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The future of Biodiesel and its pros and cons

Biodiesel is an alternative for diesel which is obtained from a diverse range of feedstock namely from plants, animal fats, soybean oil, other edible and non-edible oils, used cooking oils, tallow to produce long chain fatty acid esters like methyl, ethyl or propyl esters.

And why are people switching to Biofuels / Biodiesel?

a) Reduction of Imports

India’s dependence and import of crude oil is a staggering 82.8 % due to its large amount of population and high growth in consumption of fuels. India’s imports of fuels rose by a huge 9% in the last year / last fiscal. The only way out is to seek an alternative fuel to run its large fleet of vehicles and machinery and energy needs. Therefore, the need is to change to Biodiesel.

b) Cut back on carbon emissions and helping climate change

Biodiesel is essentially made from waste products hence it helps reduce waste products directly and indirectly helps reduction of carbon emissions and helping climate change. It also contains less than 10 ppm Sulphur. As vehicles, comprising of cars, SUV’s, trucks, tankers, light motor vehicles, heavy motor vehicles, dumpers, cranes, busses, trains, trams, marine vessels are increasing day by day they are emitting green house gasses. Vehicles are the number one cause of emissions of green house gasses, namely carbon dioxide (CO2 ), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone gasses and methane. Though there is a shift to use alternative energy like wind energy, solar power, hydro energy, nuclear and atomic energy and electric powered vehicles it will take a long time and research to finally reach to that goal.

c) Reliance on an alternative energy source

The entire world needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel. Hence Biodiesel can be made easily available as it is made from waste products which are readily and abundantly available all over the globe. Using raw material which are essential a waste or a by-product or a residue and converting this waste into a Biofuel / Biodiesel is in fact a conservation of our natural resources which is a waste to value product and which will be beneficial for our future.

d) Higher the energy consumption higher the demand for energy

By the year 2050 energy consumption is expected to increase by about 30 % and production of electricity will increase by 50 % or double the current levels. Hence there will be an extremely high demand for energy which obviously cannot be met by using and depending on fossil fuels. Currently the world population is about 7.9 Billion which is expected to rise to 9.7 Billion in the year 2050. So, not only the additional 2 Billion people but huge economic growth mainly in China and India will need alternative energy source which is efficient, reliable and renewable like Biofuel / Biodiesel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Biodiesel :

Diesel is obtained from Crude Oil whereas Biodiesel is obtained from waste products and algae hence it’s obvious that there will be differences in their chemical and physical characteristics and properties. Some of the notable differences are summarized below :

  • Biodiesel has almost no sulphur hence less pollution due to less sulphur dioxide (SO2 ) emissions. Similarly, it also has almost no Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions resulting in cleaner fuel emissions. This also makes it less toxic to the environment
  • Since Biodiesel is made from waste oil, fat, tallow, etc. it is more viscous with more lubricity and more slippery as compared with petrodiesel resulting in reduction of engine wear and components wear.
  • Biodiesel has about 10 to 12 percent more oxygen (O2 ) content hence it is more beneficial to the environment resulting in less environmental pollution.
  • However, as a disadvantage due to higher content of oxygen Biodiesel is more prone to react with atmospheric oxygen and oxidize creating oxidizable substances which creates a film like, gel like, thin oily like layer. This will create issues for machineries which are used sparingly or occasionally
  • Another disadvantage is due to this film like, gel like, thin oily like layer formation and high oxidation Biodiesel shows a tendency to “thicken up” at lower temperatures and during the cold season.

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