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Biodiesel Fuels

Neither Allpar, its affiliates, nor Robert W. (Bob) Sheaves accept any responsibility for the use of any information contained in this article. This information is supplied for educational purposes only. Readers are advised to seek competent assistance BEFORE attempting to utilize this information in any way.

Bob Sheaves wrote:

(This section copyright © 2001 Robert W. Sheaves. Used by permission. Modified and expanded over time.)

Rudolf Diesel experimented with many different types of fuel to feed the compression-ignition engine he’d invented. From coal dust to hemp oil, many products were tried and failed — too costly, too hard to process, not enough heat to sustain combustion. Liquid whale oil and vegetable oils seemed to provide the best solution, but whale oil was expensive, and he was just about out of money.

Turning to his farmer friends (most of whom laughed at his engine), he tried to find an alternative. According to legend, one of these friends grew peanuts and had a stock that had gone rancid; even livestock would not eat them. Diesel obtained several cart loads and used an olive press to obtain the yellow oil contained in the nuts.

The Paris World Exposition was coming and time was running out for Diesel. The prototype engine, along with several hundred gallons of peanut oil, was shipped to Paris, installed, and flabbergasted the crowds. Many people commented they wandered into the area displaying Diesel's engine running because they thought it was a food pavilion (due to the smell of burned peanut oil).

When petroleum oil was discovered in Pennsylvania a few years later, Diesel's engine had progressed far enough to utilize this new sort of waste fuel from lubricating oils and save the peanuts for feed.

Fast forward to the 1930s in Detroit.....

Detroit Diesel Corporation, of Redford (Metro Detroit), Michigan, manufactured engines for America's fledgling trucking industry. In 1936, the 2 stroke, blower-scavenged diesel was introduced to the world. For the first time, a high speed (1800RPM), lightweight (wet weight approximately 1100 lbs for the inline 4 cylinder version), high horsepower (127hp) powerplant was available to make the trucking of products to their destination competitive with rail transport.

No longer did manufacturers of goods have to be situated in congested rail head locations of Chicago, Detroit, Trenton, Oklahoma City, etc. They could move to the low income areas of the US, employ these lower cost farmers and further reduce their costs to manufacture their goods.

The success of Detroit Diesel spawned Cummins Engine Company, International Harvester, Caterpillar, and others to start making these high profit engines to power industry.

Fast forward again, to 1985, Moscow, Idaho.....

At the University of Idaho, Moscow agricultural researchers started the first in a series of projects; years later they made their first major demonstration to the US Department of Energy with a 1994 Chrysler Corporation-supplied Dodge Ram 3/4 ton pickup- powered by a Cummins 5.9L 6BTA engine. They found that gas and particulate emissions could be reduced with vegetable oil based fuels, which have little sulfur (which leads to acid rain), and, because they are biodegradable, are much safer in case of a spill.

Information from "On Road Testing of Biodiesel-A report of past research activities," University of Idaho

Production of biodiesel, according to the University of Idaho report, is very efficient, with 4.2 BTUs of liquid gained for each BTU used in production and processing. They also found that, if "farmers were allowed to grow rapeseed as an energy crop on set-aside or CRP acreage, BIODIESEL would be used in agriculture. If the environmental advantages were fully understood, BIODIESEL would become the fuel of choice, even at a higher price, for many environmentally sensitive or pollutant-prone areas." (Rapeseed is a winter annual producing about 2,000 pounds of seed per acre - yielding about 100 gallons of oil for fuel, and 1,200 pounds of meal).

The Idaho report noted that transesterification (using an alchohol in the presence of a catalyst to chemically break the molecules) is needed before the rapeseed oil can be used in ordinary diesel engines. The Univeristy of Idaho used a 200-gallon batch reactor to produce methyl and ethyl esters from rapeseed oil.

