Categories: AppliedBiologyEnergy

Biodiesel application

The biodiesel is a liquid obtained from lipids natural as oils vegetable or fat animals, with or without use, one by industrial processes of esterification and transesterification and applied in the preparation of total or partial replacement of petrodiésel or gas oil obtained from petroleum . Biodiesel can be mixed with diesel oil from the refining of petroleum in different quantities.

Production
Biodiesel is commonly produced by the transesterification of the vegetable oil or animal fat feedstock, and other non-edible raw materials such as frying oil, etc. There are several methods for carrying out this transesterification reaction including the common batch process, heterogeneous catalysts, supercritical processes, ultrasonic methods, and even microwave methods.

Chemically, transesterified biodiesel comprises a mix of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids. The most common form uses methanol (converted to sodium methoxide) to produce methyl esters (commonly referred to as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester – FAME) as it is the cheapest alcohol available, though ethanol can be used to produce an ethyl ester (commonly referred to as Fatty Acid Ethyl Ester – FAEE) biodiesel and higher alcohols such as isopropanol and butanol have also been used. Using alcohols of higher molecular weights improves the cold flow properties of the resulting ester, at the cost of a less efficient transesterification reaction. A lipid transesterification production process is used to convert the base oil to the desired esters. Any free fatty acids (FFAs) in the base oil are either converted to soap and removed from the process, or they are esterified (yielding more biodiesel) using an acidic catalyst. After this processing, unlike straight vegetable oil, biodiesel has combustion properties very similar to those of petroleum diesel, and can replace it in most current uses.

The methanol used in most biodiesel production processes is made using fossil fuel inputs. However, there are sources of renewable methanol made using carbon dioxide or biomass as feedstock, making their production processes free of fossil fuels.

A by-product of the transesterification process is the production of glycerol. For every 1 tonne of biodiesel that is manufactured, 100 kg of glycerol are produced. Originally, there was a valuable market for the glycerol, which assisted the economics of the process as a whole. However, with the increase in global biodiesel production, the market price for this crude glycerol (containing 20% water and catalyst residues) has crashed. Research is being conducted globally to use this glycerol as a chemical building block (see chemical intermediate under Wikipedia article “Glycerol”). One initiative in the UK is The Glycerol Challenge.

Usually this crude glycerol has to be purified, typically by performing vacuum distillation. This is rather energy intensive. The refined glycerol (98%+ purity) can then be utilised directly, or converted into other products. The following announcements were made in 2007: A joint venture of Ashland Inc. and Cargill announced plans to make propylene glycol in Europe from glycerol and Dow Chemical announced similar plans for North America. Dow also plans to build a plant in China to make epichlorhydrin from glycerol. Epichlorhydrin is a raw material for epoxy resins.

Production levels
In 2007, biodiesel production capacity was growing rapidly, with an average annual growth rate from 2002–06 of over 40%. For the year 2006, the latest for which actual production figures could be obtained, total world biodiesel production was about 5–6 million tonnes, with 4.9 million tonnes processed in Europe (of which 2.7 million tonnes was from Germany) and most of the rest from the USA. In 2008 production in Europe alone had risen to 7.8 million tonnes. In July 2009, a duty was added to American imported biodiesel in the European Union in order to balance the competition from European, especially German producers. The capacity for 2008 in Europe totalled 16 million tonnes. This compares with a total demand for diesel in the US and Europe of approximately 490 million tonnes (147 billion gallons). Total world production of vegetable oil for all purposes in 2005/06 was about 110 million tonnes, with about 34 million tonnes each of palm oil and soybean oil. As of 2018, Indonesia is the world’s top supplier of palmoil-based biofuel with annual production of 3.5 million tons,and expected to export about 1 million tonnes of biodiesel.

US biodiesel production in 2011 brought the industry to a new milestone. Under the EPA Renewable Fuel Standard, targets have been implemented for the biodiesel production plants in order to monitor and document production levels in comparison to total demand. According to the year-end data released by the EPA, biodiesel production in 2011 reached more than 1 billion gallons. This production number far exceeded the 800 million gallon target set by the EPA. The projected production for 2020 is nearly 12 billion gallons.

Availability and prices
Global biodiesel production reached 3.8 million tons in 2005. Approximately 85% of biodiesel production came from the European Union.

