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What is biodiesel & how to make biodiesel?

Biodiesel fuel is direct replacement non-fossil clean alternative fuel manufactured from a large variety of renewable resources such as plant vegetable oils, used cooking oils, animal fats, fish oil and wood fibres and most recently algae.
Is biodiesel an experimental fuel? No, biodiesel is one of the most thoroughly tested and developed fuels in the market today. In the UK alone over one billion litres are consumed annually and the UK represents a tiny fraction of the global biodiesel consumption.
How is it made? There are several different industrial processes, the most popular is a refining process called Transesterification where the oils are heated and reacted with an alcohol causing glycerine to separate out of the oil. The glycerine offers no value to the fuel and is regarded as a by-product, valuable to the cosmetics and animal feedstock industries.
The fuel is then washed and the water extracted, either mechanically or by filtration through resins to ensure the water content is low enough to meet the current EN Standards.
Biodiesel produced using this method is called FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) biomex is a FAME biodiesel.

Is there a recognised fuel standard? Yes, in Europe the biodiesel FAME standard is BSEN14214. This standard is a buyer guarantee that the fuel will have been tested against the many performance criteria that make up the specification of an EN14214 biodiesel.
Producers meeting this standard will usually publish copies of their fuel test reports to confirm their compliance.
BSEN14214 was developed over a number of years by the European Committee for Standardisation and adopted in 2004 by all the EU member states as a unified standard for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester, known as FAME. This was a major step forward in that engine manufactures and producers alike have a base line quality to engineer their products to.
The verification by independent test laboratories as to the achievement of BSEN14214 by fuel producers is an essential guarantee of quality.
biomex is compliant with BSEN14214, our test results are published online.

Does biodiesel have to be blended with petroleum diesel? No. biodiesel, (B100) can be used as a direct replacement for petroleum diesel. Equally it can be mixed/blended with petroleum diesel in varying percentages ie. B90, B70, B50, B30, B20, B10, B5……eg.B20 is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
In line with International commitments to reach carbon reduction targets by 2020 all diesel purchased via a retail forecourt is under a legal obligation to be blended with biodiesel, currently B5 and rising annually through to 2020.
Of course many producers and users operate very successfully diesel blends higher than B5.  In fact, B30, B50 and pure B100 biodiesel are commonplace in this market. B30 is very much the norm in most of northern Europe...
We at biocorp advocate biomex B100 biodiesel.

Can biodiesel be used in the winter & how to make biodiesel? Biodiesel is often blended with petroleum diesel to winterise its low temperature performance as unless it is produced with cold flow additives it has a higher gelling point than petroleum diesel. Biodiesel treated with cold flow additives can however perform equally as well in winter months as petroleum diesel.
To use successfully a B100 biodiesel in the UK it is necessary for the biodiesel to have been produced with additives that enhance the performance of the fuel in critical areas. It is these additives that enable the user to operate biodiesel in exactly the same way as fossil diesel...
biomex has a 5 function organic additive concentrate that is hot blended into the biodiesel during production.  This unique additive pack improves the performance of our already high quality biodiesel in the following areas.

  1. Cold flow improves viscosity lowering the gelling /pour point to -15 degrees C.

  2. Antioxidant treatment to stabilise the fuel.

  3. Biocides to prevent bacterial growth and extend storage life to 12 months.

  4. Cetane enhancement to increase efficiency of combustion and NOX reduction.

  5. System maintenance to ensure the cleanliness and performance of injectors.

Is biodiesel easy to store? Like all fuel storage, good housekeeping practices are important.
Biodiesel should be stored in sealed, clean, dark, dry conditions. Tanks should be steel, aluminium, polyethylene, polypropylene or Teflon. Copper, lead, tin, brass or zinc should be avoided.
Biodiesel, particularly in higher blends has a powerful solvent action and will dissolve residues, gums and lacquers built up over time on the inside surfaces of tanks from diesel fuel.
It is this dissolved matter that will be carried through the fuel lines and may cause restrictions and blocking of the fuel filter.
Bacterial and fungal growth in fuel tanks is not new or unique to biodiesel; contamination in fossil fuel storage systems is endemic supporting a whole service industry of Fuel Engineers, Filter Manufacturers and Fuel Polishers managing this issue.
Biodiesel, in particular the higher blends and B100 are hygroscopic. (water molecules can be adsorbed from moisture laden air) Fuel heavily contaminated with water may lead to corrosion of fuel injection components and the increased likelihood of bacterial activity in the fuel causing clogging of lines or filters.

