Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Biodiesel's Inception: A Very Brief Histroy

I cut and pasted this directly from: the Biodiesel Expansion blog. This blog having a good deal of basic information about biodiesel and the process. I found it pretty enjoyable to read and learned a little bit while there.

From a post titled: Basic History of Biodiesel Fuel

Biodiesel fuel has been around since 1853. However, it was not fully used commercially until the early millennium. It is credited to E. Duffy and J. Patrick and it was recorded that the very first diesel-propelled machine ran on August 10 of 1893. Thus, the same day was aptly named International Biodiesel Day.

There is this German man named Rudolf Diesel who made an engine that was propelled by peanut oil. This was his experiment on biofuel for machine usage. Although peanut oil is not qualified as a biodiesel fuel because it did not undergo the actual process of making biodiesel fuel, it was viewed as the future of the power of natural feed stock to be used as an alternative to fuel based on petroleum. However, Rudolf was successful in running an engine using this type of biofuel.

Another person who should take the credit for biodiesel is G. Chavanne. It was in 1937 when he received a patent for a process called transesterification. This is the process used for converting feed stock to biodiesel. The blends of biodiesel fuels are marked on the percentage of blends. A 20% blend is called B20. A 30% blend is called B30. The B stands for blend.

Basically, biodiesel is made from animal and plant fats that are then mixed with methyl or ethanol. Glycerol is also used. Called fatty acid methyl or FAME, biodiesel has gains popularity of its practically year in and year out. The number of countries that have heavily invested in this have grown since the 1970s.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Gas prices, especially diesel, are steadily on the rise. Earlier this week, in a bid to ease crude oil and diesel prices, the American Trucking Association urged the government to release emergency supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Act. Currently, it costs more than $1,000 to fill up a typical tractor-trailer. Although heavy-duty diesel-powered vehicles make up only 7% of the on road vehicles, they produce a staggering 69% of on-road fine particulate pollution and 40% of the Nox emissions. With growing prices and increased regulations to protect the environment, what’s the average truck-driver to do?

As more commercial fleets feel the pressure to reduce emissions, switching to alternative fuels becomes a balancing act between rising equipment costs and meeting environmentally friendly standards. Refuse fleets, for example, are currently walking this tightrope with the knowledge that over time, alternative fuels will eventually lower operational costs.

However, between biodiesel and Natural Gas (which are the only two alternative fuels with the power and mechanics in place to supply heavy-duty trucks,) natural gas has quickly become the leading choice in areas (like Los Angeles) that mandate alternative fuel use only. Furthermore, natural gas can be purchased with long-term supply contracts, which insulates larger fleets from market fuel price volatility thereby ensuring more consistent operating costs. Natural gas is also taxed at a lower rate than diesel in many states.