What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is an alternative fuel produced from various renewable resources, with the most common sources of feedstock for biodiesel production being soybean oil, canola oil, and recycled restaurant grease. Animal fats can also be used as feedstock for biodiesel, but they are less commonly used due to their higher costs and potential for supply chain issues. New feedstocks are always being developed, tested, and vetted through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Biodiesel is produced through a chemical process called transesterification, which involves reacting a fat or oil with an alcohol (usually methanol) and a catalyst. This process breaks down the fat or oil into glycerol and fatty acid esters, which are then purified and used as biodiesel fuel.
Biodiesel blends have several advantages over traditional diesel fuel alone. First, it is a renewable fuel source that can be produced domestically, reducing the need for foreign oil imports. Second, it is biodegradable and non-toxic, making it safer for the environment than petroleum-based diesel fuel. Third, biodiesel produces fewer emissions than traditional diesel fuel, including significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Biodiesel has a higher cetane than US diesel fuel. This means that B20, a 20 percent biodiesel, provides similar fuel economy, horsepower, and torque compared to diesel fuel. Biodiesel also has superior lubricity and one of the highest BTU content of any alternative fuel.
Fuel-grade biodiesel must meet industry specifications to ensure proper performance. Biodiesel blends are required to meet ASTM D7467 specifications for diesel motor fuel. B100 (pure biodiesel) must meet ASTM D6751. Biodiesel is typically blended with petroleum-based diesel fuel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel blends up to 20% can be used in existing diesel engines.
There are some challenges associated with the use of biodiesel, however. One of the main challenges is the potential for supply chain issues, as biodiesel feedstocks can be subject to seasonal variations in availability and price. Another challenge is the potential for engine performance issues with higher biodiesel blends. However, these issues are generally rare and can be mitigated through proper engine maintenance and the use of high-quality fuel.
There are several benefits associated with biodiesel, particularly for fuel retailers. The Alternative Fuels Council can assist fuel retailers with a biodiesel blending program.
Biodiesel Blending Basics
Blending biodiesel involves mixing a certain percentage of biodiesel with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel can be blended and used in many different concentrations and does not require specialized equipment. Capital investment in blending biodiesel can be minimal to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending upon the availability and proximity of the biodiesel supply. Federal and state grants may be available to help with these costs.
Is Biodiesel Available Near Your Location?
1) Visit your competitors and look for the percent bio-blend sticker on their diesel dispensers. Anyone who sells bio blends greater than 5 percent is legally required to post this decal on their dispensers.
2) Ask your current fuel supplier if biodiesel is available
3) Contact the nearest terminal you may be pulling ULSD from, making logistics easier, and this will typically mean you will be purchasing from a wholesaler.
Want to connect directly with a biodiesel producer?
How do I Blend?
The two most common ways to blend biodiesel are:
1) Splash Blending – biofuel and diesel are loaded together, and product mixing occurs as the fuel is agitated within the transport to its final location. The blender, in this case, will pick up B100, then “splash” ULSD on top of it. The activity of filling the transport, traveling down the road, then transferring into a storage tank is more than enough mixing. This method requires no additional equipment.
2) In-line blending involves blending the biodiesel and petroleum diesel as they are pumped through a pipeline. The two fuels are pumped through a blending system that mixes them in the ratio the operator sets. The blended fuel is then transported through the pipeline to its final destination. This is probably the most significant investment in biodiesel blending the Alternative Fuels Council has seen recently. In-line blending allows for greater mixing and precision of blend percentages, potentially controlled remotely from the office.
Regardless of the blending method used, it is important to ensure that the biodiesel and petroleum diesel are well mixed to ensure that the blend is consistent and uniform.
In addition to the blending process, it is important to consider the storage and handling of blended biodiesel. Biodiesel can absorb water, so it is important to store it in a dry location and avoid exposing it to moisture. Biodiesel can also degrade over time, so it is important to use it within the recommended storage period and avoid storing it for extended periods of time.
It is also important to ensure that blended biodiesel meets the necessary fuel quality standards. blends are required to meet ASTM D7467 specifications for diesel motor fuel. B100 (pure biodiesel) must meet ASTM D6751. Fuel quality standards ensure the fuel is safe for diesel engines and meets the necessary performance and emissions requirements.
Federal Incentives and Grant Opportunities for Biodiesel Blending
RINs – Renewable Fuel Standard
IRS Blenders Tax Credit
USDA Higher Blends Infrastructure Program
Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): California, Oregon, Washington
Other State Incentives that may be available in your location
Want to know what incentives might be available to you?