An alternative fuel known as biodiesel is a clear or yellowish liquid that replaces oil-based diesel. It powers a wide range of machines, including generators, locomotives and autos. Biodiesel-powered motor vehicles range from old VW Microbus vans to modern tractor-trailers. The fuel consists of various natural substances.
Although it should not be confused with pure vegetable oil, biodiesel often contains oils derived from plants. Sources of these oils include palm trees, soybeans, rapeseed and kitchens that use cooking oil. Eateries and food processing plants frequently generate significant amounts of used oils that may be added to biodiesel.
This biodegradable alternative fuel can also include tallow or other natural fats that may come from animals. These elements make this substance less toxic and safer than conventional diesel. Ingredients such as potassium hydroxide, alcohol and caustic soda are used during production. It does not normally contain solvents or additives.
When suppliers make biodiesel, they use chemicals to transform natural fats and vegetable oils into substances called “fatty acid methyl esters.” It is refined in a way that purifies the fuel, cutting emissions and helping engines perform more reliably. Most companies use the transesterification process to maximize safety and efficiency.
Basically, production is accomplished by combining alcohols with oils or fats. The ensuing chemical reaction yields the all-important methyl esters. A catalyst such as potassium hydroxide must also be present. This produces glycerol and biodiesel; the glycerol must be removed after it sinks to the bottom of the tank.
Compared to conventional diesel, biodiesel offers a number of important benefits. This fuel generates significantly less pollution when burned. It does not catch fire as easily in road accidents. If storage tanks leak their contents into soil or waterways, this non-toxic substance causes much less harm to the environment.
Biodiesel compares favorably with some alternative fuels as well. Unlike with pure vegetable oil, the engine does not need to be converted or modified. This fuel can be used in a wider range of applications than ethanol. It is also largely produced from inexpensive waste materials rather than agricultural crops.
The bottom line is that biodiesel provides a safe, renewable energy source that primarily consists of natural ingredients. It performs well in a wide range of engines and reduces the air pollution that they generate. However, economical production usually requires a steady supply of waste oils and a fairly complex processing system.
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