What is Biodiesel?

While biodiesel is by no means a new concept the use of such fuels on a widespread basis came about only in the latter part of the 20 th century. In fact Rudolf Diesel – the inventor of the original diesel engine which first ran as long ago as 1893 – ran on oil made from peanuts, and the very idea of vegetable oil had first been put into practice some forty years before that date!

Modern biodiesel can be made from a variety of animal and vegetable waste products, and the process for making it is one that comes about by way of mixing it with an alcohol. Widely used products such as rapeseed and soya, along with other waste products such as tallow, palm oil and sunflower have all been used – and are still used – to produce biodiesel, and in many cases where production is required in large numbers manufacturers have begun growing crops specifically for the purpose.

This move from waste products to specific production has raised eyebrows in some quarters yet the need for fuel to replace and help prolong the life of fossil fuels is one that is very real indeed.

Can I use Biodiesel in My Car?

Pure biodiesel cannot be used as a replacement for petro-diesel without significant modifications to most modern engines. This may not be financially viable, although there is considerable research within the industry into devising engines that will run exclusively on biodiesel. As a result it is generally found as a small proportion of a mix with standard diesel – generally between five and 20% - and it is worth remembering that some manufacturers will not extend warranties to those items of equipment that are not designed for biodiesel use.

It is used in trains quite commonly – in the UK the Royal Train runs entirely on 100% biodiesel and operator Virgin also runs trains on a biodiesel rich mix, while it is also widely used in heating systems and boilers. The ability to recycle waste products into usable fuel is not the only attraction.

Biodiesel is known to be more lubricating than standard diesel, and as such is said to prolong the life of the engines it is used in. This is something that the vehicle manufacturers are looking at closely, in particular with relation to large vehicles such as trains and lorries that use a lot of fuel. It is, however, moderately more expensive at the pumps than standard diesel, and is likely to remain so as production is somewhat limited.

Worldwise use of Biodiesel

Biodiesel is produced across the world although it is so that most of the world's supplies come from within the European Union. There have been concerns raised regarding differing quality levels as a result of using many different products to produce biodiesel, and these are being addressed in some areas with an attempt to standardise production to some extent.

There is a great demand for fuels that are sustainable and affordable, and biodiesel is one that is definitely here to stay.