- What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from a variety of renewable oil-bearing sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats.
It has properties very similar to petroleum diesel, but with several advantages.
Technically, Biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats which conform to ASTM D6751 specifications (EN 14214 in Europe) for use in diesel engines.
Biodiesel can be used in its pure form (B100) or blended with petroleum diesel.
- What are the main oil-bearing sources Biodiesel is made from?
In the developing world, and in tropical climates, Biodiesel is produced from high-yielding oil bearing plants such as Jatropha, Palm Oil, Coconut, Sunflowers and Macademia nuts to name a few.
In the developed markets of North America and Europe soyabean, corn and canola are the common sources along with other raw vegetable oils (RVO's) and animal fats including restaurant trap grease.
- What is the BioCube™ designed to use?
The BioCube™ can use a wide variety of feedstocks including all those mentioned above, but is principally designed to use high-yield feedstocks such as Jatropha that grows on non-croppable land and does not compete with food crops.
- What is Jatropha?
Jatropha is a plant native to Central America that was taken to India 400 years ago by Portuguese sailors to be planted there as "living fences."
The plant is very thick and hearty, drought tolerant, grows in marginal soil, and is not palatable to insects or animals or suitable for human consumption. It therefore served perfectly as an inexpensive fence to keep insects and animals out of crop land. The Indian farmers also found that the nuts of the jatropha could be ground up to provide a source of lamp oil.
Over a period of 400 years, the Indian farmers selectively bred higher oil yielding varieties.
Today jatropha has been cloned and cultivated to create high-yielding, disease resistant strains that grow fast on low grade soil and live for 40 years or more, making for a highly desirable and profitable crop.
- How is Biodiesel different from petroleum diesel?
Biodiesel is manufactured from renewable feedstock, which is animal or vegetable based, via a catalytic reaction known as transesterification.
Petroleum diesel is a complex mixture of hydrocarbon molecules derived from petroleum crude oil extracted from natural sources that has taken million of years to form and of which there is a limited and diminishing supply.
Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a Biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications.
- What are Biodiesel blends and how are they used?
Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage.
Biodiesel blends are denoted as "BXX" with the prefix 'B' representing Biodiesel and the "XX" representing the percentage of Biodiesel contained in the blend i.e.: B20 is 20% Biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel.
Common blends include B2 (2% Biodiesel, 98% petroleum diesel), B5, and B20. B2 and B5 can be used safely in most diesel engines. B20 has demonstrated significant environmental benefits.
Many vehicles operate well on higher Biodiesel blends however the automotive industry is still developing to keep pace with Biodiesel development and higher blends may void some engine warranties. Check with your owner's manual or vehicle manufacturer to determine the right blend for your vehicle.
In developing countries Biodiesel has widespread usage application in agricultural machinery, generators, ships, heating and lighting equipment and more.
- What are the advantages of Biodiesel over petroleum diesel?
Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.
It can be used in most diesel engines, especially newer ones, and emits less air pollutants and greenhouse gases other than nitrogen oxides.
It's safer to handle and has virtually the same energy efficiency as petroleum diesel. In addition it has lubricity benefits that fossil fuels do not.
Biodiesel blends as low as B2 have been found to significantly reduce the amount of toxic carbon-based emissions.
With the soaring price of petroleum-based products, Biodiesel is becoming an increasingly affordable option relative to petroleum diesel.
The use of Biodiesel helps reduce dependence on finite fossil fuel reserves. As an alternative energy source it is relatively easy to process and available - with machines like the BioCube™ - to all communities from rural communities in developing nations, to urban in developed countries.
Scientific research confirms that Biodiesel exhaust has a less harmful impact on human health than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel emissions have decreased levels of hydrocarbons and nitrited compounds that have been identified as potential cancer causing compounds.
- What other advantages does Biodiesel have?
One of the major advantages is the fact that it can be used in existing diesel engines with no modification required in most instances, and with minimal or no loss of operating performance.
In terms of fuel efficiency Biodiesel has virtually the same miles-per-gallon (MPG) rating as petroleum diesel.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel for heavyweight vehicles requiring no special dispensing and storage equipment. It blends easily and stays blended with petroleum diesel so it can be stored and dispensed wherever diesel is stored or sold.
