Topic of the Month - Biodiesel
Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression ignition (diesel) engines with no major modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage. B20 (a blend of 20 percent biodiesel with 80 percent petroleum diesel) has demonstrated significant environmental benefits with a minimum increase in cost for fleet operations and other consumers.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel. In addition, the exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates (major components of acid rain) from biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to diesel. Of the major exhaust pollutants, both unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are ozone or smog forming precursors. The use of biodiesel results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons. Emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle of the engine and testing methods used. Based on engine testing, using the most stringent emissions testing protocols required by EPA for certification of fuels or fuel additives in the U.S., the overall ozone (smog) forming potential of the hydrocarbon exhaust emissions from biodiesel is nearly 50 percent less than that measured for diesel fuel.
Biodiesel is the best greenhouse gas mitigation strategy for today's medium and heavy duty vehicles. A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net carbon dioxide emissions by 78 percent compared to petroleum diesel. This is due to biodiesel's closed carbon cycle. The CO² released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants, which are later processed into fuel.
With the development of this technology, an increasing number of foreign investors are purchasing agricultural land, where they can grow the cultures, from which the biodiesel is produced. Bulgaria offers excellent conditions for growing sunflower and colza, while in the same time a 1000 square meters of fertile agricultural land can be bought for as little as EUR 500.
In Germany for instance, the biodiesel is already cheaper than conventional diesel, and is offered at more than 2000 gas stations.