Driving on Biodiesel - 2

Volume 1 Issue 1 - Diesel Articles

Article Index
Driving on Biodiesel
What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel Versus Raw Vegetable Oil
Benefits of Using Biodiesel
Availability of Biodiesel
All Pages

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification in which the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process results in methyl esters, the chemical name for biodiesel, and glycerin – a valuable by-product, which has hundreds of uses such as making cosmetics, drugs and food products.

One major advantage of biodiesel is that it can be made from numerous natural resources. In the U.S., soybeans are the primary feedstock, but in other parts of the world, canola, rapeseed, coconut, and other plant oils are being used. Biodiesel can also be made from recycled cooking oils and animal fats.

The formal definition of biodiesel, as recognized by the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM), is, “mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, which conform to ASTM D 6751 specifications for use in diesel engines.”

This tight technical definition for biodiesel was needed to secure vehicle, engine and fuel injection equipment companies’ support for biodiesel and provide a legal definition for federal and state statute.

The current ASTM specification for biodiesel was first approved in December 2001. This standard covers pure biodiesel (B100), for blending with petrodiesel in levels up to 20% by volume (B20). ASTM members are currently working on revisions to ASTM D 6751 and a new specification for biodiesel blends from B6 to B20.

Changes to the ASTM D 6751 spec have been made to ensure compatibility between the biodiesel, new ultra low sulfur diesel, and new engine and after-treatment technology mandated by the EPA.

Nearly every Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) approves the use of up to 5% biodiesel (B5), when blended with diesel fuel that meets its appropriate specification as found in ASTM D 975. In most cases, OEMs will agree that blends up to 20% (B20) will cause no detriment to vehicle performance or engine durability. In either case, no OEM specifically states that using biodiesel blends above 5% will void their warranty.


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