How Has Biodiesel Evolved and How Are Renewable and Alternative Diesel Products Changing the Game
What is Biodiesel
Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable and clean-burning diesel replacement fuel that was created to reduce our US dependence on foreign oil while at the same time minimize the carbon footprint of diesel engines and equipment. It is defined by biodiesel.org as being, “a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats… meeting the requirements of the ASTM (the American Society of Testing and Materials) D6751.”
Biodiesel is manufactured domestically in the United States from a variety of feedstocks primarily derived from the food manufacturing industry that include recycled cooking oil and restaurant grease, vegetable oils such as soybean oil and animal fats. It is a clean-burning replacement for petroleum diesel fuel and carries the distinction of being the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel in commercial scale production in the United States. The US led the charge in biodiesel production at its onset, being the first nation to reach 1-billion gallons of commercial-scale annual production and biodiesel is now manufactured around the world and in almost all 50 states. Certain blends of biodiesel are eligible for federal subsidies that allow consumers the opportunity to purchase the fuel at a lower price point based environmental benefits, and manufacturers are required to follow strict fuel quality specifications.
Also, according to biodiesel.org, it is considered to be beneficial to the environment based on the fact that it is 100% biodegradable (less toxic than table salt and with a faster biodegradability than sugar) and is derived from renewable resources, producing lower emissions than petroleum diesel. Through a process known as “transesterification,” glycerin is separated from the animal fat or vegetable oil, leaving behind methyl ester and glycerine as the byproducts.
Biodiesel feedstock is often blended with a certain percentage of regular, petroleum-based diesel fuel, recognized in the form of B (Biodiesel) + the percentage of regular diesel, such as in the common examples:
- B5 (a solution of biodiesel and 5% regular diesel)
- B15 (15% regular diesel)
- B20 (20% regular diesel)
- All the way up to B99 (1% regular diesel)
- B100 (100% pure biodiesel)
Potential Problems with Biodiesel
Biodiesel is more expensive than regular petroleum-based diesel fuel, and based on the myriad of biodiesel sources – soy, animal fat, cooking grease – manufacturers end up with a hodgepodge mix of products that need to be further refined. Problems can arise with the inconsistency of blended stock, and because of the refinement process, it can be expensive to produce. There is a significant amount of variation with performance based on the quality of feedstock, and in general, biodiesel is highly subject to fluctuations in temperature, causing problems with gumming and gelling in cold climates. Transporting raw cooking oil in large quantities can be costly because it requires a hazardous goods transportation permit since a spill could greatly impact road conditions and the current market demands pose problems with maintaining enough product in inventory. With municipalities representing the primary consumer of bio, renewable and alternative diesels, the demand does not necessitate holding large quantities in-house. A higher cost is associated with the need to often drive a truck or trailer that can hold 8-9,000 gallons long distances to accommodate orders of just 500 gallons at a time. With biodiesel it’s also important to slowly scale up to a higher blended fuel solution such as B20, since it can be a bit aggressive on engine components, removing particulates and allowing buildup to float freely through your fuel system, potentially causing damage. Scaling up first from B5 to B10 and then B15 to B20 over a period of time will support your engine and alleviate certain problems that may arise as a result of running biodiesel.
What is Renewable Diesel
The California Air Resources Board (CARB), in an effort to minimize pollutant emissions from hydrocarbon-based fuels has worked to provide a pathway for alternative diesel fuel (ADF) in the marketplace by implementing the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The use of renewable and alternative diesel fuel products is still somewhat in its infancy since technology is working out issues with engine performance, fuel economy and equipment safety. The last thing anyone wants to do is add additional wear on an expensive truck or piece of equipment. Says Scott Parry, SCL’s San Diego facility manager, “We like the idea of being green, but we need to know that equipment is protected.” Renewable diesel products such as R99, R5, R20 are becoming more mainstream and contain a blendstock derived from waste agricultural products, particularly fish oil, tallow, or fats left over from food production, which allow for more consistent properties than deep fat fryer animal or vegetable oil. “SCL is currently working with our suppliers to accommodate the growing market as primarily municipalities move in the direction of this diesel fuel option,” says Parry. “The market may have come and gone for regular biodiesel, but renewable diesel is something people are definitely interested in. As a solutions and logistics provider, we’ll be right there, delivering on what our customers and the market needs.”
How SCL is Responding to Market Demands for Bio, Renewable and Alternative Diesel Products
Based on certain subsidies and cost incentives, municipalities are currently our primary customers when it comes to providing renewable and alternative diesel products. In California especially, there are grant programs for municipalities such as those in rural areas with school buses, fire truck fleets, heavy equipment operators, sewer trucks, pump trucks and other types of government fleets to utilize renewable diesel and alternative diesel because they receive credits toward greatly discounted or free buses. The market in California is largely driven by government mandates and incentives, and Says Parry, “We’re in the business of listening to our customers, and when they demand an alternative diesel fuel, we are going to provide that solution. We have customers asking for it, so as a solutions and logistics provider, we are committed to fulfilling their fuel needs in any way that we can.”
The Future of Diesel
We have been successful in our technological and chemical advancements around creating cleaner diesel products through engine innovation and additives that significantly cut emissions. Through ultra-low sulfur diesel “(ULSD)”, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and improvements in micro-particulate filters, diesel technology will only improve over time, increasing engine performance and enhancing protection.
Contact an SCL Consultant Today
In a wide range of industrial sectors, if there’s metal touching metal, oil is involved. At SCL, we’re here to protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving and we pride ourselves on providing superior logistics and solutions, extensive product and industry knowledge and total performance satisfaction for our customers. We will support you in navigating the complicated world of ever-changing fuel options to help you stay compliant while also saving money. As a preventative maintenance measure we recommend taking the time to assess the current labeling of your tanks, both above and below ground to ensure compliance with the proper storage of products as well as local, state and federal regulations. For more information on how to properly label your tanks and products, to make sure that your manufacturer labels are current or if you would like to schedule a plant survey, contact an SCL consultant today.