Biodiesel Basics

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning, renewable fuel for diesel engines made from oilseed crops (like canola or soybean) or from used cooking oil and other fats. Biodiesel can be used in existing diesel engines with little or no mechanical modification.

biodiesel fuel pumps Biodiesel has many benefits. It is simple to use, biodegradable and nontoxic. Biodiesel can be blended at any level with standard petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend.

Typical blends used are B5 (a blend of 5% biodiesel and 95% petroleum diesel), B20, and B99. Biodiesel is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use as a fuel and as a fuel additive.

How is biodiesel a better choice for business?

  • Better for customers

Customers appreciate leaders in business that “do the right thing.” By using biodiesel in vehicles, businesses can command the industry edge. Customers know that biodiesel use has environmental benefits, helps the local economy, and supports rural communities. They reward companies who consider these impacts.

  • Better for workers

Successful employers strive for safe, healthy workplaces. Biodiesel promotes better health for drivers and mechanics by improving their workplace air quality. Conventional diesel pollution is a serious health threat, while biodiesel significantly lowers tailpipe emissions of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carcinogenic particulate matter.

  • Better for vehicles

Sufficient fuel lubricity is necessary to reduce equipment wear and premature breakdown. Biodiesel improves the lubricity of diesel fuel (especially ultra low sulfur diesel), enhances engine performance, prolongs engine life and decreases fleet operating costs.

  • Better for long-term stability

As a domestically produced fuel, biodiesel reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Given the uncertainty and cost volatility associated with imported oil, biodiesel provides a measure of energy independence and helps stabilize long-term fuel costs.

If I start using biodiesel, can I go back to petroleum diesel?

Yes! Successful businesses depend upon versatility. With biodiesel, you can easily switch back and forth between regular biodiesel and petroleum diesel, and between various biodiesel blends.

Does biodiesel perform as well as diesel?

A major benefit of biodiesel is that it can be used in diesel engines and fuel injection equipment with little impact on operating performance. In more than 50 million miles of in-field experience, B20 showed similar fuel consumption, horsepower, torque, and haulage rates compared with conventional diesel.

Biodiesel has a higher cetane number than diesel, resulting in a more complete combustion of the fuel. This improves engine efficiency, can improve the power output of the engine, and results in less white smoke.

What about fuel quality?

filling gas tank with biofuel
Commercially sold biodiesel must meet quality standards created specifically for biodiesel known as ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) D 6751. These technical standards ensure consistent, high quality fuel that will perform properly in all diesel engines.

Are there maintenance issues with biodiesel?

Biofuel users appreciate that this fuel can be used in any diesel engine with little or no modification to the engine or fuel system. With higher blends of biodiesel, fuel filters may need to be changed after the initial biodiesel switch and precautions may need to be taken in cold weather. Go to Maintenance Procedures for complete details.

How does biodiesel impact my engine warranty?

Engine manufacturers’ warranties only cover the manufacturers’ parts and workmanship. These warranties do not cover fuel whether it’s regular diesel, ultra low sulfur diesel, or biodiesel. The use of biodiesel in diesel engines does not void these warranties.

If there are engine problems caused by a fuel (whether that fuel is petroleum diesel or biodiesel) these problems are the responsibility of the fuel supplier. Whether or not a biodiesel blend is “recommended” is separate from the question of whether the use of biodiesel affects engine warranty coverage.

Typically an engine company will define what fuel the engine was designed for and will recommend which fuel to use. All major engine companies have approved B5 as a recommended fuel, and most are moving to approve blends up to B20.

 

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