Submitted to: Biofuels
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/18/2013
Publication Date: 1/3/2014
Citation: Moser, B.R. 2014. Proposed technological improvements to ensure biodiesel’s continued survival as a significant alternative to diesel fuel. Biofuels. 5(1):5-8.
Technical Abstract: Biodiesel is defined as fatty acid mono-alkyl esters prepared by transesterification of animal fats, vegetable oils or other lipids and serves as a replacement or blend component for conventional petroleum diesel (petrodiesel) fuel. Typically prepared at elevated temperature using homogeneous alkaline catalysts such as sodium methoxide or potassium hydroxide in the presence of methanol as co-reactant, biodiesel possesses several noteworthy technical advantages over petrodiesel. Such benefits include renewable and domestic origin, strongly positive energy balance, higher flash point for safer handling, superior lubricity, negligible sulfur and aromatics content, fewer harmful exhaust emissions, considerably enhanced biodegradability, and higher cetane number. Further, because typical vegetable oils and animal fats employed for biodiesel production are byproducts of other industries, biodiesel enjoys a strongly positive life cycle greenhouse gas reduction compared to petrodiesel. These factors along with the Renewable Fuel Standard in the US have combined to make biodiesel the first US Environmental Protection Agency-designated advanced biofuel to reach one billion gallons of domestic annual production. The US National Biodiesel Board estimates that this milestone has been surpassed annually since 2011. In Europe, annual production has been markedly higher also as a result of governmental incentives. Despite the technical advantages of biodiesel and its emergence as a legitimate commercial fuel, the need for continued research is urgent if biodiesel is to represent a significant component of fuel infrastructure for the foreseeable future. Below are subjects that require further attention to augment both the availability and quality of biodiesel with the ultimate objective of reducing geopolitical and global climate change issues associated with fossil fuel combustion.