Facts About Biodiesel - Pros and Cons

There are a number of different facts about biodiesel that you must consider. Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of biodiesel. 

Facts about Biodiesel: Understanding the Advantages and the Disadvantages

Could biodiesel be the ultimate solution to the ever-growing need for green energy? To help answer this question, we need first to understand some fascinating facts about biodiesel, as well as the advantages and the disadvantages of biodiesel fuel.

The world faces a massive climate change that has been caused by excessive use of fossil fuels. Humans are now in constant search for an alternative source of energy to reduce the detrimental impacts of fossil fuel.

Biodiesel fuel is one of the oldest inventions of energy. In 1853, two scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick experimented with the transesterification of a vegetable that resulted in biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel fuels were used in the ancient days with the earlier diesel engines.

However, the discovery of non-renewable fuels slowed down the improvement of this renewable fuel.

In recent years, there is a rising need for an alternative source of energy which can help reduce our vast dependency on fossil fuels. Biodiesel is one of the best alternative energy sources, and some countries have embraced its use.

For example, in the biodiesel fuel has completed all the health effects testing requirements and thus meets the standards of the (Tier I and Tier II) of the Clean Air Act (1990) Clean Air Act Amendments, unlike other alternative energy.

Biodiesel is also used by millions of car owners in Europe, particularly in Germany. Statistics about biodiesel reveal that with a market share of nearly all of the German diesel fuel market, biodiesel is the number one alternative fuel and its use will undoubtedly continue to grow.

Without much further ado, let’s explore some basic facts about biodiesel as well as its pros and cons.

So, What is Biodiesel Fuel?

Biodiesel fuel is a clean, natural and renewable energy source and is produced from animal fats and recycled restaurant greases and vegetable oils such as soybeans, canola, sugarcane, corn, algae among others.

Here are some interesting facts about biodiesel fuel:

  • An interesting fact about biodiesel fuel production occurs through a chemical process called trans-esterification which involves separating glycerin from the fat or vegetable oil. It leaves behind two products, methyl esters, which is the chemical name for biodiesel, and glycerin which is a valuable byproduct usually used in soaps and other products.
  • Exciting biomass and biodiesel fact is that they are energy produced from plants and biodiesel is in liquid form but can be different in colors which range from golden to dark brown depending on the specific production feedstock. Here are some advantages to biomass energy.
  • Biodiesel is immiscible with water, has low vapor pressure and high boiling point.
  • The biodiesel flash point is considerably higher than that of petroleum diesel.
  • Biodiesel fuel has a density of approximately 0.88 g/cm³, which is far less than that of water.
  • In addition, the biodiesel calorific value is around 37.27 MJ/L, which is lower compared to the regular petrodiesel.
  • Biodiesel is sulfur free and is used as an additive to Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel.
  • Some synthetic rubbers FKM- GBL-S and FKM- GF-S found in the current model of vehicles can handle biodiesel in all conditions.
  • Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic and produces less net-lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions, as it is itself generated from atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis in plants.
  • Another interesting fact about biodiesel has been used in a variety of non-engine applications such as solvents and paint remover.

Here are the various advantages and disadvantages of Biodiesel Fuel.

Pros of Biodiesel

Here are our considerations as advantages to the use and development of biodiesel.

Produced from renewable resources

Biodiesel is a renewable energy source. Unlike other petroleum products which are limited, biodiesel is extracted from animal fats and vegetable oils, and thus production can occur on demand.T

Can be used in existing diesel engines

Another advantage of using biodiesel is that can be used in existing diesel engines and oil heating systems with little or no alterations and thus can easily replace fossil fuels.

Biodiesel can be used purely or is blended with petroleum diesel, for example, B20 which is a blend of biodiesel with diesel fuel. Biodiesel can perform similarly to diesel in virtually all types of diesel engines.

The existing diesel fuel pumps also distribute biodiesel which is another advantage of biodiesel fuel over other alternative fuels.

Prolongs the engine life

Biodiesel fuel has better lubricating properties and higher cetane ratings than sulfur diesel fuels which can help in reducing fuel system wear and tear.

Lack of sulfur in pure biodiesel helps extend the engine life and the life of catalytic converters.

Emits fewer Greenhouse Gases

The rampant greenhouse gases emission by fossil fuels destroy the ozone layer which causes changes in climate and weather patterns and leads to global warming.

