Driving on Biodiesel - Benefits of Using Biodiesel

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

Benefits of Using Biodiesel

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to voluntarily perform EPA Tier I and Tier II testing to quantify emission characteristics and health effects. That study found that B20 reduced total hydrocarbons by up to 30%, carbon monoxide up to 20%, and total particulate matter up to 15%. Biodiesel also has excellent lubricity properties and is typically low in sulfur content, making it compatible with the new generation of diesel fuels required by the EPA.

Typically, emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle of the engine and testing methods used. With the new after-treatment devices required to meet new EPA diesel emissions requirements, engine out emissions are likely to have a negligible effect on NOx tailpipe emissions.

Biodiesel can also help meet national goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases. As a renewable fuel derived from organic materials, biodiesel and biodiesel blends reduce the net amount of carbon dioxide in the biosphere.

A study by the US Department of Energy has found that biodiesel production and use produces 78.5% less CO2 emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Carbon dioxide is “taken up” by the annual production of crops such as soybeans and then released when vegetable oil based biodiesel combusts. Also, biodiesel is safer for people to breathe. Biodiesel emissions have decreased levels of all potential cancer causing compounds, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Biodiesel also helps preserve and protect natural resources. For every one unit of energy needed to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained. This is the highest energy balance of any fuel. Because of this high energy balance and since it is domestically produced, biodiesel use can greatly contribute to domestic energy security.

Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable. Biodiesel is ten times less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as dextrose, a test sugar.

Ready, Set… Biodiesel

Before switching to biodiesel, here are some things you need to know:

Ensure the biodiesel meets the ASTM specification for pure biodiesel (ASTM D 6751) before blending with petrodiesel.

The specification for biodiesel is designed to ensure that consumers will not experience operational problems from the fuel’s use. Make sure that the fuel supplier will warrant the fact that the fuel meets specification. Quality fuel will provide the consumer with improved air quality and enhanced operability. Purchase fuel only from a reputable source, such as companies that are accredited under the BQ-9000 biodiesel quality program.

BQ-9000 is a cooperative and voluntary program for biodiesel producers and marketers. The program is a unique combination of the ASTM standard for biodiesel and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.

Check fuel filters on the vehicles and in the delivery system frequently upon initial biodiesel use, and change them as necessary.

Biodiesel has excellent cleansing properties. In some cases, the use of petrodiesel, especially #2 petrodiesel, leaves a deposit in the bottom of fuel lines, tanks, and delivery systems. The use of biodiesel and some biodiesel blends can dissolve this sediment and result in the need to change filters more frequently until the whole system has been cleaned of the deposits left by the petrodiesel. This same phenomenon has been observed when switching from #2 to #1 petrodiesel.

Be aware of biodiesel’s cold weather properties and take precautions, as with #2 petrodiesel use, in cold weather.

A 20 percent blend of biodiesel with petrodiesel usually raises the cold weather properties 2 to 10°F. In most cases, this has not been an issue. Twenty percent biodiesel blends have been used in the upper Wisconsin area and in Iowa during -25°F weather without issues. Solutions to biodiesel winter operability problems are the same as those used with conventional #2 petrodiesel. Options include: using a pour point depressant; blending with #1 diesel; using engine block or fuel filter heaters on the engine; or storing the vehicles near or in a building.

Be aware of biodiesel’s compatibility with engine components.

The switch to low sulfur diesel fuel has caused most OEMs to switch to components suitable for use with biodiesel, but users should contact their OEM for specific information. In general, pure biodiesel will soften and degrade certain types of elastomers and natural rubber compounds over time. Using high percent blends can impact fuel system components, such as fuel hoses and fuel pump seals, which contain elastomer compounds incompatible with biodiesel. Manufacturers recommend that natural or butyl rubbers not be allowed to come in contact with pure biodiesel. Blends of B20 or lower have not exhibited elastomer degradation and need no changes. If a fuel system does contain these materials and users wish to fuel with blends over B20, replacement with compatible elastomers is recommended.

Use stored biodiesel within six months.

All fuels, including #2 and #1 petrodiesel, have a shelf life. This is also true with biodiesel and biodiesel blends. Industry experts recommend that biodiesel be used within six months of purchase to ensure that the quality of the fuel is maintained. Storage time does not impact biodiesel distribution given biodiesel’s production logistics. Biodiesel is generally not stored for long periods of time. Production levels and rates are established to meet demand, similar to just in time inventory methods.


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