The solution is ‘best practice’ housekeeping of a properly specified fuel.
If tanks are old or suspect, it is wise to have them professionally cleaned before switching over to biodiesel.
The majority of biodiesel producers will have treated their fuel with anti-oxidants and biocides to prevent bacterial growth caused by water contamination in the storage tanks.
biomex is treated with biocides and may be stored for 12 months under proper conditions.

Will using biodiesel invalidate engine warranties? Often asked and difficult to answer!
The anomaly of engine manufacturer’s warranties in regard to their stated positions on biofuels is extremely varied and often based on commercial expediency rather than engineering acceptance.
A vehicle in the UK will be warranted to use EN590 B5 blends, where the biodiesel element itself complies with EN14214. The same make and model in parts of Europe will be warranted to B30.
It is only with the higher percentage blends of biodiesel that warranty issues may appear.
The rational is that in the UK the Government imposed bio obligation on the petroleum oil companies is at 5% (B5) blends, which will increase over time in line with pan-european agreements and undoubtedly engine warranties will increase at the same rate of ‘obligated’ blended biodiesel percentage increases through to 10% by 2020.
The acceptance of biodiesel in other countries has been far quicker and hence the B30 blends are supported under warranty where consumers have supported higher blends of the fuel. In the UK for example the Morrison’s Supermarket Chain has been selling diesel which is a B30 blend ahead of their competitors who sell B5 blends.
Mercedes, MAN, Volvo and DAF to name a few support warranties in higher blends and even B100 in certain of their model ranges where the fuel systems utilise modern materials resistant to the solvent characteristic of biodiesel and its higher blends. Rubber components suspect to the solvent action of biodiesel have not been used widely in vehicles since mid -1980’s
The majority of systems around today utilise materials such as Viton, nylon 66, synthetic rubber and Teflon, seal failures are a thing of the past, but check with the manufacturer if in any doubt.
Currently the UK biodiesel market is consuming in excess of one billion litres annually making a significant contribution to the Governments CO2 reduction targets.

Does biodiesel block filters and damage engines? No, this is one of the most popular urban myths surrounding biodiesel.
Biodiesel is a perfect lubricant for an engine, its naturally high lubrocity far outperforms that of conventional diesel and is likely to produce less wear on pumps, valves and cylinder bores as a result, this is particularly true of modern low sulphur diesel which benefits greatly from the application of biodiesel blending to improve its lubrication properties.
Biodiesel has a higher cetane performance than conventional diesel which enables it to burn better producing less noxious exhaust emissions and dramatically less carbon depositing on the pistons and valves maintaining the efficiency of the engine.
The blocking or ‘clogging’ of filters is sometimes reported as caused by the biodiesel itself, it is not. Biodiesel when used in the higher formulations above B30 has a powerful cleaning action and will very quickly liberate dirt and built up gums and lacquer residues left from previous petroleum diesel use in the tank and fuel lines etc. It will cleanse the system very efficiently depositing these residues in the fuel filter and requires only simple housekeeping to benefit from. It is recommended to change the fuel filter after the initial few hours of running, usually this is enough unless the system is extremely dirty in which case a second filter change may be needed. It is a small inconvenience for the massive benefits delivered by biodiesel use.

Does biodiesel reduce emissions? Yes, biodiesel substantially reduces GHG emissions delivering massive reductions in carbon monoxide, particulates, it eliminates sulphur, toluene, benzene and significant net CO2 emissions when compared with conventional diesel.
Methods of calculating the exact amount of this reduction vary due to the nature of the feedstock raw material used and the variables associated with the many production processes employed. The spread of quoted figures range from 85% to as low as 30%.
Simplistically, the net gain is as a result of the feedstock being either of ‘waste’ material or plant origin in which case the CO2 exhausted from the engine is offset against the CO2 consumed by the plant during its growth, so carbon neutral.  This compares with petroleum diesel which takes CO2 once locked in the earth and liberates it into the atmosphere when combusted in an engine thereby increasing the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Is biodiesel sustainable? Yes….Biodiesel producers operating within the dictates of the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED) have to prove by third party independent verification to International Standard ISAE 3000 that the feedstocks they are processing are from sustainable, renewable sources capable of delivering a minimum GHG saving of 35%.
Not all producers are following the guidelines of the RED and may still be using materials from unsustainable sources.
These are complex matters and may only be appreciated by researching the requirements of the RED which can be found on the Department of Transport website...

For more information on how to make biodiesel please contact us directly.