Biodiesel FAQs Blog
As the regional designee of the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities aims to reduce petroleum consumption within the local transportation sector by promoting a host of alternative fuels, including electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and biodiesel. While each alt fuel has its own place in our ultimate, petroleum-free fuel mix, selecting the most appropriate fuel can be a daunting task. One easy place to start, however, is with diesel vehicles. Blends of up to 20% biodiesel, called B20 (20% biodiesel and 80% conventional diesel), can be used as drop-in fuels in most diesel vehicles without modification, making this locally-available renewable fuel easy to incorporate into personal, commercial, or municipal diesel vehicles.
Biodiesel is a renewable substitute for petroleum diesel that operates in compression-ignition engines. It burns more cleanly than conventional diesel and can be produced domestically from vegetable oils, animal tallow, and restaurants’ used fry oil, which helps to expand markets for the country’s farmers.
What Are the Advantages to Biodiesel?
Biodiesel has a variety of benefits over conventional diesel; it is renewable, domestically produced, safer, and has fewer pollutants and GHG emissions.
Because biodiesel is derived from vegetable oil, animal tallow, or waste fry oil, it can be produced domestically, offsetting oil imports from politically unstable countries.
Petroleum markets have a significant amount of volatility, making diesel prices unpredictable. Biodiesel mixes help to balance diesel prices, making them more reliable.
Air Quality Improvements
Biodiesel emissions meet the same standards as petroleum diesel. With exhaust aftertreatment, often selective catalytic reduction, NOx emissions are reduced to extremely low levels, comparable to conventional fuels.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Because biodiesel is renewably produced from plant or animal sources, it releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum, or fossil, diesel. In fact, operating a vehicle on pure biodiesel, B100, reduces emissions by 75%, while B20 still reduces emissions by a significant 15%.
Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable. It has a higher flashpoint than conventional diesel, which makes it safer to handle, store, and transport.
For more information on the benefits of biodiesel, please visit the AFDC.
Most major diesel engine manufacturers have formally endorsed the use biodiesel up to B20 by writing its compliance into their equipment warranties. An extensive list of diesel vehicles warrantied at different blend levels can be found here. Additionally, blends of up to 5% biodiesel (B5) meet the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Material) standards for diesel fuel and don’t require any special considerations.
In diesel engines, biodiesel blends operate nearly identically to petroleum diesel. Blends of biodiesel as low as 1% even help to improve fuel lubricity, reducing wear and tear on the engine. With regard to horsepower, torque, and mileage, B20 achieves similar levels to those of diesel. Even in freezing temperatures, biodiesel blends can be used as long as they have been treated with the appropriate additives by their manufacturer. For more information about biodiesel in freezing temperatures, check out the Cold Weather Guide from Biodiesel®.
Biodiesel is publicly available in Jackson at Pump #5 of the Shell station on Broadway. Generally, they offer B20 from mid-April to mid-September and B10 in the colder months. They supply BQ9000, the highest quality biodiesel available, and despite a 5 year Rocky Mountain average price 20¢/DGE higher than those of conventional diesel(Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report), Shell’s B20 prices are currently equal to that of conventional diesel . For real time availability of biodiesel throughout the country, check the AFDC Station Locator .
Are There Potential Complications?
Unlike conventional diesel, biodiesel is a strong solvent and acts as a cleaning agent. As such, it may dissolve and dislodge any petroleum deposits that have accumulated from conventional diesel use and flush this residual diesel gunk into fuel filters. Therefore, filters should be checked often during the transition period to biodiesel and replaced when necessary. Because this maintenance can be relatively labor and and time intensive, it is not recommended to switch back and forth between biodiesel blends and 100% conventional diesel.
Who Else Is Using Biodiesel?
- EcoTour Adventures fuels all vehicles with Shell’s biodiesel
- JHMR fuels all Snow Cat groomers with B10
- Idaho National Lab fuels almost 100 transit buses with B20 year round