In 2007, in the United States, average retail (at the pump) prices, including federal and state fuel taxes, of B2/B5 were lower than petroleum diesel by about 12 cents, and B20 blends were the same as petrodiesel. However, as part of a dramatic shift in diesel pricing, by July 2009, the US DOE was reporting average costs of B20 15 cents per gallon higher than petroleum diesel ($2.69/gal vs. $2.54/gal). B99 and B100 generally cost more than petrodiesel except where local governments provide a tax incentive or subsidy. In the month of October 2016, Biodiesel (B20) was 2 cents lower/gallon than petrodiesel.

Biodiesel feedstocks
A variety of oils can be used to produce biodiesel. These include:

Virgin oil feedstock – rapeseed and soybean oils are most commonly used, soybean oil accounting for about half of U.S. production. It also can be obtained from Pongamia, field pennycress and jatropha and other crops such as mustard, jojoba, flax, sunflower, palm oil, coconut and hemp (see list of vegetable oils for biofuel for more information);
Waste vegetable oil (WVO);
Animal fats including tallow, lard, yellow grease, chicken fat, and the by-products of the production of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.
Algae, which can be grown using waste materials such as sewage and without displacing land currently used for food production.
Oil from halophytes such as Salicornia bigelovii, which can be grown using saltwater in coastal areas where conventional crops cannot be grown, with yields equal to the yields of soybeans and other oilseeds grown using freshwater irrigation
Sewage Sludge – The sewage-to-biofuel field is attracting interest from major companies like Waste Management and startups like InfoSpi, which are betting that renewable sewage biodiesel can become competitive with petroleum diesel on price.

Many advocates suggest that waste vegetable oil is the best source of oil to produce biodiesel, but since the available supply is drastically less than the amount of petroleum-based fuel that is burned for transportation and home heating in the world, this local solution could not scale to the current rate of consumption.

Animal fats are a by-product of meat production and cooking. Although it would not be efficient to raise animals (or catch fish) simply for their fat, use of the by-product adds value to the livestock industry (hogs, cattle, poultry). Today, multi-feedstock biodiesel facilities are producing high quality animal-fat based biodiesel. Currently, a 5-million dollar plant is being built in the USA, with the intent of producing 11.4 million litres (3 million gallons) biodiesel from some of the estimated 1 billion kg (2.2 billion pounds) of chicken fat produced annually at the local Tyson poultry plant. Similarly, some small-scale biodiesel factories use waste fish oil as feedstock. An EU-funded project (ENERFISH) suggests that at a Vietnamese plant to produce biodiesel from catfish (basa, also known as pangasius), an output of 13 tons/day of biodiesel can be produced from 81 tons of fish waste (in turn resulting from 130 tons of fish). This project utilises the biodiesel to fuel a CHP unit in the fish processing plant, mainly to power the fish freezing plant.

Quantity of feedstocks required
Current worldwide production of vegetable oil and animal fat is not sufficient to replace liquid fossil fuel use. Furthermore, some object to the vast amount of farming and the resulting fertilization, pesticide use, and land use conversion that would be needed to produce the additional vegetable oil. The estimated transportation diesel fuel and home heating oil used in the United States is about 160 million tons (350 billion pounds) according to the Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy. In the United States, estimated production of vegetable oil for all uses is about 11 million tons (24 billion pounds) and estimated production of animal fat is 5.3 million tonnes (12 billion pounds).

If the entire arable land area of the USA (470 million acres, or 1.9 million square kilometers) were devoted to biodiesel production from soy, this would just about provide the 160 million tonnes required (assuming an optimistic 98 US gal/acre of biodiesel). This land area could in principle be reduced significantly using algae, if the obstacles can be overcome. The US DOE estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland, or 30% greater than the area of Belgium, assuming a yield of 140 tonnes/hectare (15,000 US gal/acre). Given a more realistic yield of 36 tonnes/hectare (3834 US gal/acre) the area required is about 152,000 square kilometers, or roughly equal to that of the state of Georgia or of England and Wales. The advantages of algae are that it can be grown on non-arable land such as deserts or in marine environments, and the potential oil yields are much higher than from plants.

Yield
Feedstock yield efficiency per unit area affects the feasibility of ramping up production to the huge industrial levels required to power a significant percentage of vehicles.

