Is Biodiesel More Expensive Than Regular 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.

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.

How much does 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. When the value of the seed meal produced ($3.03 per gallon) is factored in, the cost of producing biodiesel drops to around $2.50-$3.35 per gallon.

Does biodiesel cost more?

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 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.”

4. Execution

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.

Is biodiesel better than diesel?

Biodiesel has a higher oxygen content than petroleum diesel (typically 10 to 12 percent). As a result, pollutant emissions should be reduced. As a result, some compounds that are generally regarded acceptable for diesel fuel may be more aggressive. Biodiesel is a significantly safer alternative to petroleum diesel.

Can biodiesel trucks use regular diesel?

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).

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.

Why are biofuels so expensive?

The expense of biofuels in comparison to petroleum-based fuels is a key barrier to their adoption. Biofuels are more expensive to produce heat because of their lower energy density and higher raw material costs. The lower the energy density and consequently the energy efficiency of the fuel, the higher the biofuel content (see Fig. 1). The energy return on investment (EROI), or how much net energy gain exists in the finished product compared to the total energy spent in its creation, is a critical topic when considering alternatives to petroleum. The process of producing, distributing, and consuming an energy source is measured by EROI. It also has a direct impact on the cost, adoption rate, rate of economic development, and environmental benefits of the society that consumes it. Petroleum has an EROI of 16, whereas soybean biodiesel, which accounts for around 60% of U.S. biodiesel output, has an EROI of only 5.5. In actuality, biofuels are incompatible with state and national goals/mandates to employ energy efficiency as a “priority resource” to reduce both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The White House’s 40-page Energy Strategy for America, released in May 2014, for example, references “efficiency” 44 times!

Because biofuels are caustic and cause steel to fracture, trucks and rail, rather than our huge and less expensive pipeline system, dominate the business. Trucks can increase transportation costs by a factor of five, whereas rail can increase expenses by a factor of three or four. For Northeast states like New York and Massachusetts who wish to use more biofuels, this can quickly mount up: In the far Midwest, 95 percent of ethanol is produced and 60 percent of biodiesel is produced. According to one estimate, motorists in the United States paid an extra $10 billion in fuel expenditures between 2007 and 2014 to blend 93 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline. Conventional heating oil with 2% biodiesel (currently under discussion as a New York mandate) costs about 3-5 cents per gallon extra, with the cost rising by 1-2 cents for every percent of biodiesel contained. Used cooking oil from deep fryers (also known as “yellow grease”) is recognized as one of the most sustainable sources of biodiesel, and demand is increasing. When restaurant owners had to pay to have it carted away just a few years ago, the unprocessed, raw material was referred to as “liquid gold.” It currently sells for over $3 per gallon in New York City. Theft and “black market” sale have followed the rise in value: barely 30% of waste grease in New York City is collected by licensed collectors. Biofuels’ additional costs are frequently overlooked. The inconsistency of biofuels and the varying strength of blends create significant problems, particularly from a fuel efficiency standpoint, according to a study released in January by the World Resources Institute, which found that biofuel mandates fail to consider their opportunity costs, a common mistake made by those pushing renewables over conventional forms of energy like oil. Due to higher pricing, equipment damage (ethanol can destroy engines), costly repairs, and supply shortages, the EPA has postponed its RFS blending amounts for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Why is biodiesel expensive?

When it comes to petrol and fuel, consumers are particularly price sensitive. This is one of the reasons why the biofuels business is subsidized by government tax credits: on the one hand, the government utilizes tax policy to “incentivize” specific behaviors by making them cheaper or more expensive (depending on what they want people to do).

Government subsidies and tax credits, on the other hand, artificially lower the price of ethanol and biodiesel, making them appear less expensive than they are.

Does Anyone Have a Few Million Years to Spare?

Photosynthesis is a rather poor energy conversion process, converting just around 1% of solar energy into chemical energy. However, when millions, billions, and trillions of organisms are involved in the conversion, a significant quantity of solar energy can be trapped in chemical form. That is especially true when you have millions of years to complete the task.

The goal of today’s biofuels companies is to transform the sun’s energy into fuel.

However, there are now two things working against you.

For starters, you now have human inputs, which makes the process inefficient in general. Corn and sugar cane are grown by humans, harvested by energy-burning equipment, and refined into liquid biofuels in refineries. You also have all of this happening in a shorter amount of time – years rather than millions of years.

This is the simple explanation for why biofuels cost more than petroleum. We’re attempting to replicate what nature took millions of years to do in a matter of years. Here, it’s all about the energy. We aren’t nearly as efficient as nature, and we don’t have millions of years on our hands. As a result, it’s only logical that biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol will be more expensive per pound than natural crude oil.

Is biodiesel cheaper than gasoline?

Even though B99/B100 averaged $3.54 per gallon in 2019, the average price of B20 biodiesel blends was less than E85, diesel fuel, and gasoline last year, at just $2.57 per gallon—34 cents less than E85, 14 cents less than straight diesel fuel, and 5 cents less than gasoline.