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Biodiesel Information

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This is an article reproduced from Wiki on Biodiesel - interesting and knowledgable facts about biodiesel


Biodiesel refers to a diesel-equivalent, processed fuel derived from biological sources. Though derived from biological sources, it's a processed fuel that can be readily used in diesel-engined vehicles, which distinguishes biodiesel from the straight vegetable oils (SVO) or waste vegetable oils (WVO) used as fuels in some modified diesel vehicles.

In this article's context, biodiesel refers to alkyl esters made from the transesterification of both vegetable oils and/or animal fats. Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic, and has significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. Biodiesel functions in current diesel engines, and is a possible candidate to replace fossil fuels as the world's primary transport energy source.

Biodiesel can be distributed using today's infrastructure, and its use and production is increasing rapidly. Fuel stations are beginning to make biodiesel available to consumers, and a growing number of transport fleets use it as an additive in their fuel. Biodiesel is generally more expensive to purchase than petroleum diesel, but can be made at home for much cheaper than either. This differential may diminish due to economies of scale, the rising cost of petroleum and government tax subsidies.

1 Description
2 Technical Standards
3 Applications
3.1 Gelling
3.2 Water contamination
4 Availability
5 Production
5.1 Biodiesel Feedstock
5.2 Efficiency and Economic Arguments
6 Environmental benefits
7 Historical Background
8 Current Research
8.1 Algaculture
9 See also
10 References

Biodiesel Description

Biodiesel is a light to dark yellow liquid. It is practically immiscible with water, has a high boiling point and low vapor pressure. Typical methyl ester biodiesel has a flash point of ~ 150 C, making it rather non-flammable. Biodiesel has a density of ~ 0.8 g/cm, less than that of water. Biodiesel uncontaminated with starting material can be regarded as non-toxic.

Biodiesel has a viscosity similar to petrodiesel, the industry term for diesel produced from petroleum. It can be used as an additive in formulations of diesel to increase the lubricity of pure Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel, although care must be taken to ensure that the biodiesel used does not increase the sulfur content of the mixture above 15 ppm. Much of the world uses a system known as the "B" factor to state the amount of biodiesel in any fuel mix, in contrast to the "BA" or "E" system used for ethanol mixes. For example, fuel containing 20% biodiesel is labeled B20. Pure biodiesel is referred to as B100.

Biodiesel Technical Standards

The common international standard for biodiesel is EN 14214.

There are additional national specifications. The standard ASTM D 6751, which is the most common standard referenced in the United States. In Germany, the requirements for biodiesel is fixed in the DIN EN 14214 standard. There are standards for three different varieties of biodiesel, which are made of different oils:
RME (rapeseed methyl ester, according to DIN E 51606)
PME (vegetable methyl ester, purely vegetable products, according to DIN E 51606)
FME (fat methyl ester, vegetable and animal products, according to DIN V 51606)

The standards ensure that the following important factors in the fuel production process are satisfied:
Complete reaction.
Removal of glycerin.
Removal of catalyst.
Removal of alcohol.
Absence of free fatty acids.
Low sulfur content.

Basic industrial tests to determine whether the products conform to the standards typically include gas chromatography, a test that verifies only the more important of the variables above. More complete tests are more expensive. Fuel meeting the quality standards is very non-toxic, with a toxicity rating (LD50) of greater than 50 mL/kg.

Biodiesel Applications

Biodiesel can be used in pure form (B100) or may be blended with petroleum diesel at any concentration in most modern diesel engines. Biodiesel will degrade natural rubber gaskets and hoses in vehicles (mostly found in vehicles manufactured before 1992), although these tend to wear out naturally and most likely will have already been replaced with Viton which is nonreactive to biodiesel. Biodiesel's higher lubricity index compared to petrodiesel is an advantage and can contribute to longer fuel injector life. Biodiesel is a better solvent than petrodiesel and has been known to break down deposits of residue in the fuel lines of vehicles that have previously been run on petroleum. Fuel filters may become clogged with particulates if a quick transition to pure biodiesel is made, as biodiesel cleans the engine in the process. It is, therefore, recommended to change the fuel filter within 600-800 miles after first switching to a biodiesel blend.

