Information on Biodiesel Fuel
The National Biodiesel Board defines biodiesel as a clean-burning alternative fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats. It is a non-petroleum based fuel that can be used in standard petrodiesel engines with no modifications. Alternately, it can be blended with traditional diesel in any percentage to create biodiesel blends. During production, glycerin in animal fats and vegetable oils is removed, leaving behind biodiesel. The glycerin can then be sold for use in soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products. It is not raw vegetable oil or animal fat. These cannot be used as fuel. Rather it is a derivative of these substances in the same way that wine is a derivative of grapes.
What are Benefits?
Biodiesel has a number of compelling benefits. From the economy to the ozone layer, it offers much more than the resources required to produce it.
Biodiesel For Fleet Use
Ease: Biodiesel requires little modifications to storage tanks or vehicles for its dispensation or use, therefore it is relatively easy to switch from traditional petrodiesel to biodiesel or biodiesel blends.
When switching to biodiesel:
- Automotive manufacturers are prohibited from voiding warranties because of biodiesel use.
- All major United States engine manufacturers are subject to this warranty voiding prohibition.
- The only modifications needed are more frequent fuel filter changes and conversion to synthetic hoses.
Of all alternative fuels today, biodiesel is the most cost-effective. Many fleets are now using biodiesel as an economical answer to the new, more stringent state and federal emission regulations that have recently been enacted; and now that President Obama has begun the push for green fuel use, there are even tax credits available to companies who convert to biodiesel or biodiesel blends.
Effects On Engine Life
Biodiesel has a natural cleansing action on all interior surfaces of engines, which eliminates deposits, residue, and gunk. This means that initially, frequent fuel filter changes will be necessary. However, these fuel filter changes mean that the engine is literally getting cleaned from the inside out. Less gunk and deposits mean longer engine life. Longer engine life means fewer engine repairs or replacements.
Biodiesel And The Economy
Biodiesel’s economic impact cannot be overstated. It requires no special components or facilities outside of the U.S. for production. This means that the animal and vegetable oils required for its production can be cultivated in the U.S., the factories can be U.S. based, and the fuel can be supplied to U.S. consumers. Add to that the fact the even biodiesel by-products are quite valuable to the economy, and the economic benefits are quite large.
Effect on The Environment
This alternative fuel is a fully sustainable, environmentally friendly, economically beneficial substance, which has the potential to markedly improve the United States’ economy as well as its environment.
Biodiesel is biodegradable, gives off virtually no emissions, and is non-toxic. Emissions from pure biodiesel are virtually harmless. In fact, the carbon dioxide given off by biodiesel is absorbed by plants, which are later harvested to produce the biodiesel that fed them in the first place.
Biodiesel will thicken at temperatures at or below freezing. While this does not affect its ability to be used when it warms, it does render it useless while cold. There are several cost-effective ways of combating this thickening.
- Use a 20/80 blend
- Add anticoagulation agents
- Blend biodiesel with kerosene or with cold weather-treated petrodiesel
- Store vehicles indoors
- Use block and filter heaters
When considering biodiesel fuel storage, there are a few things to keep in mind. Its unique makeup means it must be stored carefully, with particular attention paid to fuel quality and purity. However, these precautions are easy to implement and more than pay for themselves in the long run.
- Store in a clean, dry, dark area out of direct sunlight and away from heat.
- Steel tanks are recommended for ease of installation, operation, and maximum fuel purity.
- Remove all moisture from tanks. Because biodiesel is produced from organic matter, water promotes slime and bacteria growth.
When storing and dispensing biodiesel, take the same safety precautions you would when using petrodiesel. While biodiesel is non-toxic, it is still flammable and safety should be a top priority.
- Turn off engines when fueling.
- No open flames or cigarettes should be present.
- Never leave the vehicle unattended when dispensing fuel.
- Be aware of the surroundings, especially when operating large trucks or earth moving vehicles. These vehicles can clear safety barriers and damage the tank.
- Check tanks frequently for leaks, cracks, and other imperfections.
- Perform quality checks regularly on stored fuel. Impure fuel can permanently destroy engines.
For ease of use, the best way to store biodiesel is in an above-ground fuel storage tank (AST). ASTs are easier to install and more cost-effective than other traditional storage systems. They have the added benefit of ease of testing and early leak detection. And just like below-grade storage options, they are fire, impact, heat, and ballistics rated.
Read more about Above Ground Fuel Storage Tanks, how they are made, and why they work.