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What is Bio-Diesel?

What is biodiesel?
Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

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How is biodiesel made?
Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification whereby the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products -- methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct usually sold to be used in soaps and other products).

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Is Biodiesel the same thing as raw vegetable oil?
No! Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751) in order to insure proper performance. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Biodiesel that meets ASTM D6751 and is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency is a legal motor fuel for sale and distribution. Raw vegetable oil cannot meet biodiesel fuel specifications, it is not registered with the EPA, and it is not a legal motor fuel.
For entities seeking to adopt a definition of biodiesel for purposes such as federal or state statute, state or national divisions of weights and measures, or for any other purpose, the official definition consistent with other federal and state laws and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) guidelines is as follows:
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 blends are denoted as, "BXX" with "XX" representing the percentage of biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).

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Should I try this at home?

Converting the oil to biodiesel is probably the best all-round solution of the three options (or we think so anyway).

You could simply buy your biodiesel. Most major European vehicle manufacturers now provide vehicle warranties covering the use of pure biodiesel -- though that might not be just any biodiesel. Some insist on "RME", rapeseed methyl esters, and won't cover use of soy biodiesel (which isn't covered by the Euro biodiesel standard). Germany has thousands of filling stations supplying biodiesel, and it's cheaper there than ordinary diesel fuel. All fossil diesel fuel sold in France contains between 2% and 5% biodiesel. New EU laws will soon require this Europe-wide. Some states in the US are legislating similar requirements. There's a growing number of US suppliers and sales are rising fast, though biodiesel is more expensive than ordinary diesel in the US. In the UK biodiesel is taxed less than petrodiesel and it's available commercially.

But there's a lot to be said for the GREAT feeling of independence you'll get from making your own fuel!

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Why should I use biodiesel?
Biodiesel is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel. It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar. Since it is made in the USA from renewable resources such as soybeans, its use decreases our dependence on foreign oil and contributes to our own economy.

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Is it safer and cleaner?

  • Biodiesel offers fleet operators a safer, cleaner alternative to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is made from renewable fats and oils, such as vegetable oils, through a simple refining process. Pacific Biodiesel produces biodiesel from used restaurant fryer oil.  One of the main components for fryer oil are soybeans, a major crop produced by almost 400,000 farmers in 29 states.
  • Biodiesel is recognized as an alternative fuel. In its neat form and in blends of 20% or more with petroleum diesel, the US Department of Energy has acknowledged biodiesel as an alternative fuel.  Biodiesel can be used for vehicle credits under the Energy Policy Act. 
  • Biodiesel operates in conventional compression-ignition engines, from light to heavy-duty, just like petroleum diesel. No engine modifications are required, and biodiesel maintains the payload capacity and range of diesel. Since engine modifications are not required, there's no need to change vehicles, spare parts inventories, refueling stations or specially skilled mechanics.  Vehicle hoses need to be checked after the first 6 months of operation on biodiesel.  Replacement of non-compatible hoses may be necessary, but is not usually difficult or expensive.   Blends of 20% or less tend to have little effect on even non-compatible hoses.
  • Biodiesel cuts down on targeted emissions. Biodiesel used in a 20 percent blend with petroleum diesel and a catalytic converter will cut air pollution. Particulate matter is reduced 31 percent, carbon monoxide by 21 percent and total hydrocarbons by 47 percent. Biodiesel used in a blend will also reduce sulfur emissions and aromatics.  Using 100% biodiesel further reduces emissions and carcinogenic compounds.

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What about the marine market?

Biodiesel use in the marine market can be practical and safe. In its pure form, biodiesel is less harsh on marine environments and easier for boaters to handle and store. The marine industry consumes about 10 percent of the petroleum diesel in the U.S.

  • Biodiesel can work in several marine factions. Because biodiesel can replace or blend with petroleum diesel without engine modifications, it is a viable alternative to several categories of the marine industry, including: recreational boats, inland commercial and ocean-going commercial ships, research vessels and the U.S. Coast Guard Fleet. Today, much of the emphasis is on recreational boats, which consume about 95 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.
  • Biodiesel is a safe alternative fuel.  Biodiesel has a higher flash point than regular diesel.  It is classified as non-flammable by the NFPA, and is not required to carry a Hazardous Material label when being shipped. 
  • Biodiesel is easier on engines. Biodiesel blended as low as a 2% rate with low sulfer or ultra-low sulfer petroleum diesel increases lubricity to traditional high sulfur diesel fuel levels. Field tests indicate that engine life is increased with biodiesel usage.
  • Biodiesel is "user-friendly." The use of biodiesel and biodiesel blends results in a noticeable change in exhaust odor. The reduction in smell and change of odor are easier on ship workers and pleasure craft boaters. In fact, it's been compared to the smell of French fries. Users also report no eye irritation. Since biodiesel is oxygenated, diesel engines have more complete combustion than when using petroleum fuel.

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Is Biodiesel a replacement for petroleum diesel?

The goal of the biodiesel industry is not to replace petroleum diesel, but to extend its usefulness.  Biodiesel is one of several alternative fuels that have a place in the development of a balanced energy policy. The role of biodiesel is to contribute to the longevity and cleanliness of diesel engines. The most likely use of biodiesel will be in certain niche markets that require a cleaner-burning, biodegradable fuel.

Emissions: The Clean Air Act allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess the contribution of non-road emissions to air pollution. EPA proposes to include marine diesel compression-ignition engines in the same regulatory framework as land-based, non-road compression-ignition engines.
 
Regulatory Liability: The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 increases the civil and criminal penalties for causing spills and for violating marine safety and environmental protection laws. The law applies to all vessels, and fines up to $10,000 per day can be levied against serious offenders.
 
Clean Water Act: The Clean Water Act requires states to establish standards for pollutants like grease and oil, in an effort to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological condition of U.S. waters.

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More Questions?

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us.

Tel: +27 (11) 237 - 9760
Fax: +27 (11) 314 - 0219
Email: tech@aae.co.za

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