In terms of combustibility and safety, Biodiesel has a very high flash point (300°F) making it one of the safest of all alternative fuels.
It's the only alternative fuel that can actually extend engine life because of its superior lubricating and cleansing properties.
On the production side, Biodiesel is effectively carbon-neutral.
Finally, Biodiesel is the only renewable alternative diesel fuel that actually reduces major greenhouse gas components in the atmosphere.
- Are there any downsides to Biodiesel?
Currently, biodiesel has marginally lower fuel economy and power (2% for B20).
B100 and is generally not suitable for use in low temperatures and there are some concerns about long-term effects on engine durability with pure biodiesel usage.
For very high blends of biodiesel operating in low temperature markets it's recommended you consult your engine manufacturer for specifications.
Because of its solvent and cleansing properties, biodiesel is more susceptible to water contamination that petroleum diesel, but commonsense techniques can be employed to prevent this.
There are well-publicised concerns about biodiesel production competing with food crops and raising food prices, but this is not the case with crops like Jatropha. It's a real but solvable issue mostly restricted to developed markets that use relatively low-yield 'crossover' crops.
It is possible to grow non-food crops for biodiesel production on low-grade soil and on non-croppable land that provides a renewable energy source without competing with food crops.
Professor Robert Henry of the University of Queensland, an authority in the food vs fuel biofuels debate, suggests that at least 40% of the cost of food is directly attributable to fossil fuel costs in sowing, harvesting and transportation - he advocates planting more energy feedstocks for consumption close to the point of harvesting, reducing cost and impact on the carbon footprint.
- Is Biodiesel the same as raw vegetable oil (RVO)?
Biodiesel that meets ASTM D6751 and is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency is a legal motor fuel for sale and distribution.
Raw vegetable oil cannot meet biodiesel fuel specifications (it has very different properties, for example becoming viscous and unusable in low temperatures) it is not registered with the EPA, and it is not a legal motor fuel.
Raw vegetable oil is, however, a common source for further processing into biodiesel.
- How can the biodiesel be used?
Biodiesel produced by the BioCube can be used in almost all modern diesel engines and gensets in tropical climates. In colder climates blending is recommended during the colder months. The BioCube’s biodiesel has met ASTM D6751 standards of fuel compliance and if quality consumables are used in the BioCube on a ongoing basis the owner will create very high quality diesel time after time.
- How is Biodiesel produced?
Biodiesel is produced from any fat or oil such as Jatropha oil, through a refinery process called transesterification.
Transesterification separates glycerin from raw vegetable oil (or animal fat). The products of this process are biodiesel (or methyl ester) and glycerin, a common ingredient in soap and pharmaceutical products which is a by-product of biodiesel production.
Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751 in the USA, EN 41214 in Europe) in order to ensure proper performance.
- Is Biodiesel a renewable energy source?
Biodiesel produced from crops is certainly a renewable energy and creates zero carbon emissions. Even biodiesel blended with fossil diesel creates a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Waste to value products and reducing the strain on landfills with Used Cooking oil also bolster the green/renewal energy credentials of the BioCube.
- How is the BioCube™ production process different?
Essentially, the production process used by the BioCube™ is a transesterfication process used commercially for the last 30 years or more.
What's different is the scale, efficiency, cost and portability of the BioCube™ made possible by unique technical components and refinements to the process, combined with a unique compact design.
It makes the BioCube™ a uniquely affordable, compact and adaptable continuous process machine.
- Sustainable Prosperity
The BioCube creates virtuous circles of sustainable prosperity for communities and companies. It takes vegetable oil from renewable local feedstock sources, using local labour and materials, then produces biodiesel that is consumed locally to generate a sustainable source of income.
- Who is Biodiesel for and who is using it currently?
Anybody with a diesel engine who values a renewable, environmentally-friendly fuel with little or no trade-off in performance or cost.
Many industries use biodiesel because it is an easy way to reduce their carbon footprint.
As biodiesel has lubrication properties that are superior to petroleum diesel, some industries use biodiesel to extend engine life.
