What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced
from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel
to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel
is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.
the same thing as raw vegetable oil?
No! Biodiesel is produced from any fat or oil such as soybean oil, through a refinery process
called transesterification. This process is a reaction of the oil with an alcohol to remove the glycerin, which is a by-product of biodiesel production.
Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751) in order to insure proper performance.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air
Act Amendments. Biodiesel that meets ASTM D6751 and is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency is a legal
motor fuel for sale and distribution. Raw vegetable oil cannot meet biodiesel fuel specifications, it is not registered with
the EPA, and it is not a legal motor fuel.
For entities seeking to adopt a definition of biodiesel for purposes such as federal or state statute, state or national
divisions of weights and measures, or for any other purpose, the official definition consistent with other federal and state
laws and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) guidelines is as follows:
Biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived
from vegetable oils or animal fats which conform to ASTM D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines. Biodiesel refers
to the pure fuel before blending with diesel fuel. Biodiesel blends are denoted as, "BXX" with "XX" representing the percentage
of biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).
Is biodiesel used as a pure fuel or is it blended with petroleum diesel?
Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage. B20 (a
blend of 20 percent by volume biodiesel with 80 percent by volume petroleum diesel) has demonstrated significant environmental
benefits with a minimum increase in cost for fleet operations and other consumers.
Is it approved for use in the US?
Biodiesel is registered as a fuel and fuel additive with the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Neat (100
percent) biodiesel has been designated as an alternative fuel by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Transportation
How do biodiesel emissions compare to petroleum
Biodiesel is the only alternative
fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The use of biodiesel in a conventional
diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared
to emissions from diesel fuel. In addition, the exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates (major components of acid
rain) from biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to diesel.
the major exhaust pollutants, both unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are ozone or smog forming precursors. The use
of biodiesel results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons. Emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly
reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle of the engine and testing methods used. Based on engine testing,
using the most stringent emissions testing protocols
required by EPA for certification of fuels or fuel additives in the
US, the overall ozone forming potential of the speciated hydrocarbon emissions from biodiesel was nearly 50 percent less than
that measured for diesel fuel.
Can biodiesel help mitigate global warming?
A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the US Department
of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net COČ emissions by 78 percent compared to petroleum
diesel. This is due to biodiesels closed carbon cycle. The COČ released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled
by growing plants, which are later processed into fuel..Is biodiesel safer than petroleum diesel? Scientific research confirms
that biodiesel exhaust has a less harmful impact on human health than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel emissions have decreased
levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and nitrited PAH compounds that have been identified as potential cancer
causing compounds. Test results indicate PAH compounds were reduced by 75 to 85 percent, with the exception of benzo(a)anthracene,
which was reduced by roughly 50 percent. Targeted nPAH compounds were also reduced dramatically with biodiesel fuel, with
2-nitrofluorene and 1-nitropyrene reduced by 90 percent, and the rest of the nPAH compounds reduced to only trace levels.
Does biodiesel cost more than other alternative
When reviewing the high costs associated with other alternative
fuel systems, many fleet managers have determined biodiesel is their least-cost-strategy to comply with state and federal
regulations. Use of biodiesel does not require major engine modifications. That means operators keep their fleets, their spare
parts inventories, their refueling stations and their skilled mechanics. The only thing that changes is air quality.
Do I need special storage facilities?
In general, the standard storage and handling procedures used for petroleum diesel
can be used for biodiesel. The fuel should be stored in a clean, dry, dark environment. Acceptable storage tank materials
include aluminum, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene and teflon. Copper, brass, lead, tin, and zinc
should be avoided.
Can I use biodiesel in my existing diesel engine?
Biodiesel can be operated in any diesel engine with little or no modification to
the engine or the fuel system. Biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes
from previous diesel fuel storage. The release of deposits may clog filters initially and precautions should be taken. Ensure
that only fuel meeting the biodiesel specification is used.
Where can I purchase biodiesel?
Biodiesel can be made available anywhere in the US. The National Biodiesel Board
(NBB) maintains a list of registered fuel marketers. A current list is available on the biodiesel web site at www.biodiesel.org
or by calling the NBB at (800) 841-5849.
Who can answer my questions about biodiesel?
The NBB maintains the largest library of biodiesel information in the US. Information
can be requested by visiting the biodiesel web site at www.biodiesel.org, by emailing the NBB at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling
NBBs toll free number (800) 841-5849.
Corn Power: Where and When?
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press reports that if corn as an
alternative-energy vision becomes reality, you can thank three University of Minnesota researchers who appear to have removed
a major stumbling block in the search for a cleaner way to use hydrogen to power conventional fuel cells.
In a breakthrough outlined in the Feb. 13 issue of Science,
they've discovered an efficient way to capture hydrogen from ethanol, produced in great quantities in Minnesota and other
Corn Belt states. Not only does it promise to boost the state's ethanol industry, but it also could spark efforts to create
a "hydrogen economy" that's less dependent on imported fuels such as gasoline and natural gas.
The most immediate applications, they said, are in places
where cheap power often isn't available: isolated homes or air-conditioning units of diesel trucks. But eventually, they said,
communities could build their own power plants and not have to rely on huge power producers located hundreds of miles away.
But how soon, and where, the technology would be applied,
depend on a variety of factors, including public interest, the price of the energy, and existing regulatory obstacles according
to the article.
Even though hydrogen is the most common element on Earth
and has been touted as a clean, renewable energy source, the typical process of extracting it from fossil fuels in large refineries
has been costly, dirty and energy-consuming, limiting its appeal.
Enter Professor of Chemical Engineering, Lanny Schmidt
and two assistants, Gregg Deluga and graduate student James Salge. All are from the University of Minnesota's department of
chemical engineering and materials science.
According to the article, over the past year, they've
built a reactor at the university that converts ethanol, a renewable corn-based product produced in 14 plants statewide, into
hydrogen. That, in turn, can be used to power a fuel cell, a battery-like device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity
Schmidt said their 3-foot-high prototype reactor could
be built small enough to hold in a hand. Besides being used for mini power plants, he said, it eventually could be adapted
"We were kind of surprised nobody had done it previously,"
Schmidt explained. "But after you look at it, we see why people may have tired and given up."
Private industries, he said, have a keen interest in hydrogen
technology and can be expected to expand on the technology's opportunities and options.
"Time will tell if this technology really does make it
more practical to use ethanol to produce hydrogen," said Ralph Groschen, senior marketing specialist for the Minnesota Department
of Agriculture. "If it does, it could be quite a development."
The discovery comes as Minnesota and the rest of nation
work to make hydrogen more feasible as a power source. President Bush, for example, has made widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells the centerpiece of his energy plan.