Biodiesel is made in the process of transesterification of vegetable oil by methanol, although sometimes ethanol or isopropyl alcohol are used instead. The ration is approximately 200 kg of methanol per 1 ton of oil (plus potassium or sodium hydroxide). Process temperature is approximately 60°С, no pressure increase is required. After the transesterification reaction, the content of methyl esters must be above 96%. To facilitate quick and complete transesterification, excess methanol is required, hence the need to remove it from methyl esters.
Methyl esters cannot be used as diesel fuel without prior removal of saponification products. Soap clogs the filter and creates cinder and tar in the combustion chamber. Centrifuge separation is not enough: the purification process involves water or a sorbent. The final stage is dying of fatty acid methyl esters. Presence of water in biodiesel blends causes germ growth and formation of free fatty acids, which corrode metal parts of the engine. Normally, biodiesel cannot be stored longer than 3 months, as it starts to decompose.
Biodiesel is used as automotive fuel either straight or blended with regular diesel fuel. In the US, the biodiesel blends with regular diesel is designated with the letter B; the number following the letter identifies the percentage of oil in the blend. B2 is a blend of 2% biodiesel and 98% diesel, whereas B100 is straight 100% oil. Blends can be used as fuel without any special motor modifications.
This fuel has good lubrication qualities. Mineral fuel loses its lubrication performance when sulfur is removed from it. Biodiesel blends with diesel and has much lower sulfur content, nevertheless, its lubrication performance is quite good, due to its chemical composition and oxygen content. Engine life is extended with biodiesel. For example, a truck from Germany made it into the Guinness Book of Records after travelling more than 1.25 kilometers on biodiesel fuel with its original engine.
When biofuel is used, the engine’s moving parts receive additional lubrication, which increases engine and fuel pump life time by 60% on average. The important part is that no modification is required to start using biodiesel.
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