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Biofuels explained Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from biomass. Most U.S. biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils and animal fats. Biodiesel can be used in the same equipment as diesel fuel made from petroleum.

  • The major sources of feedstock (raw material) for making biodiesel in the United States and their shares of total biodiesel feedstocks in 2017 were
  • soybean oil52%
  • canola oil13%
  • corn oil13%
  • recycled feedstocks (such as used cooking oils and yellow grease)12%
  • animal fats10%

Rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and palm oil are major feedstocks for biodiesel produced in other countries.

Vegetable oil in a bottle

Vegetable oil in a bottle

Source: Stock photography (copyrighted)

Biodiesel is most often blended with petroleum diesel in ratios of 2% (referred to as B2), 5% (B5), or 20% (B20). Biodiesel can also be used as pure biodiesel (B100). Biodiesel fuels can be used in regular diesel engines without making any changes to the engines. Biodiesel blends are also used as heating oil. Biodiesel can be stored and transported using petroleum diesel fuel tanks and equipment.

History of biodiesel

Before petroleum diesel fuel became popular, Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine in 1897, experimented with using vegetable oil (biodiesel) as fuel. Until 2001, only small amounts of biodiesel were consumed in the United States. Since then, biodiesel consumption has increased substantially, largely because of the availability of various government incentives and requirements to produce, sell, and use biodiesel.

Last updated: June 11, 2018