Biodiesel is a type of fuel that is derived from vegetable oil or animal fat. It is usually produced from the reaction of these fats with an alcohol. The resulting fuel consists of chemical that are known as long chain alkyl esters.
Biodiesel can be produced from many different types of fats and lipids. The final characteristics of the biodiesel, including its color, which can range from golden to a dark brown color, depend upon the initial source of the oil. Sources of lipids for biodiesel production include specially grown energy crops such as soybean and rapeseed, waste vegetable oil, animal fats such as lard, and algae.
Biodiesel is intended for use in standard engines, unlike the vegetable and waste oil fuels that require engine conversions in order to be used. Biodiesel can be blended with normal diesel, or used on its own. Some modifications may need to be made to the engine in order to run a vehicle on pure biodiesel. Biodiesel fuels are named according to the proportion of biodiesel and petrodiesel that they contain. B100 is pure biodiesel. B20, B5 and B2 contain 20, 5 and 2 percent biodiesel, respectively.
One problem that can occur when biodiesel is used in older cars is that it can degrade components such as hoses that are manufactured from natural rubber. Modern components, which are constructed from a different material, are not affected by biodiesel. Biodiesel can also break down deposits of residue that have been left behind by petrodiesel. This can lead to clogging of fuel filters if the switch from petrodiesel to biodiesel is made too quickly. Replacing the fuel filters can prevent this problem from arising.
The use of biodiesel is increasing, due to changes in legislation in the United States and United Kingdom. In the UK, for example, fuel manufacturers are required to include at least 5 percent renewable fuel in all vehicle fuels. Diesel sold in the UK must therefore consist of a blend of at least 5 percent biodiesel.
Biodiesel is a better lubricant than normal diesel, so it can help to keep the car engine working properly. It can reduce engine wear and help to make the fuel injection system last longer. Although biodiesel energy content than petrodiesel, it may increase the energy output of the engine because of its lubricating properties and because it tends to be more completely combusted than petrodiesel.
Biodiesel is a renewable source of energy since it can be derived from sustainably sourced crops and other renewable sources of fats and oils. Biodiesel is also a cleaner burning fuel than normal diesel. It does not release any sulfur into the air. Biodiesel is often added to low sulfur fuels for this reason. Biodiesel use can also reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.
Another benefit of biodiesel is that it offers energy security since any country is capable of producing its own biodiesel and therefore to avoid being dependent on imported oil.
One potential problem with biodiesel is that it begins to thicken and solidify into a gel as the temperature drops. In order to use biodiesel as a cart fuel in a cold environment, it is necessary to include additives that can prevent this from happening, or to store the biodiesel in a second, insulated, fuel tank that can be warmed. Another problem is that biodiesel can sometimes be contaminated with water, which can prevent the fuel from working properly.
Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for other types of vehicles, including trains and planes, as well as for cars. It can also be used as a heating oil. Other types of alternative car fuels are also available, such as ethanol. The PennEnergy.org website is a good source of information about different types of alternative fuel and renewable energy sources.