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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. Equipment that uses distillate fuel oil can also use biodiesel.

  • The major sources of feedstock (raw material) for making biodiesel in the United States and their shares of total biodiesel feedstocks in 2018 were
  • soybean oil54%
  • corn oil15%
  • recycled feedstocks (such as used cooking oils and yellow grease)13%
  • canola oil9%
  • animal fats9%

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). Pure biodiesel (B100) can also be used in many applications. Diesel engines can use biodiesel fuels without changes to the engines. Biodiesel blends are also used as heating oil. Petroleum diesel fuel tanks and equipment can also store and transport biodiesel.

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, the United States consumed only small amounts of biodiesel. Since then, U.S. biodiesel production and consumption have increased substantially, largely because of the availability of various government incentives and requirements to produce, sell, and use biodiesel.

Last updated: September 24, 2019