Biodiesel is a non-toxic clean-burning, domestically produced fuel, derived from 100% renewable resources like vegetable oils extracted from oilseed crops such as soybean, canola, cotton seed and others, and used cooking oil.

Biodiesel is made through a refinery process of transesterification and must meet the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. The final processed feedstock is referred to as B100 Biodiesel .

Biodiesel can be used in any conventional diesel engine either in pure form or in a blend of any proportion with petroleum diesel. It delivers better engine performance while substantially decreasing harmful emissions. Biodiesel lubricates diesel engines and helps them run more smoothly and efficiently.


The concept of biodiesel is not new. The history of biodiesel began in the 1880s when Rudolph Diesel (where the name Diesel came from) designed the compression engine. He used a common substance, peanut oil. He wanted to prove to the world that this form of fuel can be the only source needed. This technique was present in diesel engines until around the 1920s when the manufacturers started to use petroleum fuels as an alternative measure claiming it is cheaper. It was greed and politics that contributed to the failing of the biodiesel concept at that time.

Rudolf Diesel

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 10 August 1893 running on nothing but peanut oil. In remembrance of this event, 10 August has been declared "International Biodiesel Day".
It is often reported that Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on peanut oil, but this is not the case. Diesel stated in his published papers, "at the Paris Exhibition in 1900 (Exposition Universelle) there was shown by the Otto Company a small Diesel engine, which, at the request of the French government ran on arachide (earth-nut or pea-nut) oil (see biodiesel), and worked so smoothly that only a few people were aware of it. The engine was constructed for using mineral oil, and was then worked on vegetable oil without any alterations being made. The French Government at the time thought of testing the applicability to power production of the Arachide, or earth-nut, which grows in considerable quantities in their African colonies, and can easily be cultivated there." Diesel himself later conducted related tests and appeared supportive of the idea. In a 1912 speech, 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."

Despite the widespread use of petroleum-derived diesel fuels, interest in vegetable oils as fuels for internal combustion engines was reported in several countries during the 1920s and 1930s and later duringWorld War II. Belgium, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and China were reported to have tested and used vegetable oils as diesel fuels during this time. Some operational problems were reported due to the high viscosity of vegetable oils compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which results in poor atomization of the fuel in the fuel spray and often leads to deposits and coking of the injectors, combustion chamber and valves. Attempts to overcome these problems included heating of the vegetable oil, blending it with petroleum-derived diesel fuel or ethanol, pyrolysis and cracking of the oils.

On 31 August 1937, G. Chavanne of the University of Brussels (Belgium) was granted a patent for a "Procedure for the transformation of vegetable oils for their uses as fuels" (fr. "Procédé de Transformation d’Huiles Végétales en Vue de Leur Utilisation comme Carburants") Belgian Patent 422,877. This patent described the alcoholysis (often referred to as transesterification) of vegetable oils using ethanol (and mentions methanol) in order to separate the fatty acids from the glycerol by replacing the glycerol with short linear alcohols. This appears to be the first account of the production of what is known as "biodiesel" today.

Research into the use of transesterified sunflower oil, and refining it to diesel fuel standards, was initiated in South Africa in 1979. By 1983, the process for producing fuel-quality, engine-tested biodiesel was completed and published internationally. An Austrian company, Gaskoks, obtained the technology from the South African Agricultural Engineers; the company erected the first biodiesel pilot plant in November 1987, and the first industrial-scale plant in April 1989 (with a capacity of 30,000 tons of rapeseed per annum).

Throughout the 1990s, plants were opened in many European countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden. France launched local production of biodiesel fuel (referred to as diester) from rapeseed oil, which is mixed into regular diesel fuel at a level of 5%, and into the diesel fuel used by some captive fleets (e.g. public transportation) at a level of 30%. Renault, Peugeot and other manufacturers have certified truck engines for use with up to that level of partial biodiesel; experiments with 50% biodiesel are underway. During the same period, nations in other parts of the world also saw local production of biodiesel starting up: by 1998, the Austrian Biofuels Institute had identified 21 countries with commercial biodiesel projects. 100% biodiesel is now available at many normal service stations across Europe.

In the United States, Henry Ford created a factory to begin mass producing biofuels. The inventor of the Model T believed that this power was perfect in every way and that he wanted to create all of his automobiles that accepted this fuel. When Henry Ford began this quest, he was on the top of the market. He contacted natural oil companies hoping to embark on various partnerships. This was the oil of the future, or so they thought. Marketing techniques soon came into play. Around the 1940s, companies producing petroleum based products launched advertisements and promised a commitment of lower prices. Oil entrepreneurs began locating wells based on petroleum and people started becoming rich and well-off searching for this type of product. These same individuals began creating rumors to discredit vegetable oil products and it succeeded and the biodiesel industry failed.

In the past few years, popularity and consumption of biodiesel as an alternative fuel has grown substantially. Some states mandate at least 5% bidiesel to be blended with petroleum diesel. In 2013, biodiesel production in the U.S. exceeded 1.7 billion gallons. Biodiesel has already become a viable alternative fuel for the future.

History of Biodiesel: