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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: A Century of Vegetable Oil-Based Diesel Fuels

Authors
item Knothe, Gerhard
item Dunn, Robert

Submitted to: World Congress International Society for Fat Research
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 20, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Since the demonstration of a diesel engine operating on peanut oil in 1900, vegetable oils have been known to be a source of diesel fuel. Through the 1940's, numerous articles were published. The background was often to provide tropical colonies of European countries a degree of energy independence. Palm oil ethyl ester, which meets the definition of "biodiesel" as the mono-alkyl esters of vegetable oils or animal fats, was examined during that time. The energy security background and interest in alternative diesel fuels resurfaced in the late 1970's. Vegetable oil methyl esters were reported in 1980 to solve the problem of high viscosity of neat vegetable oils, which causes operational problems such as engine deposits. Neat vegetable oils were then largely abandoned as alternative diesel fuels. Other solutions to the viscosity problem, co-solvent blending, pyrolysis, and diluting with petrodiesel fuel, have not advanced nearly as far towards commercial use. In the United States, policy-driven legislation such as the Clean Air Act Amendments and the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) promotes the use of alternative fuels to reduce pollution and secure energy supplies. For biodiesel, using an abundant agricultural commodity, soybean oil, is an additional incentive. Neat biodiesel and "B20" (20:80 biodiesel/ petrodiesel) are recognized as alternative fuels under EPACT. A provisional ASTM biodiesel standard exists. Subsequently, biodiesel use has extended to regulated municipal and government fleets, underground mining and marine uses, fuel oils, jet fuels and many other applications. Research challenges are reduction of NOx exhaust emissions and improvement of cold-flow properties.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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