Biodiesel Gelling

Pure (B100) biodiesel tends to gel at 4 C (40 F) or so, depending on the mix of esters. As of 2006, there is no available product that will significantly lower the gel point of straight biodiesel. A number of studies have concluded that winter operations require a blend of biodiesel, #2 low sulfur diesel fuel, and #1 kerosene. The exact blend depends on the operating environment: successful operations have run using a 65% LS #2, 30% K #1, and 5% bio blend. Other areas have run a 70% Low Sulfur #2, 20% Kerosene #1, and 10% bio blend or a 80% K#1, and 20% biodiesel blend. According to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petrodiesel) does not need any treatment in addition to what is already taken with petrodiesel.

Biodiesel Water contamination

Biodiesel is hydrophilic. Some of the water present is residual to processing, and some comes from storage tank condensation. The presence of water is a problem because:
Water reduces the heat of combustion of the bulk fuel. This means more smoke, harder starting, less power.
Water causes corrosion of vital fuel system components: fuel pumps, injector pumps, fuel lines, etc.
Water freezes to form ice crystals near 0 C (32 F). These crystals provide sites of nucleation and accelerate the gelling of the residual fuel.
Water accelerates the growth of microbe colonies which can plug up a fuel system. Biodiesel users who have heated fuel tanks therefore face a year-round microbe problem.

Biodiesel Availability

For more details on this topic, see Biodiesel around the World.

Biodiesel Production

Main article: Biodiesel production

Chemically, transesterified biodiesel comprises a mix of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids. The most common form uses methanol to produce methyl esters as it is the cheapest alcohol available, though ethanol can be used to produce an ethyl ester biodiesel and higher alcohols such as isopropanol and butanol have also been used. Using alcohols of higher molecular weights improves the cold flow properties of the resulting ester, at the cost of a less efficient transesterification reaction. A byproduct of the transesterification process is the production of glycerol. A lipid transesterification production process is used to convert the base oil to the desired esters. Any Free fatty acids (FFAs) in the base oil are either converted to soap and removed from the process, or they are esterified (yielding more biodiesel) using an acidic catalyst. After this processing, unlike straight vegetable oil, biodiesel has combustion properties very similar to those of petroleum diesel, and can replace it in most current uses.

Biodiesel Feedstock

Soybeans are used as a source of biodiesel

A variety of oils can be used to produce biodiesel. These include:
Virgin oil feedstock; rapeseed and soybean oils are most commonly used, though other crops such as mustard, palm oil, hemp, jatropha, and even algae show promise (see List of vegetable oils for a more complete list);
Waste vegetable oil (WVO);
Animal fats including tallow, lard, yellow grease and as a byproduct from the production of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.

Worldwide production of vegetable oil and animal fat is not yet sufficient to replace liquid fossil fuel use. Furthermore, some environmental groups object to the vast amount of farming and the resulting over-fertilization, pesticide use, and land use conversion that would be needed to produce the additional vegetable oil.

Many advocates suggest that waste vegetable oil is the best source of oil to produce biodiesel. However, the available supply is drastically less than the amount of petroleum-based fuel that is burned for transportation and home heating in the world. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), restaurants in the US produce about 300 million US gallons (1,000,000 m) of waste cooking oil annually.[1] Although it is economically profitable to use WVO to produce biodiesel, it is even more profitable to convert WVO into other products such as soap. Hence, most WVO that is not dumped into landfills is used for these other purposes. Animal fats are similarly limited in supply, and it would not be efficient to raise animals simply for their fat. However, producing biodiesel with animal fat that would have otherwise been discarded could replace a small percentage of petroleum diesel usage.

