The term biofuels encapsulates biodiesels, bioethanols,
bioethers, biogas, syngas and all other types of fuel made
from similar renewable resources.
Biofuels are an environmentally safe, alternative fuel source, produced from renewable resources consisting of plant biomass, vegetable oils, treated municipal and industry waste.
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils (including canola oil), animal fats (tallow) and recycled greases.
The benefits of biodiesel are:
- Creates new jobs and opportunities
- Improves fuel security
- Provides cleaner air
Bioethanol and biodiesel are more commonly used in the mass fuel industry (transport), and that’s where we come in.
On a molecular level, plant oils and animal fats are too large to burn efficiently in a modern diesel engine. This is why vegetable oils and animal fats are combined with alcohol and a catalyst to create a reaction called transesterification. This process breaks down the oil molecules into chains of smaller, lighter molecules, resulting in a product called biodiesel (mono alkyl esters).
To be certified as a fuel, biodiesel must be produced to meet national standards. The most generally accepted standards are the American ASTM 6751 and Europe’s EN14214. To be legally recognised and registered as a fuel in Australia, all biodiesel must meet or exceed these standards.
An energy balance ratio compares the energy required to grow or extract, process and distribute a fuel as compared to the energy stored in that fuel. Biodiesel contains 2.5 to 3.5 units of energy for every unit of fossil energy input in its production. This value includes energy used in diesel farm equipment and transportation equipment, fossil fuels used to produce fertilisers, pesticides, steam, and electricity, and methanol used in the manufacturing process of the biodiesel itself.
When biodiesel displaces petroleum, it significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiesel tailpipe emissions are substantially cleaner and safer than fossil diesel and petrol powered vehicle emissions. Burning biodiesel emits no sulphur dioxide, 78 percent less carbon dioxide and as much as 50 percent fewer smog producing compounds than conventional diesel and petrol. The US EPA’s study of biodiesel emissions confirmed a 47 percent reduction in particulates and a 48 percent reduction in carbon monoxide when compared to fossil diesel emissions.
And you thought you left chemistry behind at the end of year 10!