Some typical yields
Crop Yield
L/ha US gal/acre
Palm oil 4752 508
Coconut 2151 230
Cyperus esculentus 1628 174
Rapeseed 954 102
Soy (Indiana) 554-922 59.2–98.6
Chinese tallow 907 97
Peanut 842 90
Sunflower 767 82
Hemp 242 26
“Biofuels: some numbers”. Grist.org. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
Makareviciene et al., “Opportunities for the use of chufa sedge in biodiesel production”,
Industrial Crops and Products, 50 (2013) p. 635, table 2.
Klass, Donald, “Biomass for Renewable Energy, Fuels,
and Chemicals”, page 341. Academic Press, 1998.
Kitani, Osamu, “Volume V: Energy and Biomass Engineering,
CIGR Handbook of Agricultural Engineering”, Amer Society of Agricultural, 1999.
Algae fuel yields have not yet been accurately determined, but DOE is reported as saying that algae yield 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans. Yields of 36 tonnes/hectare are considered practical by Ami Ben-Amotz of the Institute of Oceanography in Haifa, who has been farming Algae commercially for over 20 years.

Jatropha has been cited as a high-yield source of biodiesel but yields are highly dependent on climatic and soil conditions. The estimates at the low end put the yield at about 200 US gal/acre (1.5-2 tonnes per hectare) per crop; in more favorable climates two or more crops per year have been achieved. It is grown in the Philippines, Mali and India, is drought-resistant, and can share space with other cash crops such as coffee, sugar, fruits and vegetables. It is well-suited to semi-arid lands and can contribute to slow down desertification, according to its advocates.

Efficiency and economic arguments
According to a study by Drs. Van Dyne and Raymer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the average US farm consumes fuel at the rate of 82 litres per hectare (8.75 US gal/acre) of land to produce one crop. However, average crops of rapeseed produce oil at an average rate of 1,029 L/ha (110 US gal/acre), and high-yield rapeseed fields produce about 1,356 L/ha (145 US gal/acre). The ratio of input to output in these cases is roughly 1:12.5 and 1:16.5. Photosynthesis is known to have an efficiency rate of about 3–6% of total solar radiation and if the entire mass of a crop is utilized for energy production, the overall efficiency of this chain is currently about 1% While this may compare unfavorably to solar cells combined with an electric drive train, biodiesel is less costly to deploy (solar cells cost approximately US$250 per square meter) and transport (electric vehicles require batteries which currently have a much lower energy density than liquid fuels). A 2005 study found that biodiesel production using soybeans required 27% more fossil energy than the biodiesel produced and 118% more energy using sunflowers.

However, these statistics by themselves are not enough to show whether such a change makes economic sense. Additional factors must be taken into account, such as: the fuel equivalent of the energy required for processing, the yield of fuel from raw oil, the return on cultivating food, the effect biodiesel will have on food prices and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel, water pollution from farm run-off, soil depletion, and the externalized costs of political and military interference in oil-producing countries intended to control the price of petrodiesel.

The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing. Transitioning fully to biofuels could require immense tracts of land if traditional food crops are used (although non food crops can be utilized). The problem would be especially severe for nations with large economies, since energy consumption scales with economic output.

If using only traditional food plants, most such nations do not have sufficient arable land to produce biofuel for the nation’s vehicles. Nations with smaller economies (hence less energy consumption) and more arable land may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production.

For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense; e.g., pongam oiltree nuts grown along roads or jatropha grown along rail lines.

In tropical regions, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, plants that produce palm oil are being planted at a rapid pace to supply growing biodiesel demand in Europe and other markets. Scientists have shown that the removal of rainforest for palm plantations is not ecologically sound since the expansion of oil palm plantations poses a threat to natural rainforest and biodiversity.

It has been estimated in Germany that palm oil biodiesel has less than one third of the production costs of rapeseed biodiesel. The direct source of the energy content of biodiesel is solar energy captured by plants during photosynthesis. Regarding the positive energy balance of biodiesel:

When straw was left in the field, biodiesel production was strongly energy positive, yielding 1 GJ biodiesel for every 0.561 GJ of energy input (a yield/cost ratio of 1.78).
When straw was burned as fuel and oilseed rapemeal was used as a fertilizer, the yield/cost ratio for biodiesel production was even better (3.71). In other words, for every unit of energy input to produce biodiesel, the output was 3.71 units (the difference of 2.71 units would be from solar energy).