The estimated transportation fuel and home heating oil used in the United States is about 230,000 million US gallons (870 million m) (Briggs, 2004). Waste vegetable oil and animal fats would not be enough to meet this demand. In the United States, estimated production of vegetable oil for all uses is about 23,600 million pounds (10,700,000 t) or 3,000 million US gallons (11,000,000 m)), and estimated production of animal fat is 11,638 million pounds (5,279,000 t). (Van Gerpen, 2004) Two factors that may weigh heavily in this example; possibly reducing the amount of transportation fuel needed to do the same work: biodiesel burns more slowly than other transportation fuels. transportation fuel regulations in the United States require an extremely low mile-to-gallon ratio, and could be raised.

For a truly renewable source of oil, crops or other similar cultivatable sources would have to be considered. Plants utilize photosynthesis to convert solar energy into chemical energy. It is this chemical energy that biodiesel stores and is released when it is burned. Therefore plants can offer a sustainable oil source for biodiesel production

Biodiesel Efficiency and Economic Arguments

According to a study written by Drs. Van Dyne and Raymer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the average US farm consumes fuel at the rate of 82 liters per hectare (8.75 US gallons per acre) of land to produce one crop. However, average crops of rapeseed produce oil at an average rate of 1,029 L/ha (110 US gal/acre), and high-yield rapeseed fields produce about 1,356 L/ha (145 US gal/acre). The ratio of input to output in these cases is roughly 1:12.5 and 1:16.5. Photosynthesis is known to have an efficiency rate of about 16 % and if the entire mass of a crop is utilized for energy production, the overall efficiency of this chain is known to be about 1 %. This does not compare favorably to solar cells combined with an electric drive train. Biodiesel out-competes solar cells in cost and ease of deployment. However, these statistics by themselves are not enough to show whether such a change makes economic sense. Additional factors must be taken into account, such as: the fuel equivalent of the energy required for processing, the yield of fuel from raw oil, the return on cultivating food, and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel. A 1998 joint study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) traced many of the various costs involved in the production of biodiesel and found that overall, it yields 3.2 units of fuel product energy for every unit of fossil fuel energy consumed. [2] That measure is referred to as the energy yield. A comparison to petroleum diesel, petroleum gasoline and bioethanol using the USDA numbers can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website[3] In the comparison petroleum diesel fuel is found to have a 0.843 energy yield, along with 0.805 for petroleum gasoline, and 1.34 for bioethanol. The 1998 study used soybean oil primarily as the base oil to calculate the energy yields. It is conceivable that higher oil yielding crops could increase the energy yield of biodiesel. The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing, however. Some nations and regions that have pondered transitioning fully to biofuels have found that doing so would require immense tracts of land if traditional crops are used. Considering only traditional plants and analyzing the amount of biodiesel that can be produced per unit area of cultivated land, some have concluded that it is likely that the United States, with one of the highest per capita energy demands of any country, does not have enough arable land to fuel all of the nation's vehicles. Other developed and developing nations may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production. For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense, e.g. honge nuts [4] grown along roads. More recent studies using a species of algae that has oil contents of as high as 50% have concluded that as little as 28,000 km or 0.3 % of the land area of the US could be utilized to produce enough biodiesel to replace all transportation fuel the country currently utilizes. Further encouragement comes from the fact that the land that could be most effective in growing the algae is desert land with high solar irradiation, but lower economic value for other uses and that the algae could utilize farm waste and excess CO2 from factories to help speed the growth of the algae. [5] The direct source of the energy content of biodiesel is solar energy captured by plants during photosynthesis. The website biodiesel.co.uk[6]discusses the positive energy balance of biodiesel:
When straw was left in the field, biodiesel production was strongly energy positive, yielding 1 GJ biodiesel for every 0.561 GJ of energy input (a yield/cost ratio of 1.78).
When straw was burned as fuel and oilseed rapemeal was used as a fertilizer, the yield/cost ratio for biodiesel production was even better (3.71). In other words, for every unit of energy input to produce biodiesel, the output was 3.71 units (the difference of 2.71 units would be from solar energy).

Biodiesel is becoming of interest to companies interested in commercial scale production as well as the more usual home brew biodiesel user and the user of straight vegetable oil or waste vegetable oil in diesel engines. Homemade biodiesel processors are many and varied. The success of biodiesel homebrewing, and micro-economy-of-scale operations, continues to shatter the conventional business myth that large economy-of-scale operations are the most efficient and profitable. It is becoming increasingly apparent that small-scale, localized, low-impact energy keeps more resources and revenue within communities, reduces damage to the environment, and requires less waste management.

