30 Biodiesel Facts: Here's What You Need To Know About 'Green Fuel'

Nidhi Sahai
Jan 23, 2024 By Nidhi Sahai
Originally Published on Mar 01, 2022
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Read these amazing biodiesel facts that will blow your mind and make you fall in love with this biofuel.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

Biodiesel is a safe renewable fuel or biodegradable energy content source, which is usually manufactured from a diverse mix of resources, such as new/used vegetable oils, algae, animal fats, ethanol, or recycled restaurant greases.

In recent times, biodiesel production is mostly done using plant products, such as sugar cane, soybean, canola, jatropha, mahua, and corn. It would be not incorrect to suggest that biodiesel has done away with our excessive reliance on fossil fuels as a primary source of energy content.

Often referred to as green fuel or B100, biodiesel fuels are great renewable resources produced domestically in most countries around the globe. Biodiesel is consumed and produced in a pure and unblended form. However, it is mainly found in a blended form with B20 as the commonly used biodiesel blend in the United States. It is also produced in some other countries like India, with plants in various states. Other sources of energy like petrodiesel are mainly non-renewable. Expedito Parente was a Brazilian scientist who invented biodiesel.

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel or energy source, which is biodegradable and is a non-hazardous alternative to traditional fuels, such as petroleum.

Biodiesel is chemically manufactured through a procedure known as transesterification. Transesterification is the process of separating glycerine from vegetable cooking oils or animal fats.

This process results in separating two products, namely methyl esters and glycerine. While methyl esters, a chemical term for biodiesel, are used as a biofuel in engines and equipment, glycerine is used in other products, such as soap.

Apart from its applications in vehicles and engines, biodiesel can also be used in a wide range of non-engine applications, including solvents and paint remover.

Engines, which run on B20 or biodiesel, perform as well as their conventional diesel counterparts in fuel consumption, torque, and horsepower. It is the most energy-efficient fuel that returns 5.54 units of renewable energy.

Even though the physical characteristics of biodiesel are similar to those of conventional diesel, it is better at significantly reducing lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, biodiesel, consequently, also contributes to our overall physical health.

Consumers' preference for cleaner fuel can be understood by the fact that there has been an estimated 632% increase in biodiesel consumption between 2010 and 2018, as per the US Energy Information Administration.

What type of fuel is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is the first fuel, which was named an advanced biofuel by the US Environmental Protection Agency due to its capacity to reduce toxic gas and smog emissions. As compared with petroleum diesel, biodiesel can reduce carbon emissions by more than 50%.

To be qualified as biodiesel, any fuel must meet certain quality specifications outlined by the American Society Testing & Materials (ASTM D-6751). B100, which is 100% biodiesel, is currently being designated as the alternative fuel by the US Department of Energy.

Commonly used biodiesel blends in the United States include B5, B11, and B20. Even farmers use biodiesel with higher blend levels for their on-farm vehicles and equipment.

 

Advantages Of Using Biodiesel On Environment

Given that fossil fuel is limited, using biodiesel in place of petroleum diesel fuel and other conventional diesel options offers multiple benefits.

Due to its cleaner-burning properties, biodiesel is non-toxic and is known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide) and emissions of other toxic air pollutants.

In addition, biodiesel is also popularly recognized as 'green fuel' because of its cleaner emission profile and its ability to reduce our need for fossil fuel.

Biodiesel can also be used in older vehicles and equipment without practically no vehicle modification. In both newer and older engines, biodiesel blends may provide some additional emission reduction benefits, thereby reducing greenhouse gases emissions on a lifecycle basis.

Soybeans are one of the largest agriculture-based products used in biodiesel production, which is better than gasoline, oil, or diesel.

Disadvantages of Biodiesel

Like any other fuel, biodiesel also has some potential drawbacks. Some of which are:

One of the primary disadvantages of biodiesel is that it tends to gel faster in low temperatures, which is why its performance is comparatively poor in cold weather. The key here is thus ensuring the appropriateness of the blend used in biodiesel.

In other words, the performance of biodiesel in cold weather is highly dependent on the blend of biodiesel, the petroleum diesel's physical characteristics, and the feedstock. So, users should ensure that the blend is appropriate for optimal functioning in cold weather.

Compared to conventional fuel, biodiesel is way more expensive, and its cost could go as high as one and a half times more than petroleum or diesel fuel.

Even though biodiesel majorly makes positive contributions to our environment, it also possesses some environmental hazards. Case in point, biofuels are made out of crops or vegetable oil.

Growing more crops require more fertilizers, which can have, in return, an adverse effect on the environment, such as land pollution, and water waste.

Moreover, the use of plants and crops in biofuels can also impact commodity prices. For example, soybean was earlier grown for food production.

However, the increased use of soybean to produce biodiesel has led to an increase in the price of soybean oil and other soybean-based products.

Biodiesel also carries Nitrogen Oxide or NOx as one of its major contents, which is approximately 10% higher than petroleum diesel fuel, thereby contributing to greenhouse effects.

Another disadvantage has more of an ethical and moral root. Since biodiesel is mostly manufactured from vegetable oils and plant-based products, such as sugar cane, soybean, and corn, many critics consider such production a plain wastage of food.

At the same time, when millions of people are currently dying out of hunger, wasting food products on producing fuel for vehicles, as some may consider, is not ethical.

Did You Know?

Here are some more interesting facts on biodiesel that may capture your interest:

As per the National Laboratory Reports, the C02 emission has drastically reduced by 74 % as the majority shifted from petroleum to biodiesel.

As the flashpoint of biodiesel is high compared to petroleum diesel, the damage caused by the spillage of biodiesel is less lethal than a similar petroleum spillage.

Ford's best-selling truck, F-10, also includes a biodiesel option now, which supports a B20 blend of biodiesel.

Biodiesel can clog the fuel filters while cleaning dirt from the engine. So, one should ensure that they regularly check their diesel engines to avoid them from getting damaged.

Extracting biofuel from crops, such as soybean, requires a lot of energy in sowing, fertilizing, and harvesting soybean, which is almost equivalent to producing petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel is a better lubricant than any other alternative fuel, which further helps in exceeding engine life.

According to the 2019 reports of the National Truck Equipment Association, biodiesel was voted as the most popular alternative fuel option for diesel engines.

Biodiesel is not the same as renewable diesel because it is a mono-alkyl ester with different fuel properties than diesel. It has higher oxygen content than diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is also different from straight or waste vegetable oils because the latter do not meet the fuel specifications and quality standards, as listed by the ASTM D-6751.

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Written by Nidhi Sahai

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Nidhi Sahai picture

Nidhi SahaiBachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Dedicated and experienced, Nidhi is a professional content writer with a strong reputation for delivering high-quality work. She has contributed her expertise to esteemed organizations, including Network 18 Media and Investment Ltd. Driven by her insatiable curiosity and love for journalism and mass communication, Nidhi pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, graduating with distinction in 2021. During her college years, she discovered her passion for Video Journalism, showcasing her skills as a videographer for her institution. Nidhi's commitment to making a positive impact extends beyond her professional pursuits. Actively engaging in volunteer work, she has contributed to various events and initiatives throughout her academic career.

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