Biodiesel Info (101)

What IS biodiesel?
Very often, a broad, general description is used to define biodiesel in a way that is easy to understand by the general public. However, when these broad descriptions are adopted by an authoritative body as a formal definition, they can include a wide range of experimental fuels that are not biodiesel. The term "biodiesel" has a specific, technical definition that has been agreed to through a painstaking process by members of industry and government which has received full approval by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), the premier standard setting organization for fuels and fuel additives. That definition is used for purposes such as alternative fuel designation, EPA registration, or other regulatory purposes. Nonetheless, this specific technical definition can be confusing to the general public. We have, therefore, chosen to adopt two definitions for biodiesel. The "general definition" is a simple description for the general public. The "technical definition" should be adopted for use by customers for bid specification purposes or government entities for regulatory purposes.

General Definition of Biodiesel:
Biodiesel is a domestic, renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils like soybean oil, and which meets the specifications of ASTM D 6751.

Clarifying language to general definition:
Biodiesel can be used in any concentration with petroleum based diesel fuel in existing diesel engines with little or no modification. Biodiesel is not the same thing as raw vegetable oil. It is produced by a chemical process which removes the glycerin from the oil.

Technical Definition for Biodiesel (ASTM D 6751) and Biodiesel Blend:
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 represents the volume percentage of biodiesel fuel in the blend.

Clarifying language to technical definition:
Biodiesel, as defined in D 6751, is registered with the US EPA as a fuel and a fuel additive under Section 211(b) of the Clean Air Act.

Biodiesel is typically produced by a reaction of a vegetable oil or animal

How is biodiesel made?
Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification whereby the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products -- methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct usually sold to be used in soaps and other products).

Is Biodiesel the same thing as raw vegetable oil?
No! Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751) in order to insure proper performance. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. 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 is not registered with the EPA, and it is not a legal motor fuel.

For entities seeking to adopt a definition of biodiesel for purposes such as federal or state statute, state or national divisions of weights and measures, or for any other purpose, the official definition consistent with other federal and state laws and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) guidelines is as follows:

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 for use in diesel engines. Biodiesel refers to the pure fuel before blending with diesel fuel. Biodiesel blends are denoted as, "BXX" with "XX" representing the percentage of biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).

Why should I use biodiesel?
Biodiesel is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel. It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar. Since it is made in the USA from renewable resources such as soybeans, its use decreases our dependence on foreign oil and contributes to our own economy.

Where do I get biodiesel?
Biodiesel is available nationwide. It can be purchased directly from biodiesel producers and marketers, petroleum distributors, or at a handful of public pumps throughout the nation.

For additional information on biodiesel see these links from the National Biodiesel Board's website:


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