How is Biodiesel Made?

BiodieselBiodiesel is produced from any fat or oil, through a refinery process called transesterification. This process is a reaction of the oil with an alcohol to remove the glycerin, a valuable by-product of Biodiesel production (visit WRE Chem & Pharm for more information).

Transesterfication begins with vegetable oils, recycled cooking grease, or animal fats. These feedstocks are reacted with methanol in a chemical reaction that form fatty acids called methyl esters (FAME). The various feedstock can contain up to 14 different types of fatty acid chains, with specific fatty acids and their proportions varying with feedstock.

Fuel-grade Biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751) in order to ensure proper performance. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Biodiesel that meets ASTM D6751 and is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a legal motor fuel for sale and distribution.

For entities seeking to adopt a definition of Biodiesel for purposes such as federal or state statute, state or national divisions of weights and measures, or for any other purpose, the official definition consistent with other federal and state laws and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) guidelines is as follows:

Biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats which conform to ASTM D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines. Biodiesel refers to the pure fuel before blending with diesel fuel. Biodiesel blends are denoted as, “BXX” with “XX” representing the percentage of Biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% Biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).

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