Economic impact
Multiple economic studies have been performed regarding the economic impact of biodiesel production. One study, commissioned by the National Biodiesel Board, reported the 2011 production of biodiesel supported 39,027 jobs and more than $2.1 billion in household income in the United States. The growth in biodiesel also helps significantly increase GDP. In 2011, biodiesel created more than $3 billion in GDP. Judging by the continued growth in the Renewable Fuel Standard and the extension of the biodiesel tax incentive, the number of jobs can increase to 50,725, $2.7 billion in income, and reaching $5 billion in GDP by 2012 and 2013.

Energy security
One of the main drivers for adoption of biodiesel is energy security. This means that a nation’s dependence on oil is reduced, and substituted with use of locally available sources, such as coal, gas, or renewable sources. Thus a country can benefit from adoption of biofuels, without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. While the total energy balance is debated, it is clear that the dependence on oil is reduced. One example is the energy used to manufacture fertilizers, which could come from a variety of sources other than petroleum. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states that energy security is the number one driving force behind the US biofuels programme, and a White House “Energy Security for the 21st Century” paper makes it clear that energy security is a major reason for promoting biodiesel. The former EU commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at a recent EU biofuels conference, stressed that properly managed biofuels have the potential to reinforce the EU’s security of supply through diversification of energy sources.

Environmental effects
The surge of interest in biodiesels has highlighted a number of environmental effects associated with its use. These potentially include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution and the rate of biodegradation.

According to the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standards Program Regulatory Impact Analysis, released in February 2010, biodiesel from soy oil results, on average, in a 57% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to petroleum diesel, and biodiesel produced from waste grease results in an 86% reduction. See chapter 2.6 of the EPA report for more detailed information.

However, environmental organizations, for example, Rainforest Rescue and Greenpeace, criticize the cultivation of plants used for biodiesel production, e.g., oil palms, soybeans and sugar cane. They say the deforestation of rainforests exacerbates climate change and that sensitive ecosystems are destroyed to clear land for oil palm, soybean and sugar cane plantations. Moreover, that biofuels contribute to world hunger, seeing as arable land is no longer used for growing foods. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published data in January 2012, showing that biofuels made from palm oil won’t count towards the nation’s renewable fuels mandate as they are not climate-friendly. Environmentalists welcome the conclusion because the growth of oil palm plantations has driven tropical deforestation, for example, in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Food, land and water vs. fuel
In some poor countries the rising price of vegetable oil is causing problems. Some propose that fuel only be made from non-edible vegetable oils such as camelina, jatropha or seashore mallow which can thrive on marginal agricultural land where many trees and crops will not grow, or would produce only low yields.

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Others argue that the problem is more fundamental. Farmers may switch from producing food crops to producing biofuel crops to make more money, even if the new crops are not edible. The law of supply and demand predicts that if fewer farmers are producing food the price of food will rise. It may take some time, as farmers can take some time to change which things they are growing, but increasing demand for first generation biofuels is likely to result in price increases for many kinds of food. Some have pointed out that there are poor farmers and poor countries who are making more money because of the higher price of vegetable oil.

Biodiesel from sea algae would not necessarily displace terrestrial land currently used for food production and new algaculture jobs could be created.

By comparision it should be mentioned that the production of biogas utilizes agricultural waste to generate a biofuel known as biogas, and also produces compost, thereby enhancing agriculture, sustainability and food production.

Current research
There is ongoing research into finding more suitable crops and improving oil yield. Other sources are possible including human fecal matter, with Ghana building its first “fecal sludge-fed biodiesel plant.” Using the current yields, vast amounts of land and fresh water would be needed to produce enough oil to completely replace fossil fuel usage. It would require twice the land area of the US to be devoted to soybean production, or two-thirds to be devoted to rapeseed production, to meet current US heating and transportation needs.

Specially bred mustard varieties can produce reasonably high oil yields and are very useful in crop rotation with cereals, and have the added benefit that the meal leftover after the oil has been pressed out can act as an effective and biodegradable pesticide.

