Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil – or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl (methyl, ethyl, or propyl) esters. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting lipids (e.g., vegetable oil, soybean oil, animal fat (tallow)) with an alcohol producing fatty acid esters.
Biodiesel is meant to be used in standard diesel engines and is thus distinct from the vegetable and waste oils used to fuel converted diesel engines. Biodiesel can be used alone, or blended with petrodiesel in any proportions. Biodiesel blends can also be used as heating oil.
The National Biodiesel Board (USA) also has a technical definition of “biodiesel” as a mono-alkyl ester.
Blends of biodiesel and conventional hydrocarbon-based diesel are products most commonly distributed for use in the retail diesel fuel marketplace. Much of the world uses a system known as the “B” factor to state the amount of biodiesel in any fuel mix:
100% biodiesel is referred to as B100
20% biodiesel, 80% petrodiesel is labeled B20
5% biodiesel, 95% petrodiesel is labeled B5
2% biodiesel, 98% petrodiesel is labeled B2
Blends of 20% biodiesel and lower can be used in diesel equipment with no, or only minor modifications, although certain manufacturers do not extend warranty coverage if equipment is damaged by these blends. The B6 to B20 blends are covered by the ASTM D7467 specification. Biodiesel can also be used in its pure form (B100), but may require certain engine modifications to avoid maintenance and performance problems. Blending B100 with petroleum diesel may be accomplished by:
Mixing in tanks at manufacturing point prior to delivery to tanker truck
Splash mixing in the tanker truck (adding specific percentages of biodiesel and petroleum diesel)
In-line mixing, two components arrive at tanker truck simultaneously.
Metered pump mixing, petroleum diesel and biodiesel meters are set to X total volume, transfer pump pulls from two points and mix is complete on leaving pump.
Biodiesel can be used in pure form (B100) or may be blended with petroleum diesel at any concentration in most injection pump diesel engines. New extreme high-pressure (29,000 psi) common rail engines have strict factory limits of B5 or B20, depending on manufacturer. Biodiesel has different solvent properties than petrodiesel, and will degrade natural rubber gaskets and hoses in vehicles (mostly vehicles manufactured before 1992), although these tend to wear out naturally and most likely will have already been replaced with FKM, which is nonreactive to biodiesel. Biodiesel has been known to break down deposits of residue in the fuel lines where petrodiesel has been used. As a result, fuel filters may become clogged with particulates if a quick transition to pure biodiesel is made. Therefore, it is recommended to change the fuel filters on engines and heaters shortly after first switching to a biodiesel blend.
Since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, biodiesel use has been increasing in the United States. In the UK, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation obliges suppliers to include 5% renewable fuel in all transport fuel sold in the UK by 2010. For road diesel, this effectively means 5% biodiesel (B5).
Vehicular use and manufacturer acceptance
In 2005, Chrysler (then part of DaimlerChrysler) released the Jeep Liberty CRD diesels from the factory into the European market with 5% biodiesel blends, indicating at least partial acceptance of biodiesel as an acceptable diesel fuel additive. In 2007, DaimlerChrysler indicated its intention to increase warranty coverage to 20% biodiesel blends if biofuel quality in the United States can be standardized.
The Volkswagen Group has released a statement indicating that several of its vehicles are compatible with B5 and B100 made from rape seed oil and compatible with the EN 14214 standard. The use of the specified biodiesel type in its cars will not void any warranty.
Mercedes Benz does not allow diesel fuels containing greater than 5% biodiesel (B5) due to concerns about “production shortcomings”. Any damages caused by the use of such non-approved fuels will not be covered by the Mercedes-Benz Limited Warranty.
Starting in 2004, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia decided to update its bus system to allow the fleet of city buses to run entirely on a fish-oil based biodiesel. This caused the city some initial mechanical issues, but after several years of refining, the entire fleet had successfully been converted.
In 2007, McDonald’s of UK announced it would start producing biodiesel from the waste oil byproduct of its restaurants. This fuel would be used to run its fleet.
The 2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, direct from the factory, will be rated for up to B20 (blend of 20% biodiesel / 80% regular diesel) biodiesel compatibility