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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

Is Biodiesel the same as vegetable oil?
No, in order to run straight vegetable oil (SVO) in your diesel engine modifications must be made to heat and filter the SVO before it can passes though your injectors. Kits are available for those who are handy with the wrench but not recommended for those who don’t want to get greasy.  Biodiesel on the other hand requires no modifications and can be used interchangeably with petrol diesel.   

How is Biodiesel made?
Biodiesel is produced from any fat or oil through a process called transesterification.  This process is a reaction of the oil with an alcohol and a catalyst to remove the glycerin, which is a by-product of biodiesel production.  In order to achieve this reaction heated vegetable oil is mixed with sodium or potassium hydroxide commonly known as lye or KOH and an alcohol methanol or ethanol.  Once complete the chemical reaction leaves behind glycerin and long fatty chains called methyl esters or biodiesel. 

Blends and Regulations
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. It is registered as a fuel and fuel additive with the EPA and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). B100 (100 percent biodiesel) has been designated as an alternative fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage.  A 20% blend of biodiesel with diesel fuel is called “B20,” a 5% blend is called “B5” and so on.  Yet only 100% biodiesel is considered a nonflammable, nontoxic, biodegradable fuel.

Offers similar power to diesel fuel
Biodiesel can be used in any existing diesel engine and fuel injection equipment with little impact on operating performance. Biodiesel has a higher cetane number than U.S. diesel fuel, which makes it ignite faster, with less engine noise. In over 15 million miles of in-field testing, biodiesel showed similar fuel consumption, horsepower, torque, and haulage rates as conventional diesel fuel.

Biodiesel provides more lubricity than petroleum diesel
Lubricity - or the ability to reduce friction -- reduces wear and tear on the engine, and ultimately the cost of maintaining diesel fleets. Even biodiesel levels below 1% can provide up to a 65 percent increase in lubricity in distillate fuels. Mandated EPA reductions of sulfur by the year 2006 will reduce the lubricity of petroleum diesel fuels and require an additive; biodiesel can fill that role, even at very low percentages, such as B2, or 2% biodiesel.

Biodiesel is the first and only alternative fuel to have a complete evaluation of emission results and potential health effects submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act Section 211(b). These programs include the most stringent emissions testing protocols ever required by EPA for certification of fuels or fuel additives.

Energy Independence
Energy balance is a measure of lifecycle efficiency; improving our energy balance increases energy independence. Biodiesel is far more efficient in its lifetime use of fossil fuels than petroleum diesel, taking into account cradle to grave production, transportation and distribution.  According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture, the "energy yield of biodiesel is (3.2/0.83) 280 percent greater than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel yields 3.2 units of fuel product energy for every unit of fossil energy consumed in its life cycle...By contrast, petroleum diesel's life cycle yields only 0.83 units of fuel energy per unit of fossil energy consumed." This means every gallon of biodiesel we use has the potential to displace four gallons of imported petroleum.

There is an alternative: a way to decrease this country’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil while boosting the U.S. economy and protecting the environment. American-made fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol are gaining momentum in the U.S. Government and private fleets are increasingly turning to biodiesel, making it the fastest growing alternative fuel in America. Annual biodiesel production reached 75 million gallons in 2005 – three times the 25 million gallons produced just one year earlier.

Key benefits of using Biodiesel

  • A healthier, cleaner-burning fuel to petrol diesel
  • Can be produced from recycled and organic ingredients
  • Can be used interchangeably in any diesel application, with little or no modifications
  • Biodiesel is a non toxic, non flammable, biodegradable product unlike dirty diesel
  • Enables sustainable local economic growth and eases our dependence on foreign oil

Biodiesel Resources
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

National Biodiesel Board 

Peoples Fuel 5758 Geary Blvd, #241 San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 250-9114
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