Fuel made from soy beans or waste vegetable oil is termed as biodiesel. This fuel may be used in place of diesel or petroleum oil in vehicles. Biodeisel is renewable source of energy that does not pollute environment to the extent done by petroleum products. This fuel may be used in combination with other fuels like diesel, petroleum or heating oil. Usually engine of vehicle need not be modified for this purpose. This flexibility enables biodiesel to be integrated with current systems without major modifications or addition of new equipment.
Biodiesel is produced from hydrocarbons like fats and oils, most commonly soybean oil. The filtered hydrocarbon is mixed with alcohol like methanol and a catalyst like potassium or sodium hydroxide. Major product from this reaction is an ester, which is the biodiesel fuel. By product is glycerol which has various commercial uses.
Labeling of biodiesel is done to designate percentage of biodiesel present in a fuel. As such, a fuel labeled as B20 represents mixture of 20% biodiesel and 80% of petroleum diesel. This combination of biofuel is most commonly used.
Prime advantage of biodiesel is that it is renewable energy source. It can be produced from soy beans grown solely for this purpose or recycled from cooking oils in restaurants. There is no problem of depletion of natural resources like petroleum products. There is excess production of soybeans in countries like USA, where it is economically viable to utilize it for production of biodiesel.
Biodiesel is not as polluting as petroleum fuels. It produces less soot, unburned hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide in comparison to fossil fuels like petrol or diesel. Life cycle of catalytic converters may be extended by using 100% biodiesel. Biodiesel can be used in combination with heating oil for heating a building or home. This saves money and dependence on expensive heating oil. Biodiesel produces almost same energy per gallon like fossil fuel.
However, biodiesel is more costly than fossil fuel. Low oil content of soybean oil is prime reason of such high cost. This may be reduced by using plant materials having higher oil content than soybean and cost effective to extract.
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