How are Biofuels made ?

Biofuels such as biodiesel – one of the commonest forms – can be made either from recycled waste vegetable and animal products or, on a large scale, from certain crops grown specifically for the purpose. Many people are turning to recycling their waste oil into biodiesel on a small scale and some companies – among them McDonalds in the UK – that use many oil products are recycling the waste to power vehicles.

However, as the current form of biofuel is a relatively new idea it has taken some time for the motor manufacturers to cotton on to the fact. This is despite the widespread knowledge that fossil based petrol and diesel cannot last forever. Lately there have been moves to investigate the use of biodiesel as an alternative to diesel, yet there are considerations that need to be made on an environmental level.

To be produced on a commercial scale biofuels need copious amounts of the relevant crop, and this has led to many hundreds of acres of valuable farmland being turned over to such as rapeseed, a commonly used plant where biodiesel is concerned. Such large scale growing limits the growth of other necessary goods, and the jury is out as to the overall viability of biodiesel as a green, sustainable fuel.

Another problem is that biodiesel, as yet, cannot simply be used to replace diesel in a standard car engine. Instead, it needs to be mixed – at anywhere up to 20% biodiesel – with standard fuel to be usable. However, lately some railway service providers have begun running trains on 80% biodiesel with success, and most notably the Royal Train in the UK has been run on 100% biofuel since 2007, a nod to the green desires of the Prince of Wales.

Where are biofuels made ?

The majority of biofuel produced in the world right now comes from Europe, with most being made from specially grown rapeseed or soya crops. The large scale production plants that have been set up supply the vehicle and heating industries across the world.

Although a relatively simple process, making biodiesel has proven to need a great deal of investigation and research, particularly where quality is concerned. As such fuels can be made from a variety of materials it follows that different suppliers will produce different quality fuel. Standardisation within the industry is something that needs to be attended to.

With motor manufacturers and industry in general on the lookout for sustainable fuels that will one day be needed to replace our fossil fuel supplies it is doubtless the case that biodiesel has a future. The need now is to refine the process and get the motor manufacturers – in particular – to enhance the use of a product that is known to have many advantages over standard diesel, including greater lubrication qualities.

The argument rages as to whether biofuels are as ‘green' as many make them out to be, but we cannot escape the fact that our supplies of fossil fuels are dwindling at an alarming rate.