Biodiesel Frequently Asked Questions

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel is derived from a variety of biomass oils. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but can be blended at various levels with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats which conform to ASTM D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines. Biodiesel refers to the pure fuel before blending with diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is produced from any fat or oil such as soybean oil, through a refinery process called transesterification. This process is a reaction of the oil with an alcohol to remove the glycerin, which is a by-product of biodiesel production. Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications in order to insure compliance with EPA testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Raw vegetable oil cannot meet biodiesel fuel specifications, and is not a legal motor fuel that meets the diesel fuel specifications of ASTM D975.

Biodiesel is registered as a fuel and fuel additive with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Pure or Neat (100 percent) biodiesel has been designated as an alternative fuel by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The National Biodiesel Board has released the following production volume estimates for the US, per calendar year: Between 2005 and 2007 US biodiesel production went from 112 million gallons to 500 million gallons of biodiesel. In 2011, The US crossed the production goal of 1.07 billion gallons. Since 2012 There have been over 1.1 billion gallons produced annually.

Biodiesel can be operated in any diesel engine with little or no modification to the engine or the fuel system. Biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel storage. The release of petroleum deposits may necessitate the initial changing of clogged filters.

Biodiesel is competitive in pump price to traditional diesel however many fleet managers have realized an overall savings when reviewing the high costs associated with other alternative fuel systems and mandatory compliance with state and federal regulations. Use of biodiesel does not require major engine modifications. Operators realize overall savings because biodiesel burns cleaner, and provides greater lubrication saving wear and tear caused by petroleum diesel fuels.

Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage. B20 (a blend of 20 percent by volume biodiesel with 80 percent by volume petroleum diesel) has demonstrated significant environmental benefits with a minimum increase in cost for fleet operations and other consumers. The higher the volume of biodiesel the greater the environmental benefit.

Biodiesel is the first fuel commercially produced nationwide that meets the U.S. EPA’s definition of an Advanced Biofuel. Advanced biofuel is defined as a renewable fuel other than ethanol derived from cornstarch. The advanced biofuel category can apply to a variety of fuels, including biomass-based diesel, biogas, butanol or other alcohols and fuels derived from cellulosic biomass. Both advanced biofuel and biomass-based diesel must meet a life-cycle Green House Gas (GHG) emission-reduction threshold of 50 percent, and must be manufactured from feedstock meeting the definition of renewable biomass.

The use of biodiesel results in substantial reduction of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and hydrocarbons when compared to the emissions from diesel fuel. Pure biodiesel eliminates acid rain producing exhaust emissions such as sulfur oxides and sulfates.

According to research, biodiesel reduces net CO² emissions by 78% compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel creates a closed carbon cycle, meaning that CO² released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants. Plant matter is later turned into additional fuel sources.


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