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Business: Industrial

Biodiesel

What is biodiesel?
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Availability and Cost
Safety and Performance
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Safety and Performance

Safety

Biodiesel is considerably less flammable than petroleum diesel, which burns at 50°C (120°F). Pure biodiesel (B-100) does not ignite until 150°C (300°F). The flashpoint (the temperature at which it will ignite when exposed to a spark or flame) of a biodiesel blend falls somewhere between these temperatures, depending on the mixture.

Because biodiesel is a mild solvent it is important to wipe up spills and dispose of rags safely. Biodiesel may deface some paints if left on painted surfaces for a long time.

Performance

Biodiesel-powered engines have been shown to deliver similar torque and horsepower as diesel-powered engines. Biodiesel has a higher cetane rating, which can improve engine performance. Biodiesel contains only slightly less energy per litre than on-road petrodiesel.

The Engine Manufacturers Association has issued a technical statement indicating a 5 percent biodiesel blend (B5) should not cause engine or fuel systems problems. A number of automobile manufacturers also endorse lower biodiesel blends for use in their vehicles. As biodiesel is more widely tested and used, manufacturers will be in a better position to support the use of higher blends.

Like petroleum diesel, biodiesel can gel in cold weather. Laboratory tests show that a biodiesel blend gels at a higher temperature than petroleum diesel. Actual experience with cold weather operations varies across regions and is influenced by many factors including the type of feedstock used. B20 has been tested in buses in Montréal, Saskatoon, Halifax, and Toronto Hydro fleets.

Some types of biodiesel freeze at lower temperatures than others, depending on the feedstock and characteristics of the fuel. Potential solutions to cold weather problems are similar to those for petroleum diesel. They include using fuel additives and engine block or fuel filter heaters and storing vehicles near or in a building.

It is important to clean storage tanks before using higher blends of biodiesel because biodiesel acts as a mild solvent. This characteristic makes it “clean out” sediments and dirt from fuel tanks and storage systems. If high blends are put into aged and dirty systems that previously held petroleum diesel, biodiesel will dissolve the sediments and carry them into vehicle fuel systems. In most cases, more frequent fuel filter changes will suffice until the fuel storage tanks and associated equipment have been cleaned out. In severe cases, the dissolved sediments can cause fuel injector failure.