Frequently Asked Questions About The BioCube™ and Biodiesel

There is a misconception that a binary choice exists between the production of food and fuel. In fact, many biodiesel feedstocks can be used for multiple purposes without prejudicing the food chain. The BioCube™ was conceived with sustainability at the forefront of design. Contrary to viewing food and fuel as opposing options, the BioCube™ process makes it possible to cultivate food using fuel harvested from the crop – a circular economy.

It is estimated that at least 40% of the cost of food crops is directly attributable to the consumption of fossil fuels in harvesting and transporting the goods. The use of locally sourced biodiesel to power the agricultural sector has potential to significantly reduce end-product prices and in turn the accessibility of food to the wider community.

Pure energy crops do not have to be at the expense of food crops either. The benefit of third generation fuel crops is that they can prosper on arid and poorer quality soil that would not otherwise sustain food crops. In this regard, the BioCube™ is a powerful solution to the need for sustainable energy independence and wealth creation in both the developed and developing world. It generates a continuous source of affordable energy that can bring prosperity, enhance the community and benefit the planet – without competing with food stocks.

Biodiesel is a clean burning form of diesel fuel which can be produced from a variety of renewable oil-bearing sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats. It has similar properties to petroleum diesel, but with a number of important environmental advantages. Technically, biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids 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.

Biodiesel is manufactured from renewable feedstock via a catalytic reaction known as trans-esterification. Petroleum diesel is a complex mixture of hydrocarbon molecules derived from petroleum crude oil extracted from natural sources that has taken millions 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.

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% less than that measured for diesel fuel.

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 in agricultural machinery, generators, ships, heating and lighting equipment and more.

Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulphur 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. 

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 nitrated compounds that have been identified as potential cancer causing compounds.

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. 

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.

On the production side, Biodiesel is effectively carbon-neutral.  

Biodiesel is the only renewable alternative diesel fuel that actually reduces major greenhouse gas components in the atmosphere.

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 than petroleum diesel, but common sense techniques can be employed to prevent this. 

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;
  • Consider underground storage tanks. 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.  If underground storage is not feasible, 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.

Essentially, the production process used by the BioCube™ is a trans-esterification 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.

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.

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.

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 of 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.

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 aluminium, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene and Teflon. Copper, brass, lead, tin, and zinc should be avoided as biofuel has solvent properties. The BioCube Corporation can provide assistance in sourcing suitable storage tanks to accompany the BioCube, if required. Email BioCube Consultancy

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 antioxidant additive.

Every customer has different requirements and we work with each of our customers to find the most suitable way to fund purchases, including favourable financial arrangements with partnership banks. 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.

On the commissioning of each BioCube™, BioCube Corporation provides comprehensive operator training along with detailed user manuals. BioCube Corporation provides ongoing support for the operation of the BioCube™ with specialist advice available on both technical questions and chemistry.