BioDiesel 101

(updated 17 April  11)



*        Bio = ?

+      Prefix meaning "biologically based"

*        Diesel = ?

+      The term refers both to the fuel and the engine

-   Petroleum-based fuel which is burned in engines ignited by compression rather than spark (also referred to as “dino” diesel!)

-   Engine invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1897 that ran off peanut oil!!!

*        Biodiesel, n. -- a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100, and meeting the requirements of ASTM D 6751.

*        Biodiesel blend, n. -- a blend of biodiesel fuel meeting ASTM D 6751 with petroleum-based diesel fuel designated BXX, where XX is the volume percent of biodiesel.  (Example: B20 is 20% biodiesel & 80% diesel fuel)


Ultra-low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)

*        Started replacing regular diesel in 2006, 97% less sulfur than regular diesel

*        Cleaner burning and produces less particulates in all engines


How Biodiesel is Made

Vegetable Oil or Animal Fat (100 lbs.) + Lye + Methanol or Ethanol (10 lbs.) = Biodiesel (100 lbs.) + Glycerin (10 lbs.)


Advantages:  Big Picture

*        Renewable

*        Pure biodiesel = no petroleum

*        Compatible at some level with any diesel engine & existing infrastructure

*        Supports America’s family farmers!


Advantages:  Environmental

*        Energy Balance - for every one unit of energy needed to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained.

*        Biodegradable and Non-Toxic – USDA tests confirm that biodiesel is safer than diesel and biodegrades as fast as dextrose, a test sugar.

*        Greenhouse Gases – A 78% life cycle decrease in CO2 according to a USDA and DOE study.


Some Issues

*        Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX)

+      Up to 10% more with B100

+      May be corrected by updated catalytic converter

*        Mild solvent property

+      May clean fuel line which could plug fuel filters

+      Concern with some older, soft rubber fuel lines

*        Biodiesel gels faster than most diesel

+      Traditional cold weather options for diesel work well with biodiesel

-         Blend with kerosene, use of additives

-         Block and filter heaters

-         Indoor vehicle storage

*        ULSD vehicles(after 2006) using higher blends of biodiesel  (> B5) have not been fully “tested”


Potential Uses

*        Passenger cars

*        Generators

*        Home heat

*        Long haul trucks

*        Farm equipment

*        Boats

*        School buses

*        ? (think about it!!!!)



Passenger Cars


(The author and his 2000 VW Jetta TDI = 48 MPG!!!!)


Best Diesel Vehicles for pure biodiesel (B100) – no conversion required!

*        Volkswagens before 2007 – Golf TDI, Jetta TDI, Passat TDI

*        Chevy, Dodge,  Ford, GMC - heavy duty trucks and vans


Biodiesel production supported by these local business:

*        Quality Street Kitchen Catering, 301-997-0700,

*        Morris Point Restaurant , Chris and Deb Soussanin, 301-769-2500

*        Days Off Catering, LLC, Justin Keys, 240-561-6743,


Further information:

*        Springboard BioPro 190,

*        TDI Club,

*        Biodiesel now,


For more information…

Paul Waxman