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Educate >Biodiesel: > My Project

Biofuel (FLASH)


With Lancaster Pennsylvania being one of the countries first green cities, it is safe to say that they have a wide range of attributes that make the city environmentally friendly. One of the biggest “green” techniques is the use of more alternative fuels for automobiles. Not only does Lancaster support this, they have one of the areas biggest alternative fuel stations located here, Worley and obetz.

Worley & Obetz, Inc. has been serving Lancaster County for over half a century. The company started in 1946 by Raymond C. Worley and Robert W. Obetz, Sr., they since evolved into CENTRAL PA’s local Total Home Comfort ™ Company. Robert W. Obetz, Jr., current Chairman of the Board is a third-generation owner who entered the business in 1970.

Current President and CEO, Jeff Lyons, is leading the new culture with a commitment of communication, consistency and accountability. They offer a wide array of products and services including AmeriGreenTM BioHeating Oil and Biodiesel, propane, Home Comfort Service Plans with 24 hour service, heating and AC installations, duct cleaning, fleet fueling, and a wholesale department.

Their diversification also extends to our 8 fueling stations throughout Lancaster County where all offer AmeriGreenTM Biodiesel (2006).


Biodiesel is a fuel made from vegetable oil that runs in any unmodified diesel engine. Biodiesel can be made from any vegetable oil including oils pressed straight from the seed (virgin oils) such as soy, sunflower, canola, coconut and hemp.

Biodiesel can also be made from recycled cooking oils from fast food restaurants. Even animal fats like beef tallow and fish oil can be used to make Biodiesel fuel. While Biodiesel may sound like something from the movie “Back to the Future,” its use dates back over 100 years to the invention of the diesel engine.

Blends of Biodiesel and conventional diesel are products most commonly distributed for use in the retail diesel fuel marketplace. Much of the world uses a system known as the "B" factor to state the amount of Biodiesel in any fuel mix: fuel containing 20% Biodiesel is labeled B20, while pure Biodiesel is referred to as B100.

It is common to see B99, since 1% petrodiesel is sufficiently toxic to retard mold. Blends of 20 percent biodiesel with 80 percent petroleum diesel (B20) can generally be used in unmodified diesel engines. Biodiesel can also be used in its pure form (B100), but may require certain engine modifications to avoid maintenance and performance problems.

Blending B100 with petro diesel may be accomplished by mixing in the tanks at manufacturing point prior to delivery to the tanker truck, Splash mixing in the tanker truck (adding specific percentages of Biodiesel and Petro Diesel) or In-line mixing, which is having two components arrive at tanker truck simultaneously.


A variety of oils can be used to produce biodiesel. These include:

  • Virgin oil feedstock; rapeseed and soybean oils are most commonly used, soybean oil alone accounting for about ninety percent of all fuel stocks in the US. It also can be obtained from field pennycress and jatropha other crops such as mustard, flax, sunflower, palm oil, and hemp.
  • Waste vegetable oil (WVO);
  • Animal fats including tallow, lard, yellow grease, chicken fat, and the by-products of the production of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.
  • Algae, which can be grown using waste materials such as sewage and without displacing land currently used for food production.

Many advocates suggest that waste vegetable oil is the best source of oil to produce biodiesel, but since the available supply is drastically less than the amount of petroleum-based fuel that is burned for transportation and home heating in the world; this local solution does not scale well.
Animal fats are similarly limited in supply, and it would not be efficient to raise animals simply for their fat. However, producing biodiesel with animal fat that would have otherwise been discarded could replace a small percentage of petroleum diesel usage. Currently, a 5-million dollar plant is being built in the USA; with the intent of producing 11.4 million liters (3 million gallons) biodiesel from some of the estimated 1 billion kg (2.3 billion pounds) of chicken fat produced annually the local Tyson poultry plant.


The process to obtain fuel from a fat is not a new process. It was as early as 1853, when scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick conducted the first Transesterfication of a vegetable oil, many years before the first diesel engine became fully functional.
Transesterfication is the process of using an alcohol, such as ethanol or methanol, in the presence of a catalyst like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, to chemically break the molecule of the raw renewable oil into methyl or ethyl esters of the renewable oil with glycerol as a by-product.
We may say the first vehicle Biodiesel-powered was Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10 feet iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, that ran with this fuel for the first time in Augsburg, Germany on August 10, 1893, later he demonstrated his engine powered by peanut oil-a biofuel, receiving the "Grand Prix" at the World Fair in Paris, France in 1900.
Diesel believed that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the future of his engine, as he stated in his 1912 speech saying "the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time."
A near elimination of the biomass fuel production infrastructure was for many years the result of petrodiesel commercialization. Vegetable oil powered heavy duty vehicles in South Africa before World War II. Later, from 1978 to 1996, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory experimented with using algae as a Biodiesel source in the "Aquatic Species Program". In the 1990's, France launched the local production of Biodiesel fuel, known locally as diester, obtained by the Transesterfication of rapeseed oil.
Today, environmental impact concerns and a decreasing cost differential made biomass fuels such as Biodiesel a growing alternative and, in remembrance of Rudolf Diesel first German run, August 10 has been declared International Biodiesel Day.