The NFESC, with Santa Barbara-based Biodiesel Industries is working to develop biodiesel technologies for the US navy and military, one of the largest diesel fuel users in the world.

A group of Spanish developers working for a company called Ecofasa announced a new biofuel made from trash. The fuel is created from general urban waste which is treated by bacteria to produce fatty acids, which can be used to make biodiesel.

Another approach that does not require the use of chemical for the production involves the use of genetically modified microbes.

Algal biodiesel
From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. NREL experimented with using algae as a biodiesel source in the “Aquatic Species Program”. A self-published article by Michael Briggs, at the UNH Biodiesel Group, offers estimates for the realistic replacement of all vehicular fuel with biodiesel by utilizing algae that have a natural oil content greater than 50%, which Briggs suggests can be grown on algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants. This oil-rich algae can then be extracted from the system and processed into biodiesel, with the dried remainder further reprocessed to create ethanol.

The production of algae to harvest oil for biodiesel has not yet been undertaken on a commercial scale, but feasibility studies have been conducted to arrive at the above yield estimate. In addition to its projected high yield, algaculture — unlike crop-based biofuels — does not entail a decrease in food production, since it requires neither farmland nor fresh water. Many companies are pursuing algae bio-reactors for various purposes, including scaling up biodiesel production to commercial levels.

Prof. Rodrigo E. Teixeira from the University of Alabama in Huntsville demonstrated the extraction of biodiesel lipids from wet algae using a simple and economical reaction in ionic liquids.

Pongamia
Millettia pinnata, also known as the Pongam Oiltree or Pongamia, is a leguminous, oilseed-bearing tree that has been identified as a candidate for non-edible vegetable oil production.

Pongamia plantations for biodiesel production have a two-fold environmental benefit. The trees both store carbon and produce fuel oil. Pongamia grows on marginal land not fit for food crops and does not require nitrate fertilizers. The oil producing tree has the highest yield of oil producing plant (approximately 40% by weight of the seed is oil) while growing in malnourished soils with high levels of salt. It is becoming a main focus in a number of biodiesel research organizations. The main advantages of Pongamia are a higher recovery and quality of oil than other crops and no direct competition with food crops. However, growth on marginal land can lead to lower oil yields which could cause competition with food crops for better soil.

Jatropha
Several groups in various sectors are conducting research on Jatropha curcas, a poisonous shrub-like tree that produces seeds considered by many to be a viable source of biodiesel feedstock oil. Much of this research focuses on improving the overall per acre oil yield of Jatropha through advancements in genetics, soil science, and horticultural practices.

SG Biofuels, a San Diego-based Jatropha developer, has used molecular breeding and biotechnology to produce elite hybrid seeds of Jatropha that show significant yield improvements over first generation varieties. SG Biofuels also claims that additional benefits have arisen from such strains, including improved flowering synchronicity, higher resistance to pests and disease, and increased cold weather tolerance.

Plant Research International, a department of the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, maintains an ongoing Jatropha Evaluation Project (JEP) that examines the feasibility of large scale Jatropha cultivation through field and laboratory experiments.

The Center for Sustainable Energy Farming (CfSEF) is a Los Angeles-based non-profit research organization dedicated to Jatropha research in the areas of plant science, agronomy, and horticulture. Successful exploration of these disciplines is projected to increase Jatropha farm production yields by 200–300% in the next ten years.

Fungi
A group at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow published a paper in September 2008, stating that they had isolated large amounts of lipids from single-celled fungi and turned it into biodiesel in an economically efficient manner. More research on this fungal species; Cunninghamella japonica, and others, is likely to appear in the near future.

The recent discovery of a variant of the fungus Gliocladium roseum points toward the production of so-called myco-diesel from cellulose. This organism was recently discovered in the rainforests of northern Patagonia and has the unique capability of converting cellulose into medium length hydrocarbons typically found in diesel fuel.

Biodiesel from used coffee grounds
Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, have successfully produced biodiesel from oil derived from used coffee grounds. Their analysis of the used grounds showed a 10% to 15% oil content (by weight). Once the oil was extracted, it underwent conventional processing into biodiesel. It is estimated that finished biodiesel could be produced for about one US dollar per gallon. Further, it was reported that “the technique is not difficult” and that “there is so much coffee around that several hundred million gallons of biodiesel could potentially be made annually.” However, even if all the coffee grounds in the world were used to make fuel, the amount produced would be less than 1 percent of the diesel used in the United States annually. “It won’t solve the world’s energy problem,” Dr. Misra said of his work.