Since biodiesel emissions are cleaner and contain fewer particulates, biodiesel is a better choice in areas where air quality is important like cities and construction sites.
Industries using biodiesel include: agricultural equipment users, delivery companies, excavation and mining companies, school and municipal transportation, railway and road freight, construction, and marine transportation and freight.
- Who is the BioCube™ for?
Communities or commercial enterprises that want an affordable, scalable and efficient way of producing their own international standard biodiesel, close to the point of supply.
Originally designed for rural communities in developing nations where a BioCube™ is the cornerstone of a sustainable wealth enterprise for a village, farming or family co-operative, the BioCube™ has equal appeal to wide range of target markets.
These include; commercial biofuel crop plantation owners, fleet operators of transportation companies, farmers in developed countries looking for self-sustaining fuel sources, environmentally active government departments and city councils, disaster relief agencies, the military, marine usage and so on.
- Is Biodiesel approved for use and what controls are in place for production?
Biodiesel is registered in the USA as a fuel and fuel additive with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Pure biodiesel (B100) is designated as an alternative fuel by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
In Europe, there are two important standards that relate to biodiesel production and use: the Biodiesel standard EN 14214 2003 and the mineral diesel standard EN 590 2004.
They each aim to ensure that products that meet these standards are of the requisite quality.
The mineral diesel standard also aims to ensure that blended biodiesel is also up to scratch because it requires that the biodiesel which goes into the blend must first meet the Biodiesel standard.
The BioCube™ is designed to be capable of producing biodiesel that satisfies these stringent international standards given suitable quality feedstock oil.
- Is all Biodiesel the same?
Because biodiesel can be made from a number of different raw materials and with a number of different processes, there can be some subtle variations in chemical and physical properties.
Various international bodies such as ASTM have established standards for testing diesel fuels to ensure some uniformity in performance.
In most applications, if the biodiesel conforms to specified standards it can be used in the same equipment as other diesel fuels.
- What are the main environmental benefits of Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is made from renewable and sustainable resources therefore reducing the pressure on dwindling mineral oil supplies.
Using biodiesel is a practical way that people and businesses can reduce their carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of energy used.
It's also biodegradable and can be used for environmentally sensitive applications e.g. forestry and on waterways.
- Is Biodiesel better for the environment than traditional petroleum diesel?
The major reason is because biodiesel is made from renewable resources providing a stable, safe source of sustainable energy.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act.
- Can you tell me more about emissions and environmental benefits?
The use of Biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from petroleum diesel fuel.
In addition, the exhaust emissions of sulphur oxides and sulphates (major components of acid rain) from Biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to petroleum diesel.
Of the major exhaust pollutants, both unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are ozone or smog forming precursors. The use of Biodiesel results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle of the engine and testing methods used. Based on engine testing using the most stringent emissions testing protocols required by EPA for certification of fuels or fuel additives in the US, the overall ozone forming potential of the hydrocarbon emissions from Biodiesel was nearly 50 percent less than that measured for diesel fuel.
- Can I use Biodiesel in my existing diesel engine?
Biodiesel blends of B20 or less can be operated in any diesel engine with little or no modification to the engine or the fuel system.
The specifications for biodiesel have been established so that it can be used in any diesel engine. Some modifications may be desirable with higher biodiesel concentrations.
Biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel storage. The release of deposits may clog filters initially and precautions should be taken.
Consult your equipment manufacturer before using higher biodiesel blends, especially in low temperatures.
- Will Biodiesel hurt the mechanical parts of my engine?
No. In fact biodiesel can be good for an engine because it has more lubricating properties than petroleum and it can clean the fuel system.
Loss of lubricity is one of the drawbacks of newer low sulphur diesel fuels. Adding just 1% biodiesel increases the lubricity to an acceptable level, so any biodiesel blend will have the required lubricity without sulphur or other additives.
Because it is a good solvent, biodiesel can remove deposits and build-up from tanks, lines, pumps and other fuel system components. Be aware, though, that since it is such a good solvent, it may damage certain paints and finishes, so always clean up spills immediately.
- Will Biodiesel damage seals and other components?
