What is diesel fuel?
Diesel fuel is the common term for the distillate fuel oil sold for use in motor vehicles that use the compression ignition engine named for its inventor, German engineer Rudolf Diesel. He patented his original design in 1892. Diesel fuel is refined from crude oil and from biomass materials.
One of the fuels that Rudolf Diesel originally considered for his engine was vegetable seed oil, an idea that eventually contributed to biodiesel production and use today.
Most freight and delivery trucks as well as trains, buses, boats, and farm, construction, and military vehicles, and some cars and light trucks have diesel engines. Diesel fuel is also used in diesel-engine generators to generate electricity, such as in remote villages in Alaska, among other locations around the world. Many industrial facilities, large buildings, institutional facilities, hospitals, and electric utilities have diesel generators for backup and emergency power supply.
Diesel fuel is made from crude oil and biomass
Most of the diesel fuel produced and consumed in the United States is refined from crude oil at petroleum refineries. U.S. petroleum refineries produce an average of 11 to 12 gallons of diesel fuel from each 42-gallon (U.S.) barrel of crude oil. The United States also produces and consumes biomass-based diesel fuels.
Before 2006, most diesel fuel sold in the United States contained high quantities of sulfur. Sulfur in diesel fuel produces air pollution emissions that are harmful to human health. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued requirements to reduce the sulfur content of diesel fuel sold for use in the United States. The requirements were phased in over time, beginning with diesel fuel sold for vehicles used on roadways and eventually including all non-road diesel fuel. Diesel fuel now sold in the United States for on-highway use is ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD), which has a sulfur content of 15 parts per million or less. Most diesel fuel sold for off-highway (or non-road) use is also ULSD.
Freight truck with diesel engine
Source: Stock photography (copyrighted)
Last updated: July 7, 2022