-chain fatty acids derived from plant or animal matter. Biodiesel is produced through a chemical process called transesterification and meets the registration requirements for fuels and fuel additives established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: What is the difference between petroleum diesel, biodiesel and renewable diesel?
A: Petroleum diesel, biodiesel, and renewable diesel are all fuels used in diesel engines, including in road-light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles; off-road equipment such as construction equipment and generators; and other industrial processes. All three fuels are interchangeable to a certain degree. Petroleum diesel and renewable diesel fuel meet the same ASTM standards and are essentially the same chemically, even though they come from different sources. Biodiesel is another product entirely and produced through a different chemical process. Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel or renewable diesel and perform the same with blends under 20% biodiesel.

Q: I’ve never heard of renewable diesel. Where is it used?
A: Renewable diesel is not available today at retail gas stations. All renewable diesel in Oregon is being used by large fleets for organizations like TriMet, Port of Portland, City of Eugene, and the City of Portland. Portland has been using a 75-99% blend of renewable diesel since the summer of 2015. The fuel has been used in more than 785 vehicles and equipment types in the City’s fleet, including light-duty cars and pick-ups, mid-size vans, and medium and heavy-duty dump trucks. It is also being used on off-road construction vehicles, such as excavators and back hoes. Overall, the City’s experience using renewable diesel has been positive. Maintenance costs and downtime for diesel engine repair has gone down and, because renewable diesel is odorless and does not freeze, maintenance staff report the improved air quality in the shop.

Due to strong clean air and climate laws, California and Oregon are the primary market on the West Coast for renewable diesel in 2022. The RFS intends to increase demand for renewable diesel in the Portland market, so we can attract more of this fuel. Several new production facilities on the West Coast will come online in the next few years.

Production is also projected to increase nationwide. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of the end of 2020, U.S. renewable diesel production capacity totaled nearly 0.6 billion gallons per year (gal/y), or 38,000 barrels per day (b/d). Several projects currently under construction could increase this capacity by 2.4 billion gal/y, with proposed and announced projects adding another 1.8 billion gal/y by 2024. If all projects come online as intended, U.S. renewable diesel production would be 5.1 billion gal/y (330,000 b/d) by the end of 2024.

However, increased production does not necessarily lead to increased local supply. One goal of the Renewable Fuel Standard is to build a local market that will incentivize producers to sell in Oregon.

Q: What is ethanol and why is the blend mix staying the same?
A: Ethanol is ethyl alcohol, a flammable liquid used to blend or mix with gasoline. No amendments were made to the minimum blend requirement for ethanol because vehicles older than 2001 cannot use ethanol blends higher than the current minimum of 10%. Oregon State law allows blends of up to 15% ethanol in newer cars or 85% ethanol in flex-fuel vehicles, so any fuel retailer wishing to offer customers a higher minimum blend of ethanol may do so.

Q: Who does the existing Renewable Fuel Standard apply to?
A: The policy applies to fuel distributors, non-retail dealers, retailers, and wholesale purchaser-consumers of fuel within Portland city limits.

Adopted Code Changes

Q: What changes were adopted by City Council?
A: In December 2022, Portland City Council unanimously adopted code changes to PCC 16.60, also known as Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to further reduce dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels and help meet the City’s 100% Renewable Energy resolution. The changes reflect the State’s new Clean Fuels Program, favorable market conditions, and advances in new renewable fuel products. The new RFS phases in increasing blends of low carbon biofuels over the next several years. The policy will shift Portland’s diesel fuel mix to 99% renewable in 2030. Portland’s policy is unique in that it includes a Carbon Intensity Standard to shift biofuels in Portland to fuels that are lower carbon across their entire lifecycle, like recycled waste grease.

Q: What is the phase-in schedule for the RFS?
A: The phase-in schedule is shown in the table below:

Percentage of fuel type by volume
Fuel typeCurrentJuly 1, 2024July 1, 2026July 1, 2030
Renewable fuel requirement (min)5%15%50%99%

Q: What is the carbon intensity requirement?
A: Carbon intensity is a measure of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy. The Renewable Fuel Standard uses carbon intensity measurements approved by the Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Clean Fuels program, which provide lifecycle carbon emissions for all fuels imported into Oregon. The carbon intensity of different renewable fuels varies significantly. Lifecycle emissions are emissions produced across a fuel’s full life – including emissions from processing raw materials, production, supply chain transportation, and fuel combustion in vehicles. Lifecycle emission calculations used by Oregon DEQ also factor in changes to land use that can impact climate change.

