Seattle's bid to put cleaner-burning biodiesel into wider use received a boost Thursday, when SSA Marine became one of the first big companies...

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Seattle’s bid to put cleaner-burning biodiesel into wider use received a boost Thursday, when SSA Marine became one of the first big companies in the area to agree to use the fuel in its daily operations — loading and unloading cargo ships at the Port of Seattle.

The company announced it will buy 800,000 gallons of diesel mixed with biodiesel next year, gradually reaching a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel to 80 percent regular diesel.

Biodiesel is a mix of vegetable oil and methanol, which produces less particulate matter and carbon monoxide than regular diesel.

The Port of Seattle also announced it will use roughly 20,000 gallons of the mixture a year at its seaport operations starting next year.

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The fuel will cost more than conventional diesel, said SSA Marine CEO Jon Hemingway. But he declined to say how much.

“It’s just one of the things that we want to do to have less of an impact on the community,” Hemingway said.

The deal is good news for Seattle Biodiesel, a biodiesel refiner, which will sell the biodiesel to the Port and SSA Marine.

“This is sort of the beginning of what we see as a huge trend in biodiesel, as far as recognition from business and bigger users in the community,” President John Plaza said.

The company, which opened a 5-million-gallon-a-year refinery in South Seattle in March, will soon announce plans for a bigger refinery somewhere in the Puget Sound region to meet future demand, Plaza said.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who helped broker the deal, called it a model for other U.S. ports.

“The Northwest’s ingenuity demonstrates once again that it makes economic sense for America’s businesses to use environmentally friendly alternative fuels,” Cantwell said in a statement released Thursday.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com