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Biodiesel And Its Uses

The renewable fuel of Biodiesel is a product of transesterification - predominantly from vegetable oils, and animal fats. Though the Biodiesel industry is still in its relevant infancy, the fuel is already being used in a variety of places. Before listing them, though, it is important to know that biodiesel is often blended with petrodiesel (i.e. fossil fuel / petroleum-based fuel) to differing proportions. Using the B prefix, B20 represents a blend of 20% Biodiesel, 80% Petrodiesel; B5 is 5% Biodiesel, 98% Petrodiesel.

Biodiesel can be used in pure form (B100) or may be blended with petroleum diesel at any concentration for most injection pump diesel engines. Biodiesel is used as a home heating fuel (a replacement for home heating oil) – although readers who are thinking about substituting their fuel source for biodiesel are advised to get expert advice - some older boilers (with rubber parts) may become damaged as the solvent properties of biodiesel cause degradation.

In recent years, much of the mainstream media has highlighted how Biodiesel is being rolled out into different places. Various car manufacturers including Volkswagen and Chrysler warrant their diesel engines to run on Biodiesel (although Volkswagen reined back in 2005 and only warrants engines up to B5). Definitely check with the manufacturer if you want to run your car on Biodiesel (e.g. common rail engines have manufacturer set limits of B5 or B20, depending on the car maker).

With trains, the Royal Train has been successfully powered by B100 Biodiesel since 2007, Disneyland powers its theme park trains accordingly (B98) and various train operators including Virgin have experimented with Biodiesel powered choo-choos. In a hugely exciting development, in November 2011 United Airlines flew a commercial aviation jet from Houston to Chicago using the biofuel Solajet™, which is an algae-derived renewable jet fuel developed by the company Solazyme. United’s Boeing 737-800 plane had a blended 40% Solajet to 60% petroleum-derived jet fuel. Might we be witnessing the future of jet aviation fuel?

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