Biodiesel vs. Traditional Diesel: A Comparison of Performance and Emissions

Biodiesel is a chemical-processed liquid fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fat. They are believed to cause less emission and perform without compromising the efficiency of conventional diesel. However, is it? This blog will give a clear understanding of the difference between diesel and biodiesel with respect to performance and emission characteristics to comprehend better.
Did you know that the roots of the diesel engine stretch back to the late 1800s? Interestingly, Rudolph Diesel experimented his diesel engine with full intention of using only vegetable oil as a fuel source. He envisioned a world where farmers in remote areas could produce their own fuel, especially in places where petroleum was scarce.
It’s truly astonishing that the biodiesel we admire today has a remarkable history, isn’t it?
However, following Rudolph Diesel demise, the prevalence and affordability of petroleum led to significant changes in diesel engine design. The engine was adapted to accommodate the properties of petroleum diesel fuel which we use till today. In this blog, we’ll explore the performance and emission of both diesel and biodiesel.

Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel Current Scenario

Biodiesel is a renewable liquid fuel derived from vegetable oil through a chemical transformation process, while conventional diesel is made from crude petroleum by a fractional distillation method.
Ranked third globally, India stands as one of the largest consumers of crude oil, following closely behind the United States and China. Notably, high-speed diesel oil constituted a significant portion, amounting to 37.42% of the overall consumption of various petroleum products during the 2020-21 period.
Biodiesel can serve as the best alternative fuel for diesel engines by making some adjustments to its properties and blending it with conventional diesel. With the initiation of National Policy on Biofuels in 2019 by the Indian government, the demand for biofuels continues to be on an upward trend.
Based on a report by Chemanalyst, India’s biodiesel market witnessed a demand of 0.17 million tonnes in FY2021, and it is projected to reach 0.26 million tonnes by FY2030. This represents a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.60% until 2030.
Data may look healthy, but there is still skepticism. It is crucial to delve deeper and ascertain whether factors—performance and emission rates—indicate competition or complementarity between them.

Does Biodiesel Produce Less Emissions than Diesel?

We very well know that when diesel fuel is burned in engines, it releases various pollutants into the air, including particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), and carbon monoxide (CO).
These emissions have detrimental effects on both human health and the environment. PM and NOx, in particular, are associated with respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and air quality degradation. Furthermore, diesel emissions contribute to the formation of smog and the greenhouse effect, exacerbating climate change.
Although Biodiesel, specifically when employed as B20, can slightly increase 1.2% in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, it has the potential to diminish carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by 12.6%, hydrocarbon emissions by 11%, particulate emissions by 18%, and air toxics by 12-20%.
According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biodiesel demonstrates a noteworthy decline of around 11% in carbon monoxide emissions and a substantial 10% reduction in particulate matter when compared to traditional diesel fuel.
Nevertheless, the overall ecological sustainability of biodiesel relies on its production methods and the source from which it is derived. Thus, when biodiesel is derived from waste materials or used cooking oil and produced on a small scale, it brings forth numerous environmental advantages, including:

1. Air quality: Biodiesel reduces agricultural pollutants by 1.0% (nitrogen), 8.3% (phosphorus), and 13% (pesticides) per net energy gain. It cuts GHG emissions by 56-96% (equivalent to planting 1.9 billion trees) and lowers global warming pollution by 80-90% compared to petroleum diesel.

2. Wastewater reduction: Biodiesel production reduces wastewater by up to 79% compared to petroleum diesel production.
3. Hazardous waste reduction: Biodiesel is non-toxic, biodegradable, and reduces hazardous waste by up to 96%. It degrades quickly in oil spills and when in contact with water, minimizing environmental problems.

“Based on a report by Chemanalyst, India’s biodiesel market witnessed a demand of 0.17 million tonnes in FY2021, and it is projected to reach 0.26 million tonnes by FY2030.”

Is Biodiesel More Efficient than Regular Diesel?

Biodiesel and regular diesel have certain characteristics that influence their efficiency. Let’s explore these characteristics to better understand the efficiency comparison:
1. Energy Content: Biodiesel and regular diesel have similar energy content per unit volume. Both fuels provide a comparable amount of energy when combusted, which means they have similar energy efficiency.

2. Cetane Number: Biodiesel typically has a higher cetane number than regular diesel. The cetane number represents the fuel’s ignition quality, with higher values indicating better combustion efficiency. Biodiesel’s higher cetane number can enhance combustion efficiency, leading to improved overall engine efficiency.

3. Lubricity: Biodiesel has better lubricity properties than regular diesel. The increased lubricity can help reduce friction between engine components, potentially improving mechanical efficiency and reducing energy losses due to friction.

4. Viscosity: Biodiesel has a higher viscosity compared to regular diesel. Higher viscosity can affect fuel atomization and combustion efficiency, potentially resulting in slightly reduced engine power and torque. However, modern engine technologies and fuel system adaptations can help mitigate this effect.

5. Oxygen Content: Biodiesel contains oxygen molecules, which promotes more complete combustion. This can lead to reduced unburned fuel and particulate matter emissions, contributing to cleaner combustion and potentially improved engine efficiency.

Biodiesel and regular diesel have comparable energy content, so in terms of energy efficiency, they are similar. However, biodiesel often has slightly lower energy density, which can result in a slight decrease in fuel efficiency compared to regular diesel.
The difference in efficiency is typically small and may vary depending on the specific engine and blend of biodiesel used. It’s important to note that the environmental benefits of biodiesel, such as reduced emissions and renewable sourcing, often outweigh any minor differences in fuel efficiency.
It’s worth noting that the specific impacts of biodiesel on combustion performance and exhaust emissions can vary depending on factors such as the blend level, engine design, operating conditions, and the quality of biodiesel used. Engine modifications and emission control technologies can also influence the overall performance and emissions of biodiesel in diesel engines.

Conclusive Thoughts

Biodiesel and traditional diesel are both viable fuel options for transportation and other industries. While biodiesel has some advantages over traditional diesel, such as lower emissions and smoother engine operation, it also has some limitations, such as lower energy density and higher production costs. Ultimately, the choice between biodiesel and traditional diesel depends on a variety of factors, including cost, availability, and environmental considerations.

We at Buyofuel offer the best Biodiesel Fuel Prices. Our extensive database consists of top Biodiesel Manufacturers in India. If you’re interested in learning more, simply drop us an inquiry and we’ll be happy to assist you.