What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a diesel fuel replacement produced from feedstock sources such as soybeans, cooking oil, and animal fats. Biodiesel can be used in its pure form (B100 or “neat”) or blended at any ratio with petroleum diesel to achieve cost efficiency and improve cold weather performance. It is commonly used as B20 – a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
Numerous fleets in Virginia have used biodiesel including: Williamsburg-James City County Schools, Virginia Beach Public Schools, Arlington County & Schools, U.S. Army, Gloucester County Schools, Woodfin Oil, Harrisonburg Schools and Transit, James Madison University, Staunton, Waynesboro, the University of Virginia, Chesterfield County, Westmoreland County, Northumberland County, Roanoke Municipal & Schools, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and more.
Virginia 2011 Biofuels Production Report – Based on 2011 year-end data.
Which Vehicles Can Use Biodiesel?
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel vehicle without modification*. It is used throughout the world and in many applications including buses, delivery trucks, waste disposal and recycling trucks, construction and farm equipment, heavy-duty freight hauling, boats and passenger vehicles.
*Because biodiesel is a great solvent, older vehicles need rubber materials replaced.
How Does Biodiesel Perform?
Biodiesel performs similar to traditional diesel, though B100 may result in a minimal power loss and a slight reduction in fuel economy due to its lesser energy content than petroleum diesel. B20 is the most popular blend, and users report no or minimal difference in fuel economy from petroleum diesel. ASTM International has reviewed biodiesel performance and issued a final specification for what qualifies as quality biodiesel. (Users should be sure that any fuel they purchase meets ASTM D6751.) Because biodiesel acts as a lubricant, it reduces wear and tear on the engine, and can reduce maintenance costs and extend engine life. Biodiesel remains blended with petroleum diesel so it can be easily stored and dispensed in existing facilities. Biodiesel thickens more than diesel fuel in cold weather and special systems or minor modifications are required for use of B100. Vehicles produced prior to 1993 should have rubber seals in fuel pumps and fuel systems replaced with non-rubber (Viton) seals.
What Are the Benefits of Using Biodiesel?
The production of biodiesel has a 1 to 3.2 energy balance ratio. In other words, for every 1 unit of energy that goes into producing biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are produced. Biodiesel also results in significantly lower emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, toxic contaminants, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, visible smoke and noxious odors than petroleum diesel. Depending on the feed source, biodiesel can result in a 75% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over the entire production process.
Biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable and therefore does not pose a threat to water and soil resources if B100 is spilled. Producing biodiesel from restaurant oil or animal processing wastes recycles potential waste material that may otherwise go to a landfill. Additionally, biodiesel is one of the safest fuels to use, handle, and store because it has a higher flash point (300º F) than petroleum diesel. Significant benefits of biodiesel include reducing dependence on foreign oil and providing alternative markets for farmers.
Current Virginia Clean Cities Biodiesel Projects
Virginia Clean Cities is working with the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission to explore ways in which use and possible production of biodiesel could help preserve the Dragon Run, a sensitive watershed and the farmland that surrounds it in a four-county region of Virginia. Visit the page to find out more about this unique project.
To ensure quality control and to anticipate and respond to fuel quality issues please review the linked poster.
Virginia Clean Cities hosted seminars that focused on achieving and maintaining acceptable biodiesel fuel quality. These seminars were created to respond to the growing number of biodiesel fleets in Virginia, of which many have needed to suspend use for various fuel quality issues including improper blending practices, cold weather handling, and insufficient preparation for a biodiesel transition. The target audiences for these workshops included petroleum marketers, fleet managers, fuel regulators, biodiesel producers, and state fleets. Visit the page to download all presentations and resources used during the seminar.