Biodiesel is an alternative fuel used alone or in diesel or kerosene blends for use in diesel engines. It contains none of the harmful, greenhouse gas-producing substances found traditional petrodiesel fuels. In addition, biodiesel degrades significantly faster than petrodiesel, reducing its impact on the environment if spillage or leakage occurs. Because of this, biodiesel is seeing increased use in parks, wetlands, marinas, and other areas where significant environmental harm could occur as a result of a fuel spill or leakage.
Although it produces no harmful emissions, like any fuel, biodiesel will burn, therefore certain fire safety precautions must be taken to ensure safe storage and fueling. The major fire safety concern is with biodiesel blends.
Diesel and kerosene – the two major fuels used in biodiesel blending – are highly flammable with flashpoints much higher than biodiesel. Even biodiesel blends have flashpoints high enough to pose significant fire risks when handled improperly.
- Kerosene – The most flammable biodiesel blend base. Kerosene’s flashpoint is between 100° and 162°F.
- Diesel – Diesel is less flammable than kerosene but substantially more so that 100% biodiesel. Its flash point between 126° and 204°F.
- Biodiesel – Much less-flammable the kerosene or diesel, 100% biodiesel has a flashpoint higher than 212°F.
100%, or neat, biodiesel requires no special signage or placards for transportation or storage. Kerosene or petrodiesel blended biodiesel fuels require NFPA placards during transportation and storage if their flash points are below 200°F. The placard used depends upon the flashpoint of the biodiesel blend used.
NFPA Placard Usage
- Combustible – Fuels are considered to be Hazard Class 3 Combustible when their flash points are between 140° and 200°F.
- Flammable – Fuels are considered to be Hazard Class Flammable when their flash points are below 140°F.
To prevent fire, always store biodiesel and biodiesel blends in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Also, be sure that oxidizing agents, open flames, or ignition sources are kept well away from storage tanks and dispensing areas.
In the event of a fire, neat biodiesel can be extinguished with dry chemical, foam, halon, CO2, or water spray. Care should be taken when using water to put out a biodiesel fire, as water can spread the flammable liquid.