CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
The Popular Biofuel
The fuels obtained from biomass materials, like the waste generated by plants, animals and humans beings, are called as the biofuels. The biofuels are well known alternative fuels used for the production of heat and electricity and also driving the vehicles. The biomass is considered to be a type of renewable sources of energy since it is available in unlimited quantity and will continue to do so for unlimited period of time. One of the most popular types of biofuels is biodiesel.
Biodiesel is obtained from the fresh or used vegetable oil and animal fats by the process called transesterification. Efforts are being made to obtain biodiesel from waste grease and oils. The modern methods have been discovered to obtain biodiesel from algae as well.
Early Diesel Engine and Biodiesel
Rudolph Diesel had invented diesel engine in the period dating back to 1890. Though the present diesel engine is being run entirely on petroleum diesel fuel, in the days of invention itself Rudolph had envisioned that his engine could be powered by vegetable oil and could be used in the remote areas of farmlands where petroleum diesel is not available, but where the vegetable oil can be obtained easily from the plants. This way the farmers would be able to run the vehicles used by them for farming by using the vegetable oil. Rudolph had carried out extensive research to run his engine on vegetable oil.
In fact biodiesel was one of the earliest fuels used for running the engines of the automobiles.
After Rudolph's death in 1913, the gasoline including diesel became much cheaper so the design of Rudolph's engine was modified so that it can run on petroleum diesel. It is indeed interesting to know that after almost 100 years, the engine developed by Rudolph is now being run on the same fuel i.e. biodiesel made from vegetable oil, as per its original vision.
Biodiesel used for Running Vehicles
As mentioned earlier, the original diesel engine was designed to run on biodiesel or vegetable oil. For all the vehicles manufactured after the year 1993 biodiesel can be used as the fuel in all diesel engines without making any changes in the fuel injection system. When one uses the biodiesel there may be very little or no change in the performance of the engine.
The properties of biodiesel are very similar to traditional diesel obtained from the crude oil. While the combustion of traditional diesel produces lots of air pollution and toxic gases, the burning of biodiesel is clean and it does not cause any environmental pollution.
Biodiesel can be used as the fuel for automobiles in the pure form or it can be mixed with petroleum diesel in various proportions to form the blends. The two most commonly used blends of biodiesel are B20 and B100. B20 is the blend of 20% of biodiesel and remaining percentage of petroleum diesel and is the most widely used blend in US. It also meets all the regulations under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) documented in 1992. Most of the other fuel blends containing lesser than 20% of biodiesel can also used for the running the vehicles. B100 is the pure form of biodiesel and it can be used in the diesel engines only after making certain changes in the hosesand gaskets of the engine.
Controversies Related to Biodiesel
Now that biodiesel is being blended with petroleum diesel and is being used as the fuel, its demand is fast increasing. A number of farmers are tempted to grow the crops that would yield biodiesel at the cost of the food crops. Instead of using the fertilizers, pesticides and energy for the food crops, farmers are using them for the biodiesel crops. This leads to not only the misuse of the limited resources but also shortage of the food crops.
In some parts of the world large areas of forests have been cut down to grow sugarcane for ethanol and soybeans and palm-oil tress for making biodiesel. US government is making efforts to make sure the farming for biomass materials does not competes with the farming of food crops and that the farming of biomass would require lesser fertilizers and pesticides. A number of other sources for biodiesel are also being explored like used oils and greases and algae.
Benefits of Biodiesel
Here are some of the benefits of using biodiesel as a fuel:
1) Biodiesel can be easily blended with petroleum diesel and the mixture can be readily used for running the vehicles without carrying out any changes in the engine.
2) Though the properties of biodiesel are same as the petroleum diesel, the combustion of biodiesel produces no greenhouse and other gases that would harm the environment.
As the proportion of biodiesel increases in the petroleum diesel blend, its tendency to generate pollution reduces.
3) Biodiesel is made from plant oil and vegetable fats, which are biodegradable, so they can be easily disposed of. When biodiesel is leaked or split it does not harm the environment.
4) The country manufacturing and using biodiesel is less dependent on other countries for their fuel requirements. Biodiesel has the potential to make countries self-reliant for their future fuel requirements. Further, since biodiesel is obtained from the renewable source of energy, it could be considered an important fuel for future planning.
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CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES