What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a clear amber-yellow liquid with a viscosity similar to petrodiesel with the aroma often that of putty (linseed oil).
It is fuel made from renewable resources such as vegetable oils or animal fats. It is biodegradable and non-toxic, and has significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. Biodiesel functions in current engines, and is a possible candidate to replace fossil fuels as the world's primary transport energy source.
Is Biodiesel an experimental fuel?
Biodiesel is a proven fuel with over 30 million successful US road miles, and over 20 years of use in Europe.
Is Biodiesel used as a pure fuel or is it blended with petroleum diesel?
It can be used as an additive in formulations of diesel to increase the lubricity of pure ultra low sulphur petrodiesel fuel. Much of the world uses a system known as the "BD factor" to state the amount of Biodiesel in any fuel mix, in contrast to the "BA" system used for bioalcohol mixes. For example, 20% Biodiesel is labeled BD20. Pure Biodiesel, 100%, is referred to as BD100. In the United States, a similar system is used, but the "D" is dropped (B100, B20, B5, etc.).
Can unaltered vegetable oil be used in a diesel engine?
Biodiesel is made from a base stock of vegetable oil and requires no alterations to your vehicle. It is possible to run a diesel vehicle on straight, unaltered, vegetable oil, however there is always the risk of polymerisation in unmodified engines, which can block injectors.
How do Biodiesel emissions compare to petroleum diesel?
Biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by 78.45% on a net lifecycle basis because the carbon in Biodiesel emissions is recycled from carbon that was already in the atmosphere, rather than being new carbon from petroleum that was sequestered in the earth's crust. (Sheehan, 1998)
Biodiesel contains fewer aromatic hydrocarbons: benzofluoranthene: 56% reduction; Benzopyrenes: 71% reduction.
It also eliminates sulphur emissions (SO2), because Biodiesel doesn't include sulphur.
Biodiesel reduces by as much as 65% the emission of particulates (small particles of solid combustion products).
Biodiesel does produce more NOx emissions than petrodiesel, but these emissions can be reduced through the use of catalytic converters. Petrodiesel vehicles have generally not included catalytic converters because the sulphur content in that fuel destroys the devices, but Biodiesel does not contain sulphur. The increase in NOx emissions may also be due to the higher cetane rating of Biodiesel. Properly designed and tuned engines may eliminate this increase.
Can Biodiesel help mitigate "global warming"?
Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic, and has significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. Biodiesel functions in current engines, and is a possible candidate to replace fossil fuels as the world's primary transport energy source.
Where can I buy Biodiesel? Does it cost more than conventional diesel?
Biodiesel can be distributed using today's infrastructure, and its use and production is increasing rapidly (especially in Europe, the United States, and Asia). Fuel stations are beginning to make Biodiesel available to consumers, and a growing number of transport fleets use it as an additive in their fuel. Biodiesel is generally more expensive to produce than petroleum diesel, although this differential may diminish due to economies of scale and the rising cost of petroleum
Can I use Biodiesel in my existing diesel engine?
Yes, Biodiesel can be mixed with petroleum diesel at any concentration in most modern engines. Biodiesel is a better solvent than petrodiesel and has been known to break down deposits of residue in the fuel lines of vehicles which usually run on petroleum. Fuel filters may become clogged with particulates if a quick transition to pure Biodiesel is made, but the Biodiesel cleans the engine in the process.
Biodiesel is 11% oxygen by weight and contains no sulphur. The use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel engines because it is more lubricating than petroleum diesel fuel, while fuel consumption, auto ignition, power output, and engine torque are relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
Is Biodiesel safe to use and store?
With a flash point of 150°C, Biodiesel is classified as a non-flammable liquid. This property makes a vehicle fuelled by pure Biodiesel far safer in an accident than one powered by petroleum diesel or the explosively combustible petrol. Precautions should be taken in very cold climates, where Biodiesel may gel at higher temperatures than petroleum diesel.
The fuel should be stored in a clean, dry, dark environment. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminium, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene and Teflon. Copper, brass, lead, tin, and zinc should be avoided.