Petroleum is in high demand and short supply. On top of that it’s also non-renewable, coming from the decomposing remains of planktonic animals who died millions of years ago. In recent years governments have been suggesting to farmers to produce high oil content crops which could then be sold as sources for a new type of fuel. It’s known as Biodiesel or Methyl Ester.
In order to process and create biodiesel, a series of steps have be undertaken regardless of the fuels source, whether it be animals fats or vegetable oils. The first step requires the separation of glycerin from the fuel’s structure. The second step is whether to mix the biodiesel with a conventional petroleum diesel source. These mixes range from B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum based diesel) to a full B100 which is a pure biodiesel without any petroleum component. Depending on the engine that the fuel will be used with, these mixes vary. Pure biodiesel is also the most expensive option which is another reason that it’s regularly mixed.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Biodiesel?
The first advantage would be the green factor and chicness of using a alternative fuel source. Many cities across North America are switching their buslines to run off biodiesel mixes in order to push a perception that they are embracing the green culture. It’s good PR none the less.
The biodiesel has better ignition and combustion characteristics and allow the engine to run smoothly. Biodiesel is also naturally more lubricating than a petrochemical diesel and thus reduces the ware typically seen in conventional engines. It also has a high flashpoint and contains no sulfur, which means it’s safer to handle and much cleaner than diesel.
Biodiesel is a very clean fuel source and doesn’t even produce the black smoke associated with conventional diesel engine emissions.
Fuel economy doesn’t seem to effected by biodiesel unless the engine is running a B100 or similarly high rating of biodiesel, in which there have been slight drops in fuel economy. Pure biodiesel also provides up to 10% less power than a diesel fuel.
At current market prices, biodiesel is more expensive than other fuel sources.
Pure B100 is not suitable for low temperature usage.
Vehicles may require significant changes in their engine components and lines in order to use a biodiesel at a grade above B5.
In the end, this fuel source is still relatively new and hasn’t yet been through all it’s trials in order to make it a mass market alternative to gasoline or conventional oil. But it does have a great potential to usurp petrochemical diesel in the near future, as the second largest liquid fuel source for automobiles.