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Biodiesel—A Renewable Energy Source

Advantages and drawbacks

The advantages of biodiesel

  • Biodiesel is a renewable energy resource. Biodiesel can extend the supplies of fossil fuels that rely on carbon-based compounds.
  • Biodiesel can be made in the US. This would improve energy security by reducing the reliance on imported oil.
  • Biodiesel has a higher cetane and lubricity rating than pure petroleum based diesel fuel, which improves engine efficiency and operating life cycle.

The drawbacks of biodiesel

  • Biodiesel acts like a solvent, similar to methanol, and more pronounced than gasoline. Therefore, any sediment in the fuel delivery system (storage tanks, hoses, vehicle fuel tank, etc.) can be washed into the diesel engine’s filters and fuel injectors, potentially causing reduction or stoppage in fuel flow.
    • This solvent effect can be overcome by changing filters more often initially, as well as ensuring storage tanks are kept free of sediment and other deposits.
    • Hoses and other fuel delivery connectors must be inspected regularly for deterioration, particularly when higher blends are used because material compatibility is an issue.
    • Biodiesel can harm painted surfaces when excess fuel is spilled. Reducing the concentration of the biodiesel blend to B05 or lower can alleviate this risk.
  • Biodiesel is more likely than petroleum diesel to attract moisture, which can cause problems in cold weather (fuel freezing, deposit of water in the vehicle fuel delivery system, fuel cold flow, clouding, and increased corrosion for example) and increase the risk of microbial growth (which can also clog engine filters).
  • Biodiesel is 10-30% more expensive than petroleum diesel, depending on the geographic location.
  • The refueling process is the same as that of petroleum diesel fuel. However, it is presently more difficult to locate refueling stations outside of commercial and government refueling locales. For example, if you were traveling from the mid-west (where most station outlets are located) to California, it might be difficult to find a retail-refueling outlet that carries biodiesel in any blend.