called Biodiesel, it’s made from most any vegetable oil, it contains no
fossil fuel. You can use it as a source of fuel in any diesel engine. At
first many folks think it’s a hoax, think there are drawbacks, think if it
were for real everyone would be using it. Well, the truth is Biodiesel
fuel outperforms standard diesel fuel in many ways.
What exactly is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is methanol-ester fuel made from vegetable oil or animal fat.
Consider these facts:
• Will run in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine.
• Safe to handle, has higher flash point than diesel.
• Extends engine life.
• Can be mixed with diesel fuel.
• 75 – 90 % reduction in exhaust emissions.
• Exhaust has a pleasant smell of popcorn or French Fries.
• Ignition, power output and engine torque relatively unaffected.
• Used for over 20 years in Europe.
• Delivers the same fuel economy as diesel fuel.
• Refining process yields glycerin which has many uses, such as soap.
• Reduces cancer risk.
• Can reduce dependence on foreign oil.
• Can keep used cooking oil out of landfills (The EPA considers used
cooking oil a toxic waste).
• Doesn’t produce explosive gases
• Low toxicity to animals and humans if ingested.
In February 1894 Rudolph Diesel ran his first diesel engine for one
minute, a total of 88 revolutions. For the next two years Mr. Diesel
worked on perfecting the engine. What fuel did Mr. Diesel use? Answer:
peanut oil. In fact, any vegetable oil can be used to fuel Mr. Diesel’s
Later, a cheaper, dirtier,
readily available fuel became popular to power the diesel engine, it was
the same grade oil used in heating furnaces, i.e. Grade 2 Oil. This fuel
remains the most popular fuel for diesel engines today because of its
availability and relatively low cost.
The major drawback to using
grade 2 oil in diesel engines is the high level of exhaust emissions that
are produced. Even though diesel fuel can be reformulated into different
grades such as D1, D2, and D4 they all produce high levels of exhaust
Combusting diesel fuel
releases carbon soot, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, aldehydes, nitrogen
dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. So, let’s
forget about burning that dirty, smelly diesel oil, let’s substitute
Biodiesel and see what we get. The following table indicates the reduction
in exhaust emissions using pure Biodiesel fuel (B100).
Hydrocarbons 93 % reduction
Carbon Monoxide 44 % reduction
Particulate Matter 40 % reduction
Sulfates 100 % reduction
Polycyclic Hydrocarbons 90 % reduction
Sulfer Oxides - 100 % reduction
Nitrogen Oxides + 6 % increase
(Can be eliminated)
A point to consider with the statistics listed above is the drastically
reduced levels of Polycyclic Hydrocarbons. Polycyclic Hydrocarbons, both
aromatic and nitrated, have been identified as cancer causing compounds.
Biodiesel has a higher Cetane number than diesel fuel (10 – 15 points),
which results in improved combustibility and quieter operation. A gallon
of Biodiesel fuel will produce approximately 150,000 BTU’s, while a gallon
of gasoline will produce only 125,000 BTU’s. The extra heat generated by
diesel and Biodiesel fuel is one of the major reasons diesel powered
vehicles get better fuel mileage.
Diesel fuel is more “oily” than gasoline, so it contributes to the
longevity of the engine, and adding just 2% Biodiesel to regular diesel
will increase lubricity by 65%. A major concern by many consumers in
America is the smell, noise, and air pollution generated by diesel
engines, Biodiesel alleviates many of these concerns.
One of the greatest contributions from the Volkswagen Corporation is the
use of their 1.9 Liter Turbo Diesel Engine (TDI). This engine powers the
VW Jetta, Golf, and Beetle. These vehicles are known to produce 42 – 50
mpg on a regular basis. The new TDI is quiet and smooth compared to some
of the old rattle traps of yesteryear. Some of the more savvy consumers
will select this engine choice for their new VW purchase. This engine can
easily have twice the lifespan of a gasoline engine while providing
substantial savings in fuel. Since a diesel engine produces most of its
torque at very low rpm levels, these cars can provide good acceleration
and drivability. Gone are the days of belching smoke, poor power and
So, how do we make the diesel driving experience even better? We take some
used fryer oil, strain out the old French Fries and Calamari pieces, mix
in a little methanol and lye, give it a good mixing, and sit back and
watch. After about 8 hours the glycerin (fat) will settle to the bottom
leaving a high grade fuel ready to be used in any diesel engine. Siphon
off the Biodiesel, make some hand soap with the glycerin and you’re in
The Biodiesel fuel is up to
90% cleaner than regular diesel, produces a pleasant exhaust aroma, and
lubricates better than regular diesel. Anyone interested in making their
own Biodiesel fuel should go to
www.veggievan.com and read about the process.
There are several methods for
creating Biodiesel from used fryer grease, and doing a little research on
the various methods would be advisable. Be warned, you must take certain
precautions when switching to Biodiesel fuel. Some of the rubber and
neoprene fuel line components in older cars could deteriorate in the
presence of Biodiesel. Biodiesel is not only clean burning but it also
cleans the fuel system. Older diesel powered vehicles typically have dirty
fuel systems, due to an organism that grows in diesel fuel and appears as
a black muck. Biodiesel will clean the fuel system and send all the muck
straight to the fuel filter, effectively clogging it.
Biodiesel is well known in other parts of the world where fuel costs and
availability are a major concern. There are only several refining plants
in the US that are selling Biodiesel for public use, but there are many in
South America, Europe and other areas of the world. A few minutes
searching on the internet will yield the dealers nearest you.
Using Biodiesel has many
implications, including, but not limited to, the positive impact on our
environment and the reduced dependence on foreign oil. From a vehicle
standpoint Biodiesel will greatly extend the life of any diesel engine
while keeping the fuel system clean. Should you choose to formulate your
own Biodiesel fuel, or use Biodiesel in any engine, be sure to do your
homework, there are minor precautions you will need to take.
We are currently doing a Biodiesel project with one of our local high
school science departments. We will contribute to the development of a
diesel powered Volkswagen Golf for running in the annual Tour de Sol,
coming to the Northeast in June 2003. Anyone interested in the Tour de Sol
should go to www.nesea.org for more
Comments can be
sent to the author at email@example.com.