The use of vegetable oil as a fuel source in diesel engines is as old as the diesel engine itself. However, the demand to develop and utilize plant oils and animal fats as biodiesel fuels has been limited until recently. The technical definition of biodiesel is: "The mono alkyl esters of long fatty acids derived from renewable lipid feedstock such as vegetable oils or animal fats, for use in compression ignition (diesel) engines". In simple terms, biodiesel is a renewable fuel manufactured from methanol and vegetable oil, animal fats, and recycled cooking fats. The term "biodiesel" itself is often misrepresented and misused. Biodiesel only refers to 100% pure fuel (B100) that meets the definition above.
However, it is often used to describe blends of biodiesel with petroleum diesel. The most common method to produce biodiesel is through a process called "transesterification," which involves altering the chemical properties of the oil by using methanol. Transesterification of plant oils with methanol is a relatively simple process that yields high conversions with only glycerin as a byproduct. While the process is relatively straightforward, due to quality concerns, legal liability, and vehicle warranty restrictions, we strongly recommend that individuals not try to produce biodiesel fuels. The properties of biodiesel differ depending on the source of plant oil/fat source. This is mainly related to their chemical structure, such as the number of carbons and the number of double bonds in the hydrocarbon chain.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine or home heating oil system without requiring any modifications to the existing equipment. It can be blended into petro-diesel and No. 2 Home Heating Oil at various percentages and provides a clean-burning alternative fuel.