How does biodiesel compare to ordinary petroleum diesel as its use grows in the marketplace? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Here are four factors to consider while assessing the potential impact on fleet.
1. Cost Analysis
When comparing biodiesel prices, the National Biodiesel Board recommends using the following formula: For each percent of biodiesel blended with petrodiesel, add one penny per gallon. B-5, for example, would cost about five cents per gallon more than petrodiesel. B-20 would cost an extra 20 cents, and so on.
The Department of Energy’s handbook provides another option “Alternative Fuel Price Report for Clean Cities,” available at www.eere.energy.gov/afdc. Biodiesel pricing for low-level blends (B-2 to B-5) are nearly the same as conventional diesel, according to the September 2005 edition, $2.81 per gallon biodiesel against $2.81 regular diesel. Blends with B-20 are around ten cents extra at $2.91. Pure biodiesel (B-100), at $3.40 per gallon, is about 59 cents more expensive than conventional diesel.
2. Pollution Impact
According to the report, “In “Clean Alternative Fuels: Biodiesel,” the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows how biodiesel compares to normal diesel in terms of emissions.
The rise in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions is alarming because NOx is a major contributor to ozone formation. Fuel suppliers for fleets, such as Eastman Chemical, blend appropriate additives with biodiesel to counteract and reduce NOx emissions. For example, according to NREL-sponsored research, adding cetane enhancers such di-tert-butyl peroxide at 1% or 2-ethylhexl nitrate at 5% can lower NOx emissions. The study also claims that combining biodiesel with kerosene or Fischer-Tropsch diesel can lower NOx emissions.
“Biodiesel is a superior alternative for fleets interested in decreasing petroleum usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and regulatory pollutants,” adds NREL’s McCormick.
3. Gasoline Quality
“The only drawback we faced in transitioning to biodiesel was a gasoline quality issue with our prior supplier,” explains Curtis of Eastman Chemical. Biodiesel that does not satisfy high quality standards can reduce engine performance, clog filters and injectors, and result in a slew of other expensive repairs.
Eastman Chemical changed suppliers within the first two months of their biodiesel program and hasn’t had any fuel problems since. Curtis strongly advises fleet managers who are considering using biodiesel to double-check that their fuel supply follows ASTM D6751 criteria. The American Society of Testing and Materials International (ASTM) is one of several international standard-setting organizations that have approved biodiesel requirements.
In the United States, ASTM D6751 is the most commonly cited standard. The goal of this guideline is to safeguard customers from subpar products, lower the cost of buying and selling biodiesel, and simplify the procurement process.
“The benefits can only be obtained if high-quality biodiesel that meets ASTM D6751 requirements is utilized for mixing,” warns McCormick. “Biodiesel that isn’t up to grade can create engine difficulties and increased emissions.”
What effect does biodiesel have on engine performance when compared to normal diesel? The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) estimates that using pure biodiesel results in a 5-7 percent reduction in maximum power output. That’s with biodiesel that’s 100 percent biodiesel. Lower ratio blends, such as B-2, B-5, or even B-20, appear to have little, if any, impact on perceived performance as long as fuel quality meets ASTM criteria. The greater lubricity of biodiesel is one performance problem. On the one hand, high lubricity helps to reduce early wear and tear in the fuel system. H
However, when switching from conventional diesel to biodiesel, the enhanced lubricity may pose issues. It can, for example, operate as a solvent for some fuel system components and concrete-lined tanks, releasing deposits built up on tank walls and pipes from diesel fuel storage, causing fuel filter blockages at first. The EPA recommended that car owners replace their fuel filters after the first tank of gas.
Another point of worry is how well it performs in cold conditions. In his analytical paper “Biodiesel Performance, Costs, and Use,” Anthony Radich of the Department of Energy writes, “The performance of biodiesel in cold temperatures is considerably inferior than that of petroleum diesel.”
He claims that the temperature at which wax crystals can develop in a vehicle’s fuel system and potentially clog fuel lines and filters is higher than that of petroleum diesel.
Why is biodiesel cheaper than diesel?
Biodiesel in its purest form is rarely utilized. It’s usually combined with diesel and labeled according to how much diesel it contains. According to Edmunds, biodiesel may be found in practically all “normal” fuel sold at petrol stations in the United States, with blends as high as B5. While many drivers of diesel trucks and cars are unaware that the fuel they put in their vehicles contains 5% biodiesel, fleet operators actively seek nonpetroleum fuel. In fact, B20, a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% gasoline, is used in many fleet and commercial vehicles.
The cost of manufacturing biodiesel is comparable to the cost of producing petroleum. Federal initiatives that give incentives have helped to keep market prices competitive. Biodiesel has also benefited from federal low-sulfur diesel fuel requirements.
Which is more expensive biodiesel or diesel?
With gas prices fluctuating and the Obama administration devoted to reducing America’s reliance on oil, Americans appear to be more interested in alternative fuels, such as those derived from farm crops and other renewable organic sources. Biodiesel and vegetable oil, both of which can be used to power a diesel engine, are among the most readily available.
