Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Biodiesel facts

Biodiesel is the name for a renewable energy source manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, and recycled cooking oils. Biodiesel can be produced at home with local inputs and biodiesel production and distribution can create jobs.

Biodiesel is both hopeful and alarming. Hopeful because it's renewable, and alarming because rising food prices (food is turned into fuel).

Biodiesel is a liquid which varies in color from golden to dark brown depending on the production feedstock.

Biodiesel is a relatively clean-burning fuel that can replace the non-renewable petrodiesel.

Biodiesel has a calorific value of around 37.3 GJ per ton (for fossil fuels it's 45.6 GJ per ton). Soybean biodiesel has higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol.

Biodiesel can be produced from any fat or oil such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, palm oil, tallow to name a few through a refinery process called transesterification. Click on picture for full size.

Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification - the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products - biodiesel (chemical name: methyl esters) and glycerin (used in soaps and other products).

Biodiesel can be readily integrated into the existing petroleum diesel supply.

Biodiesel is currently available at around 300 filling stations across the United States.

Biodiesel is now available at many normal service stations across Europe.

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that can be used directly in any unmodified existing diesel engine.

Biodiesel is about 11% oxygen by weight and contains no acid rain causing sulphur.

Biodiesel can dissolve certain types of paints, if left on a painted surface long enough.

Biodiesel is safe to handle and transport because it is as biodegradable as sugar, 10 times less toxic than table salt, and has a high flashpoint of about 125°C compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which has a flash point of 55°C.

Colza on the left is used for biodiesel, wheat for food. Click on picture for full size.

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Biodiesel is often more expensive to purchase than petroleum diesel but this is expected to diminish due to economies of scale and agricultural subsidies versus the rising cost of petroleum as reserves are depleted. In some countries biodiesel is already less expensive than conventional diesel.

Biodiesel is widely used in Europe and in the U.S. Midwest. In Europe biodiesel is often the lowest-priced fuel at pumps because of government policies based on its environmental profile.

Biodiesel is generally not stored for long periods of time, but can be stored for years provided that it is kept free of condensation and bacteriological growths.

The direct source of the energy content of biodiesel is solar energy captured by plants during photosynthesis.

Biodiesel is considered readily biodegradable under ideal conditions and non-toxic.

The overall ozone (smog) forming potential of biodiesel is less than diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is now being included in major state and nation-wide legislative efforts.

Biodiesel is now available at many normal service stations across Europe and United States. Click on picture for full size.

Biodiesel has a higher cetane number than U.S. diesel fuel, but slightly lower energy content than diesel.

Biodiesel has better lubricity than that of today's diesel fuels. Biodiesel adds significant lubricant functions to the fuel, reducing engine wear and reportedly extending engine life.

Biodiesel has been produced on an industrial scale in the European Union since 1992.

Biodiesel has a positive energy balance, meaning that more energy is produced with the fuel than is used to create a fuel.

Increased use of biodiesel has created some handling challenges for bringing blended fuels to the consumer.

Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage.

Biodiesel fuel can also be used in combination with heating oil to heat residential and industrial buildings. This can reduce dependence on non-renewable and increasingly expensive heating oil.

Biodiesel fuel can damage rubber hoses in some engines, particularly in cars built before 1994-5.

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