History of Biodiesel
The concept of biofuels is surprisingly old. Rudolf Diesel, whose invention now bears his name, had envisioned vegetable oil as a fuel source for his engine. In fact, much of his early work revolved around the use of biofuel. In 1900, for example, at the World Exhibition in Paris, France, Diesel demonstrated his engine by running it on peanut oil. Similarly, Henry Ford expected his Model T to run on ethanol, a corn product. Eventually, in both Diesel's and Ford's cases, petroleum entered the picture and proved to be the most logical fuel source. This was based on supply, price and efficiency, among other things. Though it wasn't common practice, vegetable oils were also used for diesel fuel during the 1930s and 1940s.
Types of Biodiesel
Biodiesel are mainly two kinds. Pure biodiesel (B100) continues to be used, particularly by fleets. However, blending of up to 5% biodiesel into mineral fuel is now wide spread, with Germany being the leading consumer. As long as the biodiesel component complies with the EN 14214 standard, the resulting blend is permitted.
Why we use biodiesel?
We should use biodiesel because; one of the major selling points of biodiesel is that it is environmentally friendly. Biodiesel has fewer emissions than standard diesel, is biodegradable, and is a renewable source of energy.
In addition, B100 can reduce CO2 emissions by 78% and lower the carcinogenic properties of diesel fuel by 94% (National Biodiesel Board, U.S. DOE Office of Transportation Technologies).
Another feature of biodiesel is that it is biodegradable, meaning that it can decompose as the result of natural agents such as bacteria. According to the EPA, biodiesel degrades at a rate four times faster than conventional diesel fuel. This way, in the event of a spill, the cleanup would be easier and the aftermath would not be as frightening. This would also hold true for biodiesel blends.
Biodiesel could also lower U.S. dependence on imported oil and increase our energy security. Most biodiesel in the U.S. is made from soybean oil, which is a major domestic crop. With U.S. petroleum demands increasing and world supply decreasing, a renewable fuel such as biodiesel, if properly implemented, could alleviate some of the U.S. energy demands.
Biodiesel also contributes to an engine's lubricity, or its ease of movement. Biodiesel acts as a solvent, which helps to loosen deposits and other gunk from the insides of an engine that could potentially cause clogs. Since pure biodiesel leaves no deposits of its own, this results in increased engine life. It is estimated that a biodiesel blend of just 1% could increase fuel lubricity by as much as 65% (U.S. DOE Office of Transportation Technology).
Biodiesel is also safer. It is non-toxic (about 10 times less toxic than table salt) and has a higher flashpoint than conventional diesel. Because it burns at a higher temperature, it is less likely to accidentally combust. This makes movement and storage regulations easier to accommodate. Next, we'll look at the cons and the future of biodiesel.