The University of Idaho (hence referred to as UI) used four diesel pickups, including a 1992 Dodge, 1994 Dodge, and 1995 Dodge Ram pickup with intercooled, turbocharged direct injected diesels, each fueled with different ratios of methyl ester or ethyl ester extracted from rapeseed oil (RME and REE, respecitvely) and standard diesel fuel. The 1994 and 1995 Dodge Ram pickup trucks used 100% REE. The Cummins engines and fuel systems in the Dodge trucks were not modified, though the fuel delivery systems in the 1992 Dodge and a Ford pickup running mixtures of RME and standard diesel fuel were modified to allow for onboard mixing of fuel. The goal (completed in 1998) was to operate each vehicle about 25,000 miles per year, to test them through 100,000 miles.

Dyno testing

In 1994, the UI and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority tested the 1994 Dodge on the dyno, collecting data for all regulated emissions. Results were published but no longer appear to be available.


As with any engine and fuel combination, there are going to be issues of where NOx is formed and how to reduce it. Below are some excerpts from various researchers utilizing different engines and blends of BD products.....

1. "Adjustment of injection timing and engine operating temperature will result in these levels [of nitrous oxides with biodiesel] being reduced below mineral diesel levels." -- Dr Kerr Walker, Scottish Agricultural College, 1994, in "Biodiesel from Rapeseed", Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Volume 155, p. 43-4.

2. "Fueling with biodiesel/diesel fuel blends reduced particulate matter (PM), total hydrocarbons (THC), and carbon monoxide (CO), while increasing oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Retarded fuel injection timing reduced NOx emissions while maintaining the other emissions reductions." -- "6V-92TA DDC Engine Exhaust Emission Tests using Methyl Ester [Biodiesel]", L. G. Schumacher (Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Missouri), D. Fosseen, W. Goetz, S. C. Borgelt, W. G. Hires (1995) in Bioresource Technology, 1995

3. As concentration of biodiesel increased, the oxides of nitrogen [NOx] emissions increased. The B20A20 fuel blend effectively reduced the oxides of nitrogen emissions below that of baseline diesel fuel. Retarding the timing was an effective way of reducing NOx emissions when fueling with the biodiesel blends. Oxides of nitrogen emissions ... can be successfully reduced below that of baseline diesel fuel by either retarding injection timing or replacing 20 percent of the baseline diesel fuel of the B20 blend with heavy alkylate." -- "Engine Exhaust Emissions Evaluation of a Cummins L10E When Fueled with a Biodiesel Blend", William Marshall, Leon G. Schumacher, Steve Howell (1995), Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE Paper # 952363 [B20 = a blend of 20% biodiesel with 80% conventional low sulfur petroleum diesel fuel B20A20 = a blend of 20% biodiesel and 20% heavy alkylate with 60% conventional low-sulfur petroleum diesel fuel]

4. "There are reliable, proven methods for baselining or even reducing Nitrous Oxides (NOx) produced when using biodiesel. I have certified emissions for the urban bus retrofit program with EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) using this technology. This package included use of an oxidation catalyst to maximize Particulate Matter (PM) reductions (taking advantage of the high soluble organic fraction of biodiesel) and a timing change to give up some PM reductions while reducing NOx to baseline or even past baseline -- the best case was a 28% NOx reduction with a 25% PM reduction." -- (From a personal communication, Ming Tseng, Aiko Associates LLC, USA, biodiesel suppliers)

Not even the researchers all agree on the best approach, but several items stand out. A combination of B100 (pure BD), cooled EGR (exhaust gas recirculation-cooled before reintroduction into the combustion chamber) and Catalytic convertor to reduce PM (particulate matter-or "smoke") provides the seemingly best alternatives.

Ready to use fuel suppliers:

Ag Environmental Products -- Lenexa, KS, Phone: (800) 599-9209

Aiko Associates -- Biodiesel -- truckload or railcar quantities to the continental USA - Orders:1-727-725-8437

Columbus Foods -- Chicago, IL Phone: (773) 265-6500 Contact: Joe Loveshe

Griffin Industries -- Cold Spring, KY Phone: (800) 743-7413 Contact: Hart Moore

Hiperfuels -- Phone 713 305-3133. Contact Jess Hewitt. He really does exist - we got an e-mail from him 4/8/02!

