Biodiesel is the most diverse fuel on the planet. Produced from renewable resources abundant in the U.S. and throughout the world known as “biomass,” biodiesel may come from soybean and other plant oils, as well as recycled restaurant grease, beef tallow and other animal fats.
Biodiesel has undergone extensive testing over the past 15 years at a cost of more than $100 million dollars to develop its ASTM specifications for the pure blending component B-100 meeting D6751. ASTM D-396 (heating oil specification) and D-975 (diesel fuel specification) allow for an inclusion of 5% biodiesel in the fuels.
In February 2010, the EPA specified in an RFS-II ruling that biodiesels from soybeans, animal fats and recycled cooking oil be considered “advanced biofuels” as they reduce greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions by 50% versus petroleum distillates.
The U.S. EPA recently released the results of the most comprehensive lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) study of biodiesel that has ever been completed. Biodiesel produced from domestic soybean oil is assumed to reduce GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to petroleum diesel fuel, and the EPA’s uncertainty analysis recognizes that the GHG reduction could be as high as 85% – 89%.
US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture say biodiesel reduces life cycle carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by 78 percent. Biodiesel also significantly reduces EPA-regulated emissions with direct impact to human health.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to voluntarily complete EPA Tier I and Tier II testing to quantify emission characteristics and health effects.
Biodiesel has a very high “energy balance.” Newly published research from the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture show that for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, the return is 5.51 units of energy. Biodiesel made from soybean oil has a high-energy balance because the main source used to grow soybeans is the sun.
The “energy balance” takes into account the planting, harvesting, fuel production and fuel transportation to the end user. As a result of modern farming techniques and energy efficiencies, biodiesel’s energy balance continues to improve.
The biodiesel industry has 2.8 billion gallons of capacity nationally, more than 200 million gallons of which resides in the Northeast. Approximately four billion gallons of feedstock are available domestically.
Food vs. Fuel:
It is important to understand that, unlike corn, whole soybeans are not fed to animals. When soybeans are processed, two products are produced: 1) protein meal, which is fed to livestock; and 2) oil, which is used for products such as Snickers, french fries, and biodiesel. The U.S. biodiesel industry only uses about 12% percent of the oil from this country’s soybean harvest, hardly enough to affect the availability of food or the commodity price. Note: I think it’s important to make the point that soybean oil is not used in “life sustaining” foods; it’s used almost exclusively in junk foods.
Biodiesel produced from America’s soybeans only uses approximately 3 percent of the nation’s soybean harvest annually.
Biodiesel is the most diverse fuel on the planet. It is made from regionally available, renewable resources that are abundant in the U.S., including soybean oil, other plant oils, recycled restaurant grease and beef tallow and other fats.
The increased demand for biodiesel is stimulating research and investment in developing new materials to make biodiesel, such as algae, camelina, jatropha, other arid land crops, and waste materials like trap grease. The result is that we will see additional feedstock volumes coming from fallow or low production lands utilizing innovative technologies.
Earth Energy Alliance:
Michael Devine is a featured national speaker on the subject of biodiesel integration into the US petroleum supply chain, petroleum associations and works with state and federal legislators and government agency’s providing technical information and support of biodiesel integration.
Earth Energy Alliance brings a unique skill set to the petroleum marketplace. We will customize strategies and provide solutions for organizations who have the courage to take the next step.