Biodiesel is a renewable fuel for diesel engines made from vegetable oil (mainly soybean). Biodiesel is normally produced by a chemical process which removes glycerin from the vegetable oil. Biodiesel fuel that is blended from 80% vegetable oils and 20% petroleum-based diesel can reduce exhaust particulate matter by 31%, carbon monoxide by 21%, and hydrocarbons by 47%.
Biodiesel can sometimes be used in blends of 20% biodiesel (20% vegetable oil, 80% petroleum-based diesel fuel) in some existing diesel engines with little or no modification. Biodiesel can also be used in its pure form, but it usually requires an engine designed for it, or engine modifications to prevent maintenance and performance problems. Users should consult the engine manufacturer and their engine warranty for details.
Biodiesel is clean, non-toxic, and has lower emissions of just about everything except nitrogen oxide. There isn't any smell, it's biodegradable if spilled, and you don't get that black stuff on your stern. You can recycle used cooking oil to make biodiesel fuel. Unfortunately, modern farm practices to produce enough vegetable oil for commercial distribution would use large amounts of fertilizer, chemicals and fossil fuels (farm machinery often use gas engines).
"When a new [100% biodiesel] fueling staton is opened at a marina, it's customary for everyone to take a shot drink to show how safe the stuff is. It's less toxic than table salt." ~ Jeffrey Horvath of the U.S. National Biodiesel Board
Cold weather can cause standard biodiesel to form waxy crystals that block fuel lines and filters. These problems have been solved using processes that use additives and filtering. If you find it, try to store it in tanks suitable for diesel in a sheltered place that doesn't freeze.
Governments are slowly beginning to encourage use of cleaner fuels. In 2002, the Ontario government exempted biodiesel from tax of 14.3¢ per litre. The Canadian government exempted biodiesel from the 4¢ per litre excise tax. The entire fleet of 400 Toronto Hydro vehicles are now powered by biodiesel fuel, which delivers the same torque, horsepower and economy as petroleum-powered diesels.
Boat diesels should be a natural for clean fuel - what could be nicer than motoring downwind without stinging eyes and nausea? But if you have recycled french-fry oil in the tank, it might make you hungry!
Biodiesel fuel is difficult to find in Canada. In the 1990s it cost 60-80 cents more per gallon than regular diesel, but is now popular in the U.S. It is sold at marinas and filling stations throughout central Europe, especially France, Germany, Italy and Austria. It succeeded much faster because diesel prices were much higher than in North America.
March 2004: An Ottawa company opened Canada's first biodiesel fuel pump in Unionville, Ontario. The Biodiesel fuel was a bit more than diesel, but about the same price as regular gasoline.
History: Sometime in the 1990s, a reader sent me costs for soydiesel in California.
Based on a sailboat that used 20 gallons of fuel per year, biodiesel was double
the cost of petroleum diesel.
Diesel: 20gal. x $1 = $20
25% Soydiesel: Soy 5gal. x $5 + diesel 15gal. x $1 = $40