Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101




Biodiesel is a non-toxic and biodegradable alternative to petroleum diesel which is produced from waste vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease through the process of transesterification.


How biodiesel is made

Biodiesel is created through a chemical process of transesterification where methanol and sodium hydroxide are mixed with oil in order to remove the glycerine from the methyl ester. This process results in two products the methyl ester which is the biodiesel and glycerin which is used in cosmetics, soaps and other products. The range of inputs can be expanded through the use of enzymes to allow for lower purity and lower cost inputs [1].


What biodiesel is made from

Biodiesel can be made from:

  • Jatropha
  • Camelina
  • Soybeans
  • Rapeseed
  • Canola Oil
  • Palm Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Animal Fat
  • Algae oil

All of these oils and plants are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than the mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. If interested this article explains how Audi have invented an synthetic e-diesel from air and water.  


Different blends

There is three different blends of biodiesel which are:

  • B100 which is straight biodiesel with no petroleum diesel
  • B5 which is 5% biodiesel with the rest petroleum diesel
  • B20 which is 20% biodiesel and the rest petroleum diesel  



Usage in cars

Biodiesel is safe for use in all diesel engines and it is possible to switch between biodiesel and petroleum based diesel if needed. Biodiesel can improve the performance of your engine due to its lubricating properties, higher flashpoint and ability to clean your engine among other factors. Biodiesel also reduces black smoke emitted by diesel vehicles.


Environmental impact of biodiesel usage

Biodiesel as many environmental benefits. A life cycle analysis completed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory found that greenhouse gas emissions for 100% biodiesel (B100) could be more than 52% lower than those from petroleum diesel [2]. A study conducted by the CISRO found that biodiesel lowers greenhouse gases by 100%, lowers total hydrocarbon by 96%, lowers carbon monoxide by 45% and lowers particulate matter by 28%  in comparison to petroleum diesel [3]. These lower levels of nasties means that we can enjoy cleaner air and less of the greenhouse effect.

In addition biodiesel due to its biodegradable nature is easier to remove from the environment in comparison to petroleum diesel in the event of a spill.


Advantages to using biodiesel

  • Produced from inexpensive and often waste products
  • Non-toxic and biodegradable (great if split in the environment)
  • Third world countries can sell high oil output crops to support their economies
  • No engine modifications required for petroleum diesel vehicles.
  • Reduces quantities of hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, particulate matter & sulfur dioxide


Disadvantages to using biodiesel

  • Increases nitrous oxide emissions by 2% (based on B20)
  • Vehicle part breakdowns may occur if petroleum diesel as been previously used
  • Biodiesel can gel in cold weather
  • Many producers have produced biodiesel that hasn’t met ASTM 6751 standard
  • Biodiesel can reduce fuel efficiency by 1 to 2%
  • Biodiesel production is highly combustible








One comment on “Biodiesel

  1. kedaviblog
    May 8, 2016

    Like many people, I try to limit my driving as much as possible in order to reduce my carbon footprint. Through a little research I found that if Australia replaces the total annual consumption of diesel with bio-diesel it could reduce our CO2 emission by 32.5 million tonnes per year! In 2008, Australia’s diesel demand was 18,100,000,000 liters of fuel which is an insane amount!! The environmental effects of replacing diesel with bio-diesel would be immense.


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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Burwood - Friday 10am.

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