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Fatcow explains the benefits and considerations of using biodiesel

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article image Tasmanian farmers are producing up to 3 million litres of biodiesel annually from poppys
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Renewable, alternative fuels such as Biodiesel are becoming increasingly more popular and common as concerns about fuel sustainability and environmental impact increase and the government places more emphasis on its use.  Fatcow takes a quick look at Biodiesel, its uses and benefits.  

Q. What is Biodiesel?  

A. Biodiesel is the generic name for diesel that is produced using renewable plant or animal feedstock containing fatty acids.  The process of turning them into biodiesel is called transesterification.  

Biodiesel can be used in its pure form, but is most commonly found mixed in a blend with normal diesel.  The percentage of biodiesel in the blend is generally denoted with a B.  For example B5 indicates that 5% of the blend is biodiesel.  

Q. What is Biodiesel made from?  

A. Biodiesel can be made from a variety of oils ranging from soybean, canola and coconut oil, through to algae, tallow and even used coffee grinds.  

Australian biodiesel tends to be made from tallow, used cooking oil and other waste products.   

Recently a new biodiesel plant in Tasmanian has started to produce biodiesel from poppy crop waste and estimates that its annual production will be up to 3 million litres.  

Q. Do I need to convert my vehicles and machinery to use biodiesel?  

A. No.  The vast majority of vehicles are fully compatible with B5 biodiesel blends with no modification at all.  For higher blends or B100 some modification may be required.  Check with the manufacturer for specifics.  

Many manufacturers’ modern vehicles and agricultural machinery are designed for use with B20 or higher blends, including the majority of Case IH medium to high horsepower tractors and farm vehicles.  These modern vehicles require minimal or no modification.  

Q. What are the benefits of using biodiesel?  

A. The higher the percentage of biodiesel in the blend used the higher the benefits.  These include:

  • sustainable source of fuel
  • significant reduction in air pollutants and carbon emissions
  • reduces dependency on international market for fuel
  • is inexpensive to convert to
  • mMore biodegradable than standard diesel
  • can increase engine life, reducing engine/fuel pump wear and tear thanks to its high lubricity
  • combusts more completely in the engine thanks to its higher oxygen content and cetene number
  • is currently priced cheaper or similar to standard diesel, but will be become cheaper still after the carbon tax comes into place in July 2011
  • supports the local economy and can be produced by farmers and agriculturists  
Q. What is the mileage like when using biodiesel?  

A. Mileage is comparable to using standard diesel, although some vehicles experience a 1-3% decrease.  

Q. Where can I get biodiesel from?  

A. Many petrol stations throughout Australia now offer B5 and B20 biodiesel blends including leading names such as Caltex, Shell and 7/11.  Not all stations offer biodiesel so it is useful to plan long journeys in advance.  

For agricultural purposes biodiesel can be stored on site.  It is recommended to only buy biodiesel from trusted BQ-9000 producers and certified fuel suppliers.  

Q. Are there any special guidelines I need to follow if I use biodiesel?  

A. Not really.  Biodiesel is a great solvent so can have some impact on natural rubber components, which need to be checked more frequently.  However this is not generally a concern as most vehicles are now manufactured without the use of rubber components.   

Fuel filters should also be checked more frequently.  If swapping over from standard diesel to biodiesel long term mineral deposits from the diesel may be cleared out, meaning that filter need to be changed.  

If storing diesel on site then there are a number of good practice guidelines that should be followed to keep vehicles in good condition.  Case IH provides some easy to follow guidance on its website.  

Visit Fatcow for more information about biodiesel and biodiesel ready vehicles and machinery.

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