Biodiesel is a better alternative than the traditional diesel fuel made from petroleum. It is made from natural sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that soybean oil made up almost half of all biodiesel produced in the U.S. in 2016. The other sources it was made of were corn oil, canola oil, and even recycled grease. In some cases, they mix petroleum diesel and biodiesel, or use it in its pure form. Biodiesel fuel is becoming more popular but is not a new concept. When Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine in 1897, he used vegetable oil fuel as an experiment.
Today, biodiesel has many recognized benefits.
Cleaner for the Environment
Biodiesel fuel is undoubtedly better for the environment, as proven by extensive testing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted independent tests in accordance with the Clean Air Act, in 2000. That year, it became the first and only alternative fuel to complete Tier I and Tier II health effects testing. There are no sulfur or aromatic compounds in biodiesel, and a study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that carbon dioxide emissions are 78.5 percent less from it than other fuels.
Renewable sources make up biodiesel. Petroleum resources, on the other hand, are finite, and will eventually be depleted. We still reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent even when using a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum blend.
Other Benefits of Biodiesel
Cleaner: Aside from burning more cleanly with fewer pollutants, less soot, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide are produced. When comparing to traditional fuels, it is non-toxic. Also, it’s biodegradable, while studies of nitrogen oxide emissions are unclear whether it increases or decreases them.
Safer: Petroleum diesel has a flash point of 52°C, so storing and transporting it can be hazardous. However, biodiesel has a much higher flashpoint of 150°C.
Produced locally: Biodiesel eliminates the issues with mining, drilling, transporting, and processing coal and oil/natural gas. Biodiesel comes from local refineries, which reduces the expense of importing finished product from elsewhere. Pollutants emitted from refining and distributing fossil fuels are also reduced. Even waste cooking oil can be used to make this fuel. Recovering and converting it domestically creates less waste. Plus, waste oil does not end up in sewer systems or in landfills
The Levels of Benefits of Biodiesel Fuel
This alternative fuel has benefits on many levels. These are:
The U.S. biodiesel industry supported nearly 52,000 jobs in 2009 and added an estimated $4.287 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product that year. By 2022, advanced biofuels production could support 190,000 jobs, according to an analysis by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. In addition, the National Biodiesel Board estimated that for every 100 million gallons of algae-based biodiesel fuel, over 16,000 jobs are created. Local production enables biofuel plants to employ local people, and increases the demand on crop production.
The EPA has registered biodiesel as a fuel and fuel additive. While it also meets California Air Resources Board standards, the U.S. Department of Energy, along with the Department of Transportation, has given pure biodiesel (B100) alternative fuel status. The BQ-9000 Program, a voluntary quality management certification system used by the biodiesel industry, combines a few internationally accepted principles to ensure the quality of products. There are also biodiesel fuel specifications from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Marketers, producers, and laboratories involved in the biodiesel supply chain. have various certifications issued to them.
Better for Engines
A higher level of lubricity helps prevent premature wear of engine parts. On the other hand, federal regulations for reducing fuel sulfur of traditional diesel has diminished this aspect. Biodiesel can produce a mixture that reduces wear, even when added to concentrations as low as 1 percent. An ASTM fuel specification was modified to include a lubricity requirement to address such matters.
Congress approved biodiesel fuel as an Energy Policy Act compliance strategy in 1998. Federal, state, and public utilities could, therefore, buy 450 gallons of pure biodiesel fuel and make a 20 percent blend with diesel, and meet alternative fuel purchase requirements. The move also helped confirm compatibility with existing engines, so that fleets could burn cleaner fuel.
The biodiesel industry can use existing industrial production infrastructures to make the fuel. This also reduces the reliance on foreign oil sources and mitigates concerns of supply and cost. It has cost tens of billions of dollars annually for the military to secure foreign oil, and dealing with foreign tax credits and environmental costs add even more expenses. The National Biodiesel Board has also said the U.S. was losing 10,000 to 25,000 jobs for every billion dollars of foreign oil acquired in the 1990s.
Petroleum diesel will yield 0.83 units of fuel product energy, for each unit of fossil fuel burned, according to the EPA. Producing biodiesel yields 3.2 units of energy for every unit of fossil fuel used.
By producing biodiesel, fewer waste products, such as cooking oil, make it into sewers and landfills. There is a much lower incidence of toxic sewer spills as well. Less oil, grease, and fat collect in pipes and cause contaminating overflows into waterways. Safe to ship, the fuel requires less of an emergency response when spills do happen.
U.S. Biodiesel Production
According to the Monthly Biodiesel Production Report, issued by the Energy Information Administration, we globally produced 136 million gallons of biodiesel fuel in May 2017. This amounted to 9 million gallons more than the month before. The Midwest produced 69 percent of the total output. In total, there were 97 biodiesel plants in the country. Producers sold 66 million gallons of pure biodiesel and 82 million gallons of biodiesel blends.
Sources: EPA, EIA, Conserve Energy Future, Bio.org, Biodiesel.org, AFDC