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Downside Biodiesel

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What is the downside of using biodiesel?

  • A slight increase in NO2 emissions over petroleum diesel may be experienced, especially with older engines.  These NO2 emissions can be eliminated with the use of a catalytic converter.
  • Biodiesel does not store well for periods of time as it will separate, congeal and in general break down while in storage.
  • Biodiesel is subject to algae growth as water accelerates microbial growth and is naturally more prevalent in biodiesel fuels than in petroleum-based diesel fuels.  Care must be taken to remove water from biodiesel during manufacture and from fuel tanks. A special algaecide for diesel can be added to the fuel to inhibit algae growth.
  • 100% biodiesel and higher percentage biodiesel blends can cause a variety of engine performance problems, including filter plugging, injector choking, piston ring sticking and breaking, elastomer seal swelling and hardening/cracking, and severe engine lubricant degradation.
  • Because biodiesel varies based on manufacturing process and the source materials used, elastomer compatibility with biodiesel remains unclear; therefore, when biodiesel fuels are used, the condition of seals, hoses, gaskets, and wire coatings should be monitored regularly.
  • Especially at low ambient temperatures, biodiesel is thicker than conventional diesel fuel, which limits its use in certain geographic areas. This can be solved through the use of winterizing agents also used in petroleum based diesel fuel or, if practical, you can store the biodiesel in a warm location or heat the fuel tank.
  • The biodiesel you use must be free of all foreign material!   
  • A consortium of diesel fuel injection equipment manufacturers (“FIE Manufacturers”) issued a position statement concluding that blends greater than B5 (5% biodiesel 95% petroleum diesel) can cause reduced product service life and injection equipment failures. According to the FIE Manufacturers’ Position Statement, even if the B100 (100% biodiesel) used in a blend and meets one or more specifications, “the enhanced care and attention required to maintain the fuels in vehicle tanks may make for a high risk of non-compliance to the standard during use.” As a result, the FIE Manufacturers disclaim responsibility for any failures attributable to operating their products with fuels for which the products were not designed.
  • There is limited information on the effect of neat (100%) biodiesel and biodiesel blends on engine durability during various environmental conditions. More information is needed to assess the viability of using these fuels over the operational life and operating periods typical of heavy-duty engines such as generators.
  • Biodiesel is a good solvent and can be corrosive.  It will dissolve rubber and some plastics, remove paint, oxidize aluminum and other metals, and it has been reported to destroy asphalt and concrete if spills were not cleaned quickly. Keep it off items you care about.

What does the US Military do or say about Biodiesel?

  • Due to minimal cold flow data using animal-tallow biodiesel blendstock, the tallow-based biodiesel isn't permitted for use in the current military specification. The specification currently used by DESC requires only virgin soy or grapeseed methyl-ester blendstocks, but the military hopes to approve yellow greases in the near future.
  • The military bans biodiesel for tactical military vehicles, even under current military fuel specs.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided as a service for your general information to enable you to ask the pertinent questions of your fuel distributor.  We at Enviroharvest, Power to Go Generators are not fuel experts familiar with various fuel types and compositions.  We recommend that you discuss your plans with your local Home Heating Oil / Fuel Oil distributor.  You must make your decisions based solely upon information given to you by them. We recommend using ONLY standard or agricultural grade or off-road Diesel #2 within your generator set.  We assume NO responsibility or liability resulting from any decision you might make to use any fuel other than grade Diesel #2 within your diesel generator.

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Last modified: April 17, 2010