Biodiesel, which is made from vegetable or animal fats, is chemically equivalent to petroleum diesel. Adherents claim it emits far less pollution than ordinary diesel.
Biodiesel is most typically supplied in mixes with regular diesel, such as B5, which contains 5% biodiesel and 95% petroleum fuel, and B20, which contains 20% biodiesel. According to the US Department of Energy, B20 costs around 20 cents per gallon more than petroleum diesel. B100 (pure biodiesel) costs about 85 cents per gallon more than conventional diesel.
Plain, edible cooking oil is a cousin of biodiesel. However, because cooking oil from grocery store shelves is not economically viable (a gallon costs approximately $8), some people are converting diesel engines to run on old deep-fryer oil that restaurants frequently discard. Discarded oil is sometimes given away for free, but more restaurants are beginning to charge for it.
We adapted a diesel-powered 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDI to run on biodiesel (B5 and B100) and fryer grease to test how they compare to standard petroleum diesel fuel. We discovered that they all permitted the car to perform adequately, but that the price and convenience of each varies.
B5, a biodiesel mix with 5% biodiesel, gave us the greatest overall performance. It was the most efficient in terms of performance, emissions, fuel economy, and convenience. B5 may be used in any diesel engine without requiring any modifications to the vehicle, and it is injected into the tank exactly like regular gasoline. However, because it is made out of 95% petroleum diesel, it offers little to help drivers transition away from fossil fuels.
Our Jetta performed admirably on recycled cooking oil, but the hassle of locating fuel sources and preparing the oil for use in the engine limits its appeal and negates its low cost.
New diesel automobiles with up to 20% biodiesel blends are now being warrantied by automakers. Engineers say they detect too many contaminants and irregularities in the gasoline at concentrations higher than that, or on cooking oil, to be comfortable extending warranty coverage.
Does biodiesel save money?
Biodiesel-powered vehicles have a 30% greater fuel economy than gasoline-powered vehicles, saving owners money every time they go to the gas station. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) in Ohio and the University of Toledo’s Intermodal Transportation Institute launched a three-year fuel comparison study in 2006 to compare the fuel economy of B20 with conventional diesel. According to preliminary findings, some biodiesel buses produced less pollution, had cheaper maintenance costs, and increased miles-per-gallon by 5 to 8%.
Is biodiesel less efficient than diesel?
B20 is a popular blend because it offers an excellent balance of price, emissions, cold-weather performance, materials compatibility, and solvent capabilities. The majority of biodiesel users buy B20 or lesser blends from their regular gasoline distributors or biodiesel marketers. Under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, regulated fleets that utilize biodiesel blends of 20% or greater are eligible for biodiesel fuel consumption credits.
In general, B20 and lower-level mixes can be used without modification in modern engines. In fact, many diesel engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) support the usage of B20 (for a list of OEMs that support biodiesel blends, see Clean Fuels Alliance America’s OEM Information). Before using biodiesel, users should first check their vehicle and engine warranty statements. See the Biodiesel Handling and Use Guide for additional information on OEM-approved biodiesel use in cars.
Engines that run on B20 consume the same amount of fuel, produce the same amount of horsepower, and produce the same amount of torque as engines that run on petroleum diesel. Although B20 with 20% biodiesel content has 1% to 2% less energy per gallon than petroleum diesel, many B20 users say there is no discernible difference in performance or fuel economy. Biodiesel has some pollution advantages, particularly for engines built before 2010. The benefits of engines using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems are the same whether they run on biodiesel or petroleum diesel.
Biodiesel, on the other hand, emits fewer greenhouse gases than traditional diesel fuel. The emissions reduction advantage is roughly proportional to the blend level; for example, B20 has 20% of the emissions reduction benefit of B100.
Is biodiesel OK for Duramax?
The next-generation Duramax diesel V-8 from General Motors will not only burn cleaner to fulfill strict new emissions rules for 2010, but it will also burn greener in terms of gasoline. In GM’s 2011 model year 2500 and 3500 Silverado and Sierra pickups, the so-called LML Duramax will be certified to run on biodiesel mixes of up to B20, which is 80 percent ultra-low-sulfur diesel and 20 percent biodiesel.
The move ultimately equals the B20 capability of the current Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six powering the Dodge Ram HD series, which runs from 2007 to 2009. In our previous Heavy Duty Shootout, the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 was the only pickup that could burn B20. Although B20 biodiesel is readily accessible at many truck stops today, the latest LMM Duramax and Ford’s 6.4-liter Power Stroke V-8 engines are only authorized for B5 biodiesel.
Can I put biodiesel in my Duramax?
GM has yet to officially debut its next-generation Duramax diesel engine, but the firm announced today that the new engine, which will power the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD models, can run on a 20% biodiesel blend (B20).
How much does a gallon of biodiesel cost?
The cost of producing biodiesel is $5.53-$6.38 per gallon, as previously stated. This is more expensive than ordinary diesel at the moment.
Can I use regular diesel in a biodiesel truck?