Biodiesel Environmental benefits

Environmental benefits in comparison to petroleum based fuels include:
Biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by 78% on a net lifecycle basis because the carbon in biodiesel emissions is recycled from carbon that was already in the atmosphere, rather than being new carbon from petroleum that was sequestered in the earth's crust. (Sheehan, 1998)
Biodiesel contains fewer aromatic hydrocarbons: benzofluoranthene: 56% reduction; Benzopyrenes: 71% reduction.
Biodiesel reduces by as much as 65% the emission of particulates, small particles of solid combustion products. This reduces cancer risks by up to 94% according to testing sponsored by the Department of Energy.
Biodiesel does produce more nitrogen oxide NOx emissions than petrodiesel, but these emissions can be reduced through the use of catalytic converters. As biodiesel contains no nitrogen, the increase in NOx emissions may be due to the higher cetane rating of biodiesel and higher oxygen content, which allows it to convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into NOx more rapidly. Properly designed and tuned engines may eliminate this increase.
Biodiesel has higher cetane rating than petrodiesel, and therefore ignites more rapidly when injected into the engine. It also has the highest energy content of any alternative fuel in its pure form (B100).
Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic - tests sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture confirm biodiesel is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as quickly as sugar.
In the United States, biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have successfully completed the Health Effects Testing requirements (Tier I and Tier II) of the Clean Air Act (1990).

Since biodiesel is more often used in a blend with petroleum diesel, there are fewer formal studies about the effects on pure biodiesel in unmodified engines and vehicles in day-to-day use. Fuel meeting the standards and engine parts that can withstand the greater solvent properties of biodiesel is expected to--and in reported cases does--run without any additional problems than the use of petroleum diesel. The flash point of biodiesel (>150 C) is significantly higher than that of petroleum diesel (64 C) or gasoline (-45 C). The gel point of biodiesel varies depending on the proportion of different types of esters contained. However, most biodiesel, including that made from soybean oil, has a somewhat higher gel and cloud point than petroleum diesel. In practice this often requires the heating of storage tanks, especially in cooler climates.
Pure biodiesel (B100) can be used in any petroleum diesel engine, though it is more commonly used in lower concentrations. Some areas have mandated ultra-low sulfur petrodiesel, which reduces the natural viscosity and lubricity of the fuel due to the removal of sulfur and certain other materials. Additives are required to make ULSD properly flow in engines, making biodiesel one popular alternative. Ranges as low as 2% (B2) have been shown to restore lubricity. Many municipalities have started using 5% biodiesel (B5) in snow-removal equipment and other systems.

Biodiesel Historical Background

Transesterification of a vegetable oil was conducted as early as 1853, by scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick, many years before the first diesel engine became functional. Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10 ft (3 m) iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time in Augsburg, Germany on August 10, 1893. In remembrance of this event, August 10 has been declared International Biodiesel Day. Diesel later demonstrated his engine and received the "Grand Prix" (highest prize) at the World Fair in Paris, France in 1900. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision because it was powered by peanut oila biofuel, though not strictly biodiesel, since it was not transesterified. He believed that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the real future of his engine. In a 1912 speech, Rudolf Diesel said "the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time." [1]

During the 1920s diesel engine manufacturers altered their engines to utilize the lower viscosity of the fossil fuel (petrodiesel) rather than vegetable oil, a biomass fuel. The petroleum industries were able to make inroads in fuel markets because their fuel was much cheaper to produce than the biomass alternatives. The result was, for many years, a near elimination of the biomass fuel production infrastructure. Only recently have environmental impact concerns and a decreasing cost differential made biomass fuels such as biodiesel a growing alternative.