Exotic sources
Recently, alligator fat was identified as a source to produce biodiesel. Every year, about 15 million pounds of alligator fat are disposed of in landfills as a waste byproduct of the alligator meat and skin industry. Studies have shown that biodiesel produced from alligator fat is similar in composition to biodiesel created from soybeans, and is cheaper to refine since it is primarily a waste product.

Biodiesel to hydrogen-cell power
A microreactor has been developed to convert biodiesel into hydrogen steam to power fuel cells.

Steam reforming, also known as fossil fuel reforming is a process which produces hydrogen gas from hydrocarbon fuels, most notably biodiesel due to its efficiency. A **microreactor**, or reformer, is the processing device in which water vapour reacts with the liquid fuel under high temperature and pressure. Under temperatures ranging from 700 – 1100 °C, a nickel-based catalyst enables the production of carbon monoxide and hydrogen:

Hydrocarbon + H2O ⇌ CO + 3 H2 (Highly endothermic)

Furthermore, a higher yield of hydrogen gas can be harnessed by further oxidizing carbon monoxide to produce more hydrogen and carbon dioxide:

CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (Mildly exothermic)

Hydrogen fuel cells background information

Fuel cells operate similar to a battery in that electricity is harnessed from chemical reactions. The difference in fuel cells when compared to batteries is their ability to be powered by the constant flow of hydrogen found in the atmosphere. Furthermore, they produce only water as a by-product, and are virtually silent. The downside of hydrogen powered fuel cells is the high cost and dangers of storing highly combustible hydrogen under pressure.

One way new processors can overcome the dangers of transporting hydrogen is to produce it as necessary. The microreactors can be joined to create a system that heats the hydrocarbon under high pressure to generate hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide, a process called steam reforming. This produces up to 160 gallons of hydrogen/minute and gives the potential of powering hydrogen refueling stations, or even an on-board hydrogen fuel source for hydrogen cell vehicles. Implementation into cars would allow energy-rich fuels, such as biodiesel, to be transferred to kinetic energy while avoiding combustion and pollutant byproducts. The hand-sized square piece of metal contains microscopic channels with catalytic sites, which continuously convert biodiesel, and even its glycerol byproduct, to hydrogen.

Concerns
Engine wear
Lubricity of fuel plays an important role in wear that occurs in an engine. A diesel engine relies on its fuel to provide lubricity for the metal components that are constantly in contact with each other. Biodiesel is a much better lubricant compared with petroleum diesel due to the presence of esters. Tests have shown that the addition of a small amount of biodiesel to diesel can significantly increase the lubricity of the fuel in short term. However, over a longer period of time (2–4 years), studies show that biodiesel loses its lubricity. This could be because of enhanced corrosion over time due to oxidation of the unsaturated molecules or increased water content in biodiesel from moisture absorption.

Fuel viscosity
One of the main concerns regarding biodiesel is its viscosity. The viscosity of diesel is 2.5–3.2 cSt at 40 °C and the viscosity of biodiesel made from soybean oil is between 4.2 and 4.6 cSt The viscosity of diesel must be high enough to provide sufficient lubrication for the engine parts but low enough to flow at operational temperature. High viscosity can plug the fuel filter and injection system in engines. Vegetable oil is composed of lipids with long chains of hydrocarbons, to reduce its viscosity the lipids are broken down into smaller molecules of esters. This is done by converting vegetable oil and animal fats into alkyl esters using transesterification to reduce their viscosity Nevertheless, biodiesel viscosity remains higher than that of diesel, and the engine may not be able to use the fuel at low temperatures due to the slow flow through the fuel filter.

Engine performance
Biodiesel has higher brake-specific fuel consumption compared to diesel, which means more biodiesel fuel consumption is required for the same torque. However, B20 biodiesel blend has been found to provide maximum increase in thermal efficiency, lowest brake-specific energy consumption, and lower harmful emissions. The engine performance depends on the properties of the fuel, as well as on combustion, injector pressure and many other factors. Since there are various blends of biodiesel, that may account for the contradicting reports as regards engine performance.

Source from Wikipedia

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