Fats and oils are converted into biodiesel through a process known as transesterification, in which an alcohol combined with a catalyst break the material into methyl esters (biodiesel) and glycerin, a biodiesel co-product.
Biodiesel has a number of environmental and functional advantages over petroleum diesel. Biodiesel, made from renewable resources, does not deplete finite petroleum resources and is biodegradeable and non-toxic. Biodiesel is cleaner burning than petroleum diesel: studies show combustion of biodiesel emits 40-60 percent less greenhouse gas. The addition of biodiesel to petroleum diesel increases the lubricity of the fuel, reducing wear and extending the life of engine components.
Diesel forms a much larger portion of overall petroleum demand in Europe than in the U.S., so it is not surprising that the E.U. has a relatively mature biodiesel industry and is the world’s leading regional producer. According to the European Biodiesel Board, the EU-25 collectively produced approximately 960 million gallons of biodiesel in 2005. In Europe the predominant biodiesel feedstock is rapeseed oil, which is one of the most efficient oilseed crops in terms of volume of oil per acre of harvested land.
Biodiesel Production in the US
|TOTAL CAPACITY (MGY)||743.1||1,336.5|
|AVERAGE CAPACITY (MGY)||7.4||18.1|
Ownership of the Biodiesel Industry
The major producers of biodiesel in the U.S., in terms of available production capacity as well as capacity currently under construction, include the Renewable Energy Group, Imperium Renewables, ADM, Louis Dreyfus and AGP.
Further resources on biodiesel:
National Biodiesel Board: http://www.biodiesel.org
Canadian Renewable Fuels Association: http://www.greenfuels.org
BioFuels 2006: Production, Supply & Reality report