Experts estimate that using biodiesel fuels instead of petroleum diesel can reduce greenhouse gases. Blended fuel B20 is said to reduce CO2 by 15 percent.

Grown, Produced and Distributed Locally

Since fossil fuels are limited, biodiesel is a perfect alternative form of fuel that can reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers of oil as it can be produced from domestic energy crops.

Production of biofuels in local refineries help minimizes the need to import from other countries.

Biodiesel is a cleaner

When the oil is extracted from underground, it has to be refined to run in diesel engines since it can’t be used straight away in its crude form. Gasoline release various chemical compounds including benzene and butadiene in the environment during the refining process which is harmful to animals, plants and human life.

Biofuel refineries, on the other hand, use vegetable oils and animal fat to produce biodiesel fuel and there is less release of toxins to the environment.

See Related: Important Pros and Cons of Petroleum

Biodegradable and Non-Toxic

Burning of biofuels contributes less carbon and other pollutants to the air. If you compare biodiesel with traditional diesel, biodiesel produces less soot that is, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide.

Biodiesel is biodegradable and has no hazard to soil or groundwater if it’s spilled accidentally. Non-biodegradable material is harmful material if not recycled or reused.

Here are the key differences between non-biodegradable and biodegradable products.

Flashpoint for biodiesel is higher than petroleum diesel

Biodiesel has over 150°C flashpoint whereas the same amount of petroleum diesel has about 52°C  which makes biodiesel less combustible and generally means it has less fire hazard. It is, therefore, safer to handle, store and transport it compared to the petroleum diesel.

Improved Economy

When vehicles run on biodiesel, they achieve more fuel economy than diesel engines that use petroleum which means it consumes less gas and runs more miles per gallon.

Positive Economic Impact

Local production of biofuel helps thousands of people get employed in biofuel refineries and production units. Since biodiesel is produced from plants, an increase in demand for biodiesel leads to an increase in demand for suitable biofuel crops.

Less pollution also helps reduce the cost of healthcare products. Production of biofuels locally can help many countries dependence on fossil fuels mitigate and so save billions by reducing their import of foreign oil.

Biodiesel will typically produce RINs, which is an added revenue from a project financing perspective.

Health Benefits

Air pollution causes considerable levels of diseases and deaths. Pollutants from petroleum engines when released in the air, form smog and global warming which make thousands of people sick every year.

Biodiesel produces less toxic contaminants than other petroleum products, and so it’s better.

See Related: Pros and Cons of Nonrenewable Energy Resources

Cons of Biodiesel

Here is a list of the various disadvantages of biodiesel.

Variation in Quality of Biodiesel

Biodiesel comes from a variety of biofuel crops such as corn, soybeans, sugarcane among others. The quality of the biodiesel produced depends on the biofuel crop used.

Not Suitable for use in Low Temperatures

Biodiesel becomes gel during the cold weather.  However, the temperatures that cause it to become gelly depend on the oil or fat that was used to make it.

The best way to use biodiesel in colder weather is to blend it with winterized diesel fuel.

Food Shortage

The demand for biofuel crops may increase the prices for these products and create a food crisis in some countries. For instance, the production of biodiesel from corn may increase its demand, and it might become more expensive which may deprive poor people of having it.

Fertilizers use increase

There is a higher usage of fertilizer as more crops are planted to produce fuel which can hurt the environment.

Fertilizer use can result in land pollution and soil erosion. If deforestation and monoculture farming techniques help grow biofuel crops, it will create a severe threat to the environment.

See Related: Pros and Cons of Ethanol

Clogging in Engine

Biodiesel cleans dirt from the engine, but it causes a problem in that the dust can get collected in the fuel filter and cause clogging.

  1. Biodiesel requires the use of other sources of energy in the production process it in addition to the energy used in sowing, fertilizing and harvesting the crops.
  2. Biofuels can harm rubber hoses in some engines.
  3. Presently, biodiesel fuel is more expensive than petroleum diesel fuel. It can change by use of economies of scale in production, the rising cost of petroleum and government tax subsidies.

Conclusion on Facts about Biodiesel

I hope that this article has offered valuable insights into facts about biodiesel fuel as well as it’s advantages and disadvantages.

Do you think biofuel is the future of green energy? Feel free to share with us opinions based on these facts about biodiesel.

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