The revival of biodiesel production started with farm co-operatives in the 1980s in Austria, but in 1991 the first industrial-scale plant opened in Aschach, also in Austria, with a capacity in excess of 10,000 m per year. Throughout the 1990s, plants were opened in many European countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Sweden. At the same time, nations in other parts of world also saw local production of biodiesel starting up and by 1998, the Austrian Biofuels Institute identified 21 countries with commercial biodiesel projects.

In the 1990s, France launched the local production of biodiesel fuel (known locally as diester) obtained by the transesterification of rapeseed oil. It is mixed to the proportion of 5 % into regular diesel fuel, and to the proportion of 30 % into the diesel fuel used by some captive fleets (public transportation). Renault, Peugeot, and other manufacturers have certified truck engines for use with up to this partial biodiesel. Experiments with 50 % biodiesel are underway.

Current Biodiesel Research

There is ongoing research into finding more suitable crops and improving oil yield. Using the current yields, vast amounts of land and fresh water would be needed to produce enough oil to completely replace fossil fuel usage. It would require twice the land area of the US to be devoted to soybean production, or two-thirds to be devoted to rapeseed production, to meet current US heating and transportation needs.

Specially bred mustard varieties can produce reasonably high oil yields, and have the added benefit that the meal leftover after the oil has been pressed out can act as an effective and biodegradable pesticide.


Main article: algaculture

From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory experimented with using algae as a biodiesel source in the "Aquatic Species Program". A recent paper from Michael Briggs at the UNH Biodiesel Group, offers estimates for the realistic replacement of all vehicular fuel with biodiesel by utilizing algae that has a greater than 50 % natural oil content, which he suggests can be grown on algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants. [citation needed] On 2006-5-11. Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation from Marlborough, New Zealand announced it had produced its first sample of bio-diesel fuel made from algae found in sewage ponds.[2] Unlike previous attempts, the algae was naturally grown in pond discharge from the Marlborough District Council's sewage treatment works.

The production of algae to harvest oil for biodiesel has not been undertaken on a commercial scale, but working feasibility studies have been conducted to arrive at the above yield estimate. In addition to a high yield, this solution does not compete with agriculture for food, requiring neither farmland nor fresh water.

Independent results have shown that Green Fuel Technologies[7], a Cambridge, MA company founded by Isaac Berzin, has been successful in producing biodiesel growing algae on flue gas emissions from power plant smokestacks. Using a patented algae bioreactor, GreenFuel utilizes microalgae and a process of photomodulation to reduce emissions: 40% less carbon dioxide and 86% less nitrous oxide. This oil-rich algae can then be extracted from the system and processed into biodiesel, and the dried remainder further reprocessed to create ethanol. The company is testing their method at the MIT cogeneration facility and at an undisclosed 1000-megawatt power facility in the southwestern U.S.

See also

Wikibooks has more about this subject:
How to make biodiesel

Wikinews has news related to:
Alcohol fuel
Algaculture (production of biodiesel from algae)
Appropriate technology
Biobutanol, gasoline substitute.
Biodiesel production
Biomass to Liquid
Diesel engine
Diesel and petrodiesel
EN 14214
Energy balance
Environmental economics
Ethylester biodiesel
Future energy development
List of diesel automobiles
List of vegetable oils section on oils used for biofuel
Renewable energy
Straight vegetable oil (SVO)
Thermal depolymerization

Biodiesel References

A look back at the U.S. Department of Energy Aquatic Species program: Biodiesel from Algae, July 1998, J. Sheehan, et. al. NREL (326pp), PDF file].
An Overview of Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel Lifecycles, May 1998, Sheehan, et. al. NREL (60pp pdf file)
Business Management for Biodiesel Producers, January 2004, Jon Von Gerpen, Iowa State University under contract with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (210pp pdf file)
Energy balances in the growth of oilseed rape for biodiesel and of wheat for bioethanol, June 2000, I.R. Richards
Life Cycle Inventory of Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel for Use in an Urban Bus, 1998, Sheehan, et. al. NREL (314pp pdf file)
Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae, August 2004, Michael Briggs, UNH Retrieved December 6, 2004
Algae - like a breath mint for smokestacks, January 11, 2006, Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor

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