Biodiesel blends higher than B20 can cause problems with natural rubber engine components, such as seals and hoses. Biodiesel will degrade rubber, so any seals or hoses in the fuel system that are made of rubber will be susceptible to damage.
Biodiesel blends of B20 or below should not cause problems with rubber components, but users should periodically check rubber components when using any Biodiesel blend to make sure they are not degrading or getting hard.
As the use of biodiesel increases, most equipment manufacturers are increasing the use Viton-based materials in seals and hoses. Viton is a synthetic rubber substitute that will not be damaged by biodiesel.
Most diesel engines built post-2002 will be protected. Many diesel engine manufacturers will now warranty their engines for B100 usage.
- Does Biodiesel cost more than other alternative fuels?
With the inexorable rise in oil prices, biodiesel is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative fuel source from a cost perspective.
When reviewing the high costs associated with other alternative fuel systems, many fleet managers have determined biodiesel is their lowest cost strategy - especially as they increasingly have to comply with state and federal regulations on carbon emission.
Use of biodiesel does not require major engine modifications. That means operators keep their fleets, their spare parts inventories, their refueling stations and their skilled mechanics. The only thing that changes is air quality.
- Do I need special storage facilities?
In general, the standard storage and handling procedures used for petroleum diesel can be used for biodiesel.
The fuel should be stored in a clean, dry, dark environment. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminum, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene and teflon.
Copper, brass, lead, tin, and zinc should be avoided as biofuel has solvent properties.
The BioCube Consultancy can provide assistance in sourcing suitable storage tanks to accompany the BioCube, if required.
Email BioCube Consultancy
- How long can I store Biodiesel?
Fuel aging and oxidation can lead to heightened acid content, high viscosity and the formation of gums and sediments that clog filters.
It is recommended that biodiesel be stored for no more than six months without an anti-oxidant additive.
- Is Biodiesel more susceptible to water contamination than petroleum diesel and how do I prevent it if so?
Yes, Biodiesel is more susceptible to water contamination than petroleum diesel, however, there are effective techniques for preventing water contamination in any fuel system:
- Ensure all tank caps are in place and in good condition
- Keep the tanks full to minimize condensation inside the tank. Get in the habit of filling the tanks at the end of the day so there is no room for condensation to form when the temperatures cools overnight
- Large temperature swings can promote moisture condensation on the inside of storage tanks. Underground storage tanks are best at preventing condensation since fuel is kept at a relatively constant temperature, but underground storage introduces many other potential problems such as leakage and liability. Above ground storage tanks should be double-wall insulated and shaded if possible to moderate temperature swings thereby reducing the possibility of condensation formation
- Drain a small amount of fuel from the bottom of storage tanks every 6 months to remove any water that might have accumulated in the tank
- Avoid prolonged exposure of fuel to light, which can induce algae growth. Fibreglass tanks should be painted and/or placed in shaded areas
- If biological growth is a problem, the same products that are used with petroleum diesel can be used in Biodiesel to 'dry' the fuel and clean up biological contaminants.
- Will Biodiesel totally replace diesel someday?
There are no global mandates or specific measures at this point to make biodiesel a requirement, however, many governments are actively encouraging the use of biodiesel blends and have issued mandates of their own. In most instances, producers are struggling to meet the demands of these mandates.
Examples of biodiesel blend mandates in force include; Columbia 20% by 2014, Germany 12% 2017, Australia 5% 2014, India 5% 2014, Canada 2% 2013.
There is growing pressure around the world for countries to conform to a minimum biodiesel blend mandate. At the moment, the pioneer work is being done by those governments with 'green mandates' from their electorate typically exacerbated by economic risk from the high cost of domestic fossil oil imports.
Because it is a cleaner burning, renewable fuel source, availability and usage will continue to increase.
- Can I get special funding for purchasing a BioCube?
Every customer has different requirements and we work with each of our customers to find the most suitable way to fund purchases of our BioCubes, including favourable financial arrangements with partnership banks in developing countries.
If you are purchasing for a developing community, you may well find you are eligible for local or overseas grant aid to help fund a purchase.
Commercial enterprises tend to find the BioCube™ an affordable and flexible option that requires no special funding arrangement.