The Renewable Fuel Standard limits the lifecycle carbon intensity of biodiesel and renewable diesel to 40 gCO2e/MJ, a value that on average, most diesel substitutes in the State Clean Fuels Program currently meet. A CI value of 40 is important because it creates a threshold that excludes feedstocks that are higher carbon across their lifecycle, especially feedstocks from agricultural products like soybeans and canola. Portland also currently requires the same carbon intensity standard for garbage haulers working in Portland.

Q: How does the policy change requirements for fuel retailers and distributors?
A: The schedule was designed to minimize supply constraints and give retailers ample opportunity to understand the new requirements. The consensus among Oregon-based fuel industry stakeholders is that biodiesel is readily available and competitively priced today. Currently, renewable diesel is not readily available and can be more expensive than fossil and biodiesel in Oregon. The schedule was designed to signal the market that renewable diesel is a desired product, while not overtaxing availability of renewable fuels like biodiesel.

Price at the pump, availability, engines

Q: How does the new code affect diesel prices at the pump?
A: The new code goes into effect in 2024, so it will not affect diesel prices before then. The schedule was designed to minimize price impacts. Over the last few years, due to the State Clean Fuels program, biodiesel has been less expensive than petroleum diesel. Based on this trend, the expectation is that in 2024, the retail price of diesel fuel will not be negatively affected by the new blending requirements.

Currently in Oregon, renewable diesel is more expensive than fossil and biodiesel. The RFS schedule was designed to allow for planned renewable-diesel refineries in the Pacific Northwest to increase production and supply, thus reducing prices at the pump. BPS can adjust the minimum blend requirements through interim rule orders due to economic or technical circumstances, such as the lack of supply, to avoid price impacts. BPS will work with industry stakeholders through a Technical Advisory Committee to monitor fuel supply and prices as the requirements are phased in.

Q: How was the schedule developed?
A: BPS conducted extensive research on fuel supply with fuel experts and supply-chain stakeholders in the region and around the country. This schedule reflects consensus among experts and industry stakeholders that there is ample supply of biodiesel to increase renewable fuel volume requirements immediately, with no negative impacts on retail price. The schedule also reflects fuel industry supply forecasts for a substantial increase in renewable diesel production, both locally and nationally, over the next four to six years.

Q: Does the policy address what will happen if prices for biodiesel or renewable diesel increase or supply of these fuels decrease?
A: Yes. The existing policy gives the BPS Director the ability to temporarily suspend or modify the minimum blend requirements, if they deem those requirements are infeasible due to economic or technological circumstances.

Q: How does this amendment affect gasoline prices at the pump?
A: The amendment does not change gasoline requirements, so it will not affect gasoline prices.

Q: How will the recommended blends of biodiesel and renewable diesel affect my engine?
A: There will be no impact on diesel vehicle owners. The expert consensus is that biodiesel can be blended into petroleum diesel at blends up to 20% with no negative impacts. Renewable diesel is chemically identical to petroleum diesel and can be used in place of petroleum diesel or biodiesel in blends up to 99%. Renewable diesel users report no negative effects, slightly better performance and longer filter life.

Social and environmental impacts

Q: What are some potential impacts of increasing the volume of renewable fuels sold in Portland?
A: There are positive climate, air quality and economic benefits to increasing the volume of renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and renewable diesel. These two fuels have approximately 60-80% lower carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis than petroleum diesel and emit substantially less particulate matter, a major source of harmful air pollution in Portland. Both fuels can be made regionally, and Oregon has historically been home to biodiesel manufacturing.

Q: Transporting fuel to Portland has impacts on other communities. How does this help/hinder that relationship?
A: Currently, diesel fuel is primarily transported via train, truck, or pipeline to Oregon from California and Washington. The policy will not change this. Both biodiesel and renewable diesel are also imported into the state, and the proposed changes might increase that amount. Biodiesel is the only fuel currently produced in the state of Oregon, in Eugene. There is a renewable diesel production facility in the planning stages for development in Clatskanie, Ore.