No, biodiesel is made through a chemical process known as transesterification, which turns natural oils and fats into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). Vegetable oil combustion without conversion to biodiesel results in soot deposition and deposits, which can cause power loss and engine failure. See What Is Biodiesel for more information.
If your vehicle was built before 1993, the rubber gasoline lines will almost certainly need to be replaced. One of the most significant advantages of using biodiesel is that it can be utilized in existing diesel engines without compromising performance. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel for heavy-duty vehicles that does not necessitate specific injection or storage.
It’s worth noting that newer diesel Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes cars (2007 or after) feature a fuel system with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) that can cause fuel/oil dilution in the diesel engine, regardless of whether diesel or biodiesel fuel is used. If certain safeguards are not taken, the engine oil may be diluted by the fuel over time. One suggestion is to make sure you use your diesel engine on a regular basis. Furthermore, if you use 100 percent biodiesel in these vehicles, you must change the oil at least every 3,000 miles and keep an eye on the oil level (this is not an issue with vehicles using biodiesel blends, such as B20). If you have any questions, please contact our biodiesel fuel experts.
“Federal law forbids the voiding of a warranty solely because biodiesel was used,” the US Department of Energy explains in its Biodiesel Handling & Use Guide. The failure would have to be traced back to the biodiesel. If an engine fails due to biodiesel use (or any other external circumstance, such as dirty diesel fuel), the damage may not be covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee.”
No, biodiesel may only be used in diesel engines with a compression ignition system.
Biodiesel functions as a solvent. It will remove a lot of the diesel deposits that have built up in your fuel tank. This may cause early fuel filter clogging, but it will not result in a higher frequency of filter changes if you continue to use biodiesel.
Vehicles that run on biodiesel achieve nearly the same MPG as those that run on petroleum. Find out more.
Yes, biodiesel can help you get more mileage out of your engine. Biodiesel has better lubricating characteristics, which helps to keep crucial engine parts from wearing out.
Using biodiesel instead of petrodiesel will dramatically reduce tail pipe emissions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. Sulfur oxides and sulfates, which are important contributors to acid rain, will be almost eliminated. Nitrogen oxide emissions may rise slightly, however this can be mitigated by the use of newer low-emission diesel engines. Find out more.
Click here to see a complete list of filling stations that sell biodiesel.
Petrodiesel is not present in pure biodiesel, B100 (100 percent biodiesel). Biodiesel can be combined with petrodiesel and sold as B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petrodiesel blend) or B5 (50 percent biodiesel, 50 percent petrodiesel blend) (5 percent biodiesel, 95 percent petrodiesel blend).
Will biodiesel hurt my truck?
When dealing with pure biodiesel instead of petroleum-biodiesel blends, gas stations must treat it differently from conventional fuels. Because pure biodiesel is made from vegetable-based products, it requires a higher storage temperature than petroleum fuel. Biodiesel can grow mold if stored in a heated storage tank for too long, and if stored at too cool a temperature, it can thicken and become difficult to dispense.
While these issues can occur after biodiesel has been injected into a vehicle, it is more important for diesel vehicle owners to keep an eye out for signs of clogs in fuel filters and systems, especially when biodiesel is first introduced to the vehicle’s fuel system and especially if the owner is using pure biodiesel. All biodiesel is a solvent, which means it can dissolve deposits in fuel lines and tanks, which can clog fuel filters, injectors, and other sections of the fuel system. According to experts, this is a bigger problem when pure biodiesel is used in older diesel vehicles. Higher mileage usually equates to higher deposits. Vehicles equipped with the latest high-pressure fuel-injection system are also affected.
Because these difficulties are primarily related to pure biodiesel, it may appear that the hazards are greatly reduced, if not eliminated entirely, with low-biodiesel mixes.
This isn’t the case, as the risk is mostly determined by the quality of biodiesel produced. Only biodiesel mixes of up to 5% are recommended in the United States, according to the Worldwide Fuel Charter, a list of fuel specifications endorsed by auto and engine manufacturers.
“While the quality of various biodiesel blends has improved in recent years, we continue to be concerned about the lack of industry quality standards for biodiesel,” says Darryll Harrison, a spokesman for Volkswagen of America. Volkswagen is the leading manufacturer of diesel-powered passenger cars in the United States.
“As quality improves and technology advances, we believe advanced biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels have a bright future,” Harrison says. “In fact, as partnerships with renewable diesel innovators like Solazyme and Amryis have helped VW better understand the impacts advanced biodiesel blends have on existing TDI Clean Diesel technology, our research towards the next generation of clean diesel continues to ramp up.”
Nonetheless, when it comes to warranty coverage for difficulties caused by fuel use in VW diesels, the company is in the majority. In the United States, no carmaker recommends using biodiesel in volumes greater than B5 for passenger vehicles, with one significant exception: The new diesel-powered 2014 Chevrolet Cruze TD comes with a GM guarantee that covers biodiesel blends up to B20.
B20 is permitted in several heavy-duty vans and pickup trucks from Chrysler, Ford, and GM. Ford and GM, on the other hand, only apply to models from 2011 and later.