Biodiesel

The concept of Biodiesel dates back to 1885 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel built the first diesel engine with the full intention of running it on vegetative source.

He first displayed his engine at the Paris show of 1900 and astounded everyone when he ran the patented engine on any hydrocarbon fuel available – which included gasoline and peanut oil. In 1912 he stated “The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may in the course of time become as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of present time.”

In 1970, scientists discovered that the viscosity of vegetable oils could be reduced by a simple chemical process and that it could perform as diesel fuel in modern engine. Since then the technical developments have come a long way and the plant oil today has been highly established as bio fuel, equivalent to diesel. It is an alternative fuel that can be used in diesel engines and provides power similar to conventional diesel fuel.

Recent environmental (e.g. Kyoto Protocol) and economic concerns have prompted resurgence in the use of biodiesel throughout the world. During 1991, the European Community proposed a 90 % tax reduction for the use of bio fuels, including biodiesel.

India is one of the largest petroleum consuming and importing countries. India imports about 70 % of its petroleum demands. The current yearly consumption of diesel oil in India is approximately 40 million tones constituting about 40% of the total petro-product consumption.

Biodiesel, an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel, is made from renewable resources such as vegetable oils or animal fats. Biodiesel is a carbon-neutral fuel that can be produced in farms. Chemically, it comprises a mix of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids. A lipid transesterification process is used to convert the base oil to the desired esters and remove free fatty acids. After this processing, unlike straight vegetable oil, biodiesel has combustion properties very much similar to those of petroleum diesel, and can replace it in most current uses. It has the potential of partially substituting mineral diesel, if the national Bio-diesel program is implemented wisely in India. India is a country blessed with agro-climatic diversity. A host of vegetable oils (edible and non-edible) such as Linseeed, Castor, Jatropha, Karanja, Neem, Kusum, Mahua, etc. are grown in different regions of the country, which can be used for localized production of Bio-diesel. Hence, the Bio-diesel program should be based on non edible vegetable oils that are available in particular agro-climatic regions of the country, rather than importing a foreign plant species that may potentially disturb the local flora and fauna. Furthermore, there are more than 150 different species of trees in India which produce oil bearing seeds having as high as 60 % oil. Oil from which can be converted into Bio-diesel.

ADVANTAGES OF BIODIESEL

  • Biodiesel is biodegradable
  • Biodiesel is non-toxic
  • It has significantly fewer noxious emissions than petroleum-based diesel, when burned
  • Biodiesel production sources are renewable
  • Bio Diesel extends the life of diesel engines
  • Bio Diesel is cheaper than mineral oil diesel
  • Bio Diesel use is conserving natural resources
  • Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that runs in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine.
  • Biodiesel can be used either alone or mixed in any ratio with petroleum diesel fuel. The most common blend is a mix of 20% biodiesel with 80% petroleum diesel
  • Biodiesel is about 10% oxygen by weight and contains no sulfur. The cycle of production and use of biodiesel produces approximately 80% less carbon dioxide emissions, and almost 100% less sulfur dioxide.
  • Combustion of biodiesel alone provides over 90% reduction in total unburned hydrocarbons, and  75-90% reduction in aromatic hydrocarbons. When burned in a diesel engine, biodiesel replaces the exhaust odor of petroleum diesel with the pleasant smell of popcorn or french fries. Biodiesel further provides significant reductions in particulates and carbon monoxide than petroleum diesel fuel. Thus, biodiesel provides a 90% reduction in cancer risks. To sum up, the use of biodiesel will also reduce the following emissions:

– Carbon monoxide

– Ozone-forming-hydrocarbons

– Hazardous diesel particulates of solid combustion products

– Acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide

– Lifecycle carbon dioxide

  • The use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel engines because it is more lubricating than petroleum diesel fuel, while fuel consumption, auto ignition, power output, and engine torque are relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
  • Biodiesel has a very high flash point (300°F) making it one of the safest of all alternative fuels, from a combustibility point.