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Biodiesel: A Clean Companion to Fossil Fuels for Diesel Vehicles

biodiesel
Recent technological advances have led to greater efficiency in the use of fossil fuels in vehicles, making them more environmentally friendly than ever. In addition, great strides in domestic production of oil and natural gas has led the way to consistent supplies and lower prices for consumers. This provides fewer incentives for alternative fuel sources.
However, government mandates, environmental concerns, and developing technologies have combined to produce substantial growth in the production of biodiesel as an alternative fuel in vehicles with diesel engines.

What Is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a fuel derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. Although the word diesel is contained within its name, biodiesel has no petroleum components. Biodiesel is usually added to petroleum diesel fuel rather than used as a primary fuel source.
Biodiesel is made by chemically reducing vegetable oils and fats through a process called transesterification. This separates fatty acid methyl esters, the scientific name for modern biodiesel, from other components.
Glycerin, another byproduct of this process, is sold to be used in the manufacture of soap products. This adds to the economic viability of producing biofuel to compete with less expensive petroleum fuel products.

Why Isn't Biodiesel Used More?​

Rudolph Diesel, the inventor of the first diesel engines, originally designed his engines to run on a variety of fuels. He was a leading proponent of the use of vegetable oils for vehicle engines. The French government was also involved in the development of vegetable oil-based fuels in an attempt to provide energy self-sufficiency for their African colonies.
The 1920's brought an abundance of inexpensive petroleum-based diesel fuel. Diesel engines were gradually redesigned to make the best use of this petroleum-based fuel. These new engines were unable to accept the viscosity, or thickness, of vegetable oil.
However, a Belgian inventor later devised the transesterification process used to produce modern biodiesel, which has a viscosity suitable for modern diesel engines.
Biodiesel wasn't reconsidered as a rival fuel in the U.S. because of the plentiful supply and the efficient nature of petroleum-based diesel.  However, the 1980s brought threats to national security from foreign oil producers, environmental concerns, and falling crop prices due to overproduction. These factors led to renewed interest in biodiesel.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also boosted production by classifying biodiesel as an Advanced Biofuel. This mandates the percentage of biodiesel that must be included in annual fuel production in the United States. The Advanced Biofuel designation also mandates government subsidies that allow biodiesel to compete in cost with petroleum-based diesel.

How Is BioDiesel Typically Used?

Biodiesel is blended with petroleum diesel at a rate of 5 to 20 percent biofuel of the total fuel capacity. The amount of biofuel in a blend is designated by its B rating. For example, a B5 rating contains 5 percent biodiesel and a B20 blend contains 20 percent biodiesel. 
There are various reasons for the limited addition of biofuel in diesel blends. Biodiesel acts as both a fuel and a solvent, cleaning away contaminants inside diesel tanks and fuel lines. Fuel lines may become clogged as these contaminants are released by the biodiesel.
Biodiesel can also cause premature wear to rubber seals and gaskets, especially in higher concentrations, so blends are usually kept as a B20 maximum.
Some environmentally conscious homeowners have also started to add biodiesel to their home heating oil tanks at blends up to B20 with no deleterious effects on their oil burning furnaces.
If you're in the Western North Carolina area, you can rely on Biltmore Oil as your commercial or residential biodiesel source. This source of energy is an investment for the future.

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