Biodiesel Basic – Your Questions & Answers
From the website of GC Biofuels
- What is biodiesel? Biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from oil-bearing biomass such as sunflower oil, coconut oil or even recycled cooking oil that has been chemically altered and refined to run in a diesel engine. It is a direct replacement for mineral diesel.
- Is it safe to use? Yes. The inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolph Diesel, designed his motor to run on vegetable oil, making farmers less reliant upon their need for petrol. Vegetable based oil was the original fuel source long before mineral diesel was used and when he first revealed this new motor to the world press in 1900 it ran on peanut oil.
- Biodiesel is a superior fuel and has several benefits when compared to mineral diesel, provided that quality targets are met.
- Biodiesel is safer to handle, is less toxic that ordinary table salt and is biodegradable in the event of a spill. It is also less flammable than mineral diesel due to its higher flash point, making it a safe fuel of choice.
- Is it good for the environment? Yes. Biodiesel is 75% cleaner burning than fossil diesel.
- Biodiesel producers less toxic emissions and is therefore better for the environment, local air quality and ultimately our health.
- The use of biodiesel does not add more green house gasses, one of the major causes of global warming. Biodiesel is often referred to as being carbon neutral, this means that the carbon it releases in the combustion stage is taken out of the atmosphere again during the growth phase of the plant that is used for the oil feedstock.
- This fuel is renewable and we can just keep “growing” more biodiesel. Mineral oil reserves are becoming depleted. There is less oil and it is becoming more difficult to reach and extract, making the finished product more expensive by the time it reaches the consumer. The world is placing a growing demand on energy and new markets such as China are prepared to pay more for this commodity. Countries like the USA fight wars in oil rich middle eastern countries to secure their share. Weather it is another US war or a fire at a major European refinery, every event has a negative impact on countries like South Africa, forcing us to purchase foreign crude at higher prices.
- This fuel can be locally grown in South Africa. This means we can replace some of the imported foreign oil, saving much needed currency, and a biofuels programe could provide jobs to an estimated 160 000 South Africans, especially those in poor rural areas.
- How does mineral diesel affect our health? Fumes emitted from mineral diesel engines have sulphur and other toxic particles that have been scientifically proven to be the cause and trigger for several forms of cancer. Mineral diesel fumes also have tiny particles( PM10 and PM25) that we inhale and have the ability to penetrate our lung membranes, causing respiratory problems. People most at risk to various sicknesses are those in close proximity for extended periods or in enclosed areas such as mine workers, truck drivers and people who reside or work next to busy traffic routes. In the USA and several European countries there is a huge drive to get school busses to run on biodiesel for the positive health of children. (Click here to view emmisions document)
- Do I have to alter my engine? Biodiesel is a ‘drop in’ technology. This means that you can add it to mineral diesel in any ratio and there are NO engine modifications required. B10 would have a 10% volume of biodiesel added, B40 a 40% additive and so on until B100 would be 100% pure biodiesel. Biodiesel has very similar properties and energy content to mineral diesel. In the USA B20 is the most popular blend and in Europe they are aiming for a B5 blend as they cannot grow / produce as much biodiesel as America.
- Is it good for my engine? Yes, 2 % Biodiesel added to mineral diesel will improve the lubricity of the mineral diesel by about 75%, resulting in less wear and longer engine life, and a smoother and quieter running engine. Sulphur is what provides lubrication in normal diesel, however it is slowly being removed due to environmental and health concerns. In SA our fuel has gone from 500 ppm to 50-ppm low sulphur diesel, but this loss of lubricity has been the cause of some engine failures. In Europe it is law that all diesel sold must contain a biodiesel additive.
(The dotted blue line represents the minimum amount of lubricity a fuel should achieve. The first 2-5% addition of biodiesel has a huge benefit and can provide double the lubricity of current mineral diesel. This increase in lubricity results in better lubrication for the fuel pump and the pistons, allowing your engine to reach higher mileage with less than normal engine wear and increased reliability.)
(This rotary head fuel pump seized and cause the shaft to snap. The cause of the seizure was poor lubricity.)
- Can it be used in any diesel engine? Generally yes, however there are some properties that one needs to be aware of. Some engines older than 1994 (based on manufacture brand) still have natural rubber compounds in the fuel lines or the O-Rings/ gaskets in the fuel delivery system. B100 can cause these rubber components to slowly soften and eventually perish. However most vehicle manufactures switched to viton and other nylon based components many years back (a requirement to allow the use of ultra low sulphur diesel) and pure biodiesel does not damage these new compounds. This will not happen with a blend of biodiesel.
- Are there quality standards? All fuels that come from a refinery have to meet a specification standard. The SABS standard for B100 is the SANS 1935 and this ensures that the quality of the fuel will not cause any damage to your vehicle engine and fuel delivery components. Thease specifications are based on the European standards and have been developed in conjunction with the vehicle and fuel delivery component manufactures and mineral oil fuel manufactures to allow for seamless integration into our current and future fuel pool.
- What if I use poor quality biodiesel? We have seen several vehicles suffer extreme engine failures and costly repairs. Typically this is caused by people buying “cheap” biodiesel from small-scale operators. They can sell “cheap” because they have not spent the money on the correct equipment and process engineering that allows for the production of high quality biodiesel. They produce relatively small volumes that do not make it financially possible for them to pay for expensive and regular lab testing. The equipment they use is usually manually controlled and is only as good as the operator. If it goes wrong and they are not testing, how can they guarantee the quality of the fuel? Biodiesel is about attaining a set quality and submitting regular test samples to an independent lab for analysis.
(This is the cam of a fuel pump. This vehicle was running on a cheap biodiesel and the owner probably thought he was getting a good deal. Upon testing the sample fuel it was found to be high in acid value, unrecovered methanol, high in Sulphur, an excess of total glycerine and other mineral contaminants. The acids and methanol have attacked and etched the metal and have resulted in excessive wearamd loss of lubricity. This “free metal” then mixed with the fuel and became an abrasive grinding paste and also destroyed the diesel injection nozzles and other fuel delivery components. This whole process took only 3 months to total failure.)
- Some one is offering to sell me biodiesel. There are very few people in South Africa currently that are producing high quality biodiesel. Ask the seller if he tests every batch before selling and what his batch size is. Testing is relatively expensive so the smaller guys just don’t do it. This means they have no idea what the product they are selling contains. Ask him to show you some of his test certificates from a lab, or you may even ask for a 5oo ml sample and contact us. We will have it tested for you and you will then know if you can trust this source or not. Putting poor quality biodiesel into an engine is like playing Russian Roulette.Its going to go BANG, you just don’t know when. We have seen one vehicle come in 3 months after its first rebuild. Both were caused by poor quality biodiesel. Costs to replace the fuel pump and injector nozzles were approximately R14 000, just because his fuel was slightly cheaper. BUYER BEWARE.