Pacific Biodiesel -- 40 Hobron Ave, Kahului, HI, Hawaii 96732 Telephone: (808) 877-3144, Fax: (808) 871-5631 Contact Bob King, President, or send e-mail. Kris at Pacific Biodiesel wrote: “Pacific Biodiesel was the first company to commercially produce biodiesel in the U.S., back in 1996.”

Peter Cremer North America, L.P. -- Cincinnati, OH Phone: (513) 471-7200 Contact: H.M. Findley

World Energy Alternatives -- Now the biggest supplier in the US, virgin and recycled oil, distributor for OceanAir Environmental Fuels (NOPEC Corporation). Headquarters: Chelsea, MA Phone: (617) 889-7300; Western U.S.: Half Moon Bay, CA, Phone: (650) 712-9688 Contact: Gene Gebolys

Questions and Answers- the short form.....

Q What do I have to do to try this fuel out?
A Buy some and pump it in your tank- as long as it is above 50 degrees ambient outside temperature.

Q Is this fuel subject to road use taxes?
A Probably, each state is different. Some states do not even recognize BD as a fuel. You must check it out yourself.

Q. Will I void my engine warrenty by using this fuel?
A This is a vague area. In my opinion, because the fuel acts as commercial #2 diesel-you should have no problems related to injector pumps or injectors as you would with "approved" low sulphur fuels. HOWEVER, no engine manufacturer has currently approved biodiesel for use in their engines.

Q Is this fuel like "gasohol"?
A Emphatically, NO! Biodiesel is NOT distilled and home manufacture does NOT come under the jurisdiction of the ATF, like alcohol production does.

Q Have you tried this fuel?
A Yes, I made 150 gallons of it. My motor home converted bus (which has a Detroit Diesel 8v71 in it) was a demonstration vehicle for the Southwest Ohio Transit Authority when it was new and was only fed a diet of B100 biodiesel.

Q Does it really smell like french fries?
A Actually, yes (if you start with used fry oil for the process).

Q How much does it cost to make?
A Depending on the cost of the ingredients, I have made a batch as low as $2.15USD/gal and as high (purchased a 5 gal can of commercial BD B100) at $5.50USD/gal.

There are many different ways to make this fuel, but all involve potentially dangerous chemical handling. Neither Allpar, its affilliates, nor Robert W. (Bob) Sheaves accept any responsibility for the use of any information contained in this article. This information is supplied for educational purposes only. Readers are advised to seek competent assistance BEFORE attempting to utilize this information in any way.

Best regards,

Bob Sheaves

Updates and additions

Biodiesel standards have been approved by the EPA, DOT, IRS (for taxes), TAACOM, and other agencies, as well as the 50 states in the US, as of 2001. Issues regarding the pour point have been solved by the use of viscosity modifier long chain chemicals, as is done with multi-viscosity oils. Combined with cooled EGR and/or particulate trap convertors, any diesel currently made worldwide will now pass the emissions regs through out the US.

Doug Hetrick sent in this site: for those who want to convert.

Bob Sheaves noted:

(From information sent by Doug Hetrick):  A report from the National Resources Defense Council showed that America can produce 25 percent of its transportation fuel needs from agricultural crop wastes -- utilizing new processes developed by the biotechnology industry -- while reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. The report contends that use of cellulosic biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 billion tons per year.

Biodiesel is now sold at over 1,600 stations in Germany, which can produce over 1 million tons of the fuel each year. Economic advantages include reduction of trade deficits and a boom in agriculture. This preserves open land by keeping farming viable. In Germany, planting for biodiesel has increased from 500,000 hectares to 840,000 hectares within the past five years. FAL and Volkswagen developed a fuel sensor which can tell the difference between biodiesel and standard diesel, and change engine timing to take advantage of the blend.

Circle Biodiesel & Ethanol Corporation is a biofuel company which manufactures biodiesel plants and biodiesel processors for making biodiesel fuel, as well as manufacturing ethanol plants and ethanol stills for making ethanol fuel.

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