1890, Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the highly efficient engine that bears his
name, wanted to empower farmers by affording them an alternative to high-priced
petroleum fuels. So he designed his engine to run on hemp and peanut oil.
have demonstrated biodiesel's performance to be virtually the same as standard
diesel. Like ethanol, biodiesel is a renewable fuel and can be produced domestically,
which keeps our dollars from flowing out of the country, thus reducing our dependency
on foreign oil and strengthening our agricultural economy.
is commonly made from a wide variety of vegetable and tree oils, animal fats and/or
used cooking oils. These oils are blended with alcohol, (usually methanol or ethanol)
and a catalytic agent such as sodium hydroxide. The resulting chemical reaction
produces an ester and glycerin. Glycerin is commonly used in soaps and other consumer
of Energy Yield from One Btu of Fossil Energy Used
Energy (loss) or gain
percent (corn ethanol)
Yield in liquid fuel BTUs per Btu of fossil fuel energy dedicated
USDA, Economic Research Service Report number 721
of biodiesel is a lower energy use and less complex process than the production
of corn-based ethanol. Soy-based biodiesel has a positive energy balance of 3:1.
That is, its combustion results in three times as much energy as required to convert
it from its feedstock
Biodiesel blends are competitive with other alternative fuels
on a life-cycle basis. And biodiesel is readily biodegradable,
nontoxic and sulfur-free. Use of biodiesel quiets the engine,
can eliminate black cloud emissions, reduces odor and improves
engine life. The most benefits are derived from using pure
biodiesel (B100). Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to
have passed the rigorous healthy effects testing of the EPA
Clean Air Act. Like ethanol, biodiesel is available in a variety
of blends, with B20 (20% biodiesel/80% petroleum diesel) the
most common. B20 fuel is generally priced 5 to 20 cents more
per gallon than regular diesel.
Biodiesel Air Pollution Reduction
as Compared with Petroleum Diesel
Department of Energy)
can use biodiesel?
or pure biodiesel can be used anywhere standard diesel is used except during cold
weather. In cold weather biodiesel thickens more than diesel fuel and special
heating systems are required. Equipment made before 1993 may have rubber seals
in fuel pumps and fuel systems that could fail if B100 is used because biodiesel
is a powerful solvent. When using biodiesel in an engine, rubber seals used in
the fuel delivery system should be replaced with Viton or other non-rubber
can use B20 or B35 biodiesel in any diesel engine, even in old engines with no
changes. However, since biodiesel cleans your fuel tank and fuel system, you should
replace your fuel filter shortly after switching to biodiesel. It's best to keep
several spare fuel filters handy during the first few weeks after you change fuels.
There are fewer cold weather problems with lesser blends of biodiesel (B20 or
B35), and biodiesel mixes well with petroleum diesel fuel and stays blended even
in the presence of water. Diesel fuel/biodiesel blends have superior lubricity
which reduces wear and tear on your engine and prolongs engine and component life.
Check with your car manufacturer to confirm that use of a particular biodiesel
blend will not void your warranty.
biodiesel reduce greenhouse gases?
Each year, soybeans and other plants that produce oils used
for making biodiesel draw carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere
to build stems, leaves, seeds (which contain the oil) and
roots. At the end of the year, the oil used to make biodiesel
is burned and the leftover plant material decomposes, returning
the carbon from the fuel and plant matter to the atmosphere
as CO2. This recycling of carbon from CO2 in the atmosphere
to carbon in plant material and back to the atmosphere results
in no accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore, combusting
biodiesel does not contribute to global climate change.
Carbon dioxide from the petroleum fuels used for fertilizer,
farm equipment, or transportation during biodiesel production
does accumulate in the atmosphere year after year. As a result,
biodiesel produces 78% less CO2 than diesel fuel overall.
Biodiesel emits 2661 grams of CO2 per gallon compared to 12,360
grams per gallon for petroleum diesel fuel.
How does biodiesel compare with new Ultra-Low (15 ppm)
Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)?
Removing the sulfur from 500 ppm (parts per million) to only
15 ppm was a very good thing to do. However, the sulfur served
as the lubricant in the diesel fuel. Therefore engines using
only ULSD diesel will be subject to much higher wear factors.
Fortunately a biodiesel blend as low as 3% can replace the
lubrication removed from the ULSD. Much better, though, is
to use at least a B20 blend which provides the engine with
20% to 50% better engine lubrication and protection than pure
ULSD. This is especially important with newer diesels which
have high pressure injection pumps which are subject to very
high wear factors. .