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Straight Vegetable Oil SVO as Diesel replacement fuel

Efficiency and Economic Arguments of Biodiesel

According to a study written by Drs. Van Dyne and Raymer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the average US farm consumes fuel at the rate of 82 liters per hectare (8.75 US gallons per 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 16 % and if the entire mass of a crop is utilized for energy production, the overall efficiency of this chain is known to be about 1 %. This does not compare favorably to solar cells combined with an electric drive train. Biodiesel out-competes solar cells in cost and ease of deployment. 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, and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel. A 1998 joint study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) traced many of the various costs involved in the production of biodiesel and found that overall, it yields 3.2 units of fuel product energy for every unit of fossil fuel energy consumed. [2] That measure is referred to as the energy yield. A comparison to petroleum diesel, petroleum gasoline and bioethanol using the USDA numbers can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website[3] In the comparison petroleum diesel fuel is found to have a 0.843 energy yield, along with 0.805 for petroleum gasoline, and 1.34 for bioethanol. The 1998 study used soybean oil primarily as the base oil to calculate the energy yields. It is conceivable that higher oil yielding crops could increase the energy yield of biodiesel. The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing, however.

Some nations and regions that have pondered transitioning fully to biofuels have found that doing so would require immense tracts of land if traditional crops are used. Considering only traditional plants and analyzing the amount of biodiesel that can be produced per unit area of cultivated land, some have concluded that it is likely that the United States, with one of the highest per capita energy demands of any country, does not have enough arable land to fuel all of the nation's vehicles. Other developed and developing nations 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. honge nuts [4] grown along roads.

More recent studies using a species of algae that has oil contents of as high as 50% have concluded that as little as 28,000 km² or 0.3 % of the land area of the US could be utilized to produce enough biodiesel to replace all transportation fuel the country currently utilizes. Further encouragement comes from the fact that the land that could be most effective in growing the algae is desert land with high solar irradiation, but lower economic value for other uses and that the algae could utilize farm waste and excess CO2 from factories to help speed the growth of the algae. [5]

The direct source of the energy content of biodiesel is solar energy captured by plants during photosynthesis. The website biodiesel.co.uk[6]discusses 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).

Biodiesel is becoming of interest to companies interested in commercial scale production as well as the more usual home brew biodiesel user and the user of straight vegetable oil or waste vegetable oil in diesel engines. Homemade biodiesel processors are many and varied.

Environmental benefits
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Environmental benefits in comparison to petroleum based fuels include:

  • Biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by 78% on a net lifecycle basis because the carbon in biodiesel emissions is recycled from carbon that was already in the atmosphere, rather than being new carbon from petroleum that was sequestered in the earth's crust. (Sheehan, 1998)
  • Biodiesel contains fewer aromatic hydrocarbons: benzofluoranthene: 56% reduction; Benzopyrenes: 71% reduction.[citation needed]
  • Biodiesel reduces by as much as 65% the emission of particulates, small particles of solid combustion products. This reduces cancer risks by up to 94% according to testing sponsored by the Department of Energy.[citation needed]
  • Biodiesel does produce more nitrogen oxide NOx emissions than petrodiesel, but these emissions can be reduced through the use of catalytic converters. As biodiesel contains no nitrogen, the increase in NOx emissions may be due to the higher cetane rating of biodiesel and higher oxygen content, which allows it to convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into NOx more rapidly. Properly designed and tuned engines may eliminate this increase.
  • Biodiesel has higher cetane rating than petrodiesel, and therefore ignites more rapidly when injected into the engine. It also has the highest energy content of any alternative fuel in its pure form (B100).
  • Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic - tests sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture confirm biodiesel is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as quickly as sugar.[citation needed]
  • In the United States, biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have successfully completed the Health Effects Testing requirements (Tier I and Tier II) of the Clean Air Act (1990).

Since biodiesel is more often used in a blend with petroleum diesel, there are fewer formal studies about the effects on pure biodiesel in unmodified engines and vehicles in day-to-day use. Fuel meeting the standards and engine parts that can withstand the greater solvent properties of biodiesel is expected to--and in reported cases does--run without any additional problems than the use of petroleum diesel.

  • The flash point of biodiesel (>150 °C) is significantly higher than that of petroleum diesel (64 °C) or gasoline (−45 °C). The gel point of biodiesel varies depending on the proportion of different types of esters contained. However, most biodiesel, including that made from soybean oil, has a somewhat higher gel and cloud point than petroleum diesel. In practice this often requires the heating of storage tanks, especially in cooler climates.
  • Pure biodiesel (B100) can be used in any petroleum diesel engine, though it is more commonly used in lower concentrations. Some areas have mandated ultra-low sulfur petrodiesel, which reduces the natural viscosity and lubricity of the fuel due to the removal of sulfur and certain other materials. Additives are required to make ULSD properly flow in engines, making biodiesel one popular alternative. Ranges as low as 2% (B2) have been shown to restore lubricity. Many municipalities have started using 5% biodiesel (B5) in snow-removal equipment and other systems.

Transesterification of a vegetable oil was conducted as early as 1853, by scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick, many years before the first diesel engine became functional. Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10 ft (3 m) iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time in Augsburg, Germany on August 10, 1893. In remembrance of this event, August 10 has been declared International Biodiesel Day. Diesel later demonstrated his engine and received the "Grand Prix" (highest prize) at the World Fair in Paris, France in 1900. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision because it was powered by peanut oil—a biofuel, though not strictly biodiesel, since it was not transesterified. He believed that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the real future of his engine. In a 1912 speech, Rudolf Diesel said "the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time."

During the 1920s diesel engine manufacturers altered their engines to utilize the lower viscosity of the fossil fuel (petrodiesel) rather than vegetable oil, a biomass fuel. The petroleum industries were able to make inroads in fuel markets because their fuel was much cheaper to produce than the biomass alternatives. The result was, for many years, a near elimination of the biomass fuel production infrastructure. Only recently have environmental impact concerns and a decreasing cost differential made biomass fuels such as biodiesel a growing alternative.

The revival of biodiesel production started with farm co-operatives in the 1980s in Austria, but in 1991 the first industrial-scale plant opened in Aschach, also in Austria, with a capacity in excess of 10,000 m³ per year. Throughout the 1990s, plants were opened in many European countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Sweden. At the same time, nations in other parts of world also saw local production of biodiesel starting up and by 1998, the Austrian Biofuels Institute identified 21 countries with commercial biodiesel projects.

In the 1990s, France launched the local production of biodiesel fuel (known locally as diester) obtained by the transesterification of rapeseed oil. It is mixed to the proportion of 5 % into regular diesel fuel, and to the proportion of 30 % into the diesel fuel used by some captive fleets (public transportation). Renault, Peugeot, and other manufacturers have certified truck engines for use with up to this partial biodiesel. Experiments with 50 % biodiesel are underway.

There is ongoing research into finding more suitable crops and improving oil yield. 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 have the added benefit that the meal leftover after the oil has been pressed out can act as an effective and biodegradable pesticide.





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