Biodiesel is made from renewable feedstocks, such as vegetable oils and animal fats, through a simple refining process. One of the main commodity sources for biodiesel is soybeans, a major crop produced by almost 400,000 farmers in 29 states.
Straight biodiesel is called B100; a common form of biodiesel used in this area is B20 (20% biodiesel and 80% straight diesel fuel). In order for biodiesel to qualify as an alternative fuel, it must contain at least 20% of straight biodiesel.
B20 biodiesel qualifies as an alternative fuel per federal regulations and the Clean Air Act of 1990. Visit the National Biodiesel Board web site at www.biodiesel.org for the specific legislation and requirements.
Biodiesel operates in conventional engines. No engine modifications are required, and biodiesel maintains the payload capacity and range of straight diesel fuel. Since modifications are not required, there is no need to change vehicles, parts inventories, or refueling stations. This is a major benefit for using biodiesel as an alternative fuel.
Biodiesel does not require special storage. Existing tanks can be used to store and dispense the product. Biodiesel has a higher flash point than straight diesel fuel, and is safe to transport.
Biodiesel does have cold weather handling limitations. Straight B100 has a pour point of 20-30 degrees above zero farenheight, so during winter months several precautions should be taken. Biodiesel additives are now available to improve the performance of B20, and #1 diesel can be used to further improve the cold weather handling of B20. A common winter formula is 20% B100, 40% #2 diesel, and 40% #1 diesel. During extremely cold weather, some fleets convert to straight diesel for a time.
Biodiesel costs rank well with those of other alternative fuel sources. Because no fleet modifications are requires, the only incremental cost to converting to biodiesel is the fuel itself. The cost of biodiesel depends on the supply of vegetable oil, as well as the price spread between biodiesel and straight diesel fuel. In general, B20 biodiesel will cost 15 to 30 cents per gallon more than straight diesel fuel.
For more information on biodiesel, including B100 Specification Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets, visit www.biodiesel.org.