While virtually everyone is familiar with the use of biodiesel as a substitute for diesel fuel, there are a few novel uses that may not have crossed your radar. Biodiesel can produce hydrogen, clean up oil spills, degrease your tools, heat your home, and more.

Cleaning Up Oil Spills
Biodiesel is known for being environmentally benign, but who would have thought it could help clean up oil-spills? Biodiesel has been tested as potential cleaning agent for shorelines contaminated with crude oil, and has been found to increase the recovery of crude oil from artificial sand columns (i.e., the beach). It’s also been used in commercial biosolvents shown to be effective in coagulating crude oil and allowing it to be skimmed off the surface of water. In 1997, the product Cytosol was licensed by the Department of Fish and Game as a shoreline cleaning agent.

Generating Electricity
In addition to producing hydrogen for vehicle fuel, fuel-cells have power-generation applications that could utilize biodiesel. The military has already invested $1.8 million in mobile power-generation using this technology, and it could be available for civilian applications in the near future.

Biodiesel is already used in conventional power generation. In 2001, UC Riverside installed a 6 megawatt backup-generator system powered by 100% biodiesel. The project was a success, and operating smoke typical to diesel generators was virtually non-existent. Biodiesel can be used in backup systems where the substantial reduction in emissions really matters: hospitals, schools, and other facilities usually located in residential areas. It can also be used to supplement solar power in off-the grid homes (for instructions, see Kemp 2006).

Petroleum usage by electrical utilities in 2006 amounted to 115,370,000 barrels of oil, an amount that could be completely replaced by US biodiesel production.

Heating Your Home
BioHeating has grown in popularity over the last few years, and biodiesel can be used as a home heating oil in domestic and commercial boilers (Number 2 heating oil is virtually identical to petrodiesel). While a 20% biodiesel blend (B20) can be used without modification, higher blends may affect rubber seals and gaskets in older equipment. High blends of biodiesel will also clean out fuel pipes, which can improve heating efficiency but may initially cause fuel filter clogging.

A 20% biodiesel blend will reduce the emissions of both sulfur dioxide (SO2 - acid rain) and nitrogen oxides (NOx - pollutants that contribute to ground-level ozone) by 20% over the entire range of air settings.

Camping: Cooking and Illumination

It’s possible to use biodiesel instead of kerosene in some non-wick lanterns and stoves. For example, BriteLyt Petromax multi-fuel lanterns will work just fine with biodiesel (they’ll burn just about anything). BriteLyt also makes multifuel stoves. But at 4lbs., it isn’t something you’d want to take backpacking. Keep in mind, however, that many auto manufacturers say the same thing about using B100 in their diesel cars and trucks. I suspect the stoves mentioned above have been clogged by the owners trying to use straight vegetable oil (brilliant idea).

Cleaning Up Tools and Grease
B100 is such a good solvent that it can clean dirty or greasy engine or other machine parts. Fill a bucket with B100 (100% biodiesel), drop in the tool or part that needs cleaning, and see what happens (note: best to try this with less-expensive tools first). Also, biodiesel makes an awesome bike-chain degreaser/lubricator. If you chain starts to squeak, just add a little B100 and see what a world of difference it makes.

Biodiesel can also be used as an industrial solvent for metal cleaning, which is advantageous due to its lack of toxicity or environmental impacts

Removing Paint and Adhesives

Biodiesel can replace the exceedingly toxic products designed for paint removal. It’s probably best used for smaller-scale and non-critical applications (i.e. not on your car’s custom paint job).

Biodiesel can also be used to remove adhesive residues, like those left by duct tape.


One of the main drivers for adoption of biodiesel is energy security. This means that a nation’s dependence on oil is reduced, and substituted with use of locally available sources, such as coal, gas or other renewable sources. Thus significant benefits can arise from adoption of biodiesel, even without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
While the total energy balance is debated, it is clear that the dependence on oil is reduced. One example is the energy used to manufacture fertilizers, which could come from a variety of sources other than petroleum. The US NREL says that energy security is the number one driving force behind the US biofuel program.
The White House "Energy Security for the 21st Century" makes clear that energy security is a major reason for promoting biodiesel. The EU commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at a recent EU biofuel conference, stressed that properly managed biofuels have the potential to reinforce the EU's security of supply through diversification of energy sources.
The use of Biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum diesel or even when mixed with it results in a number of significant benefits:

  • Worldwide fossil fuel supply is dwindling, demand outstripping supply
  • Increases domestic oil security
  • More efficient than alterative renewable fuels, such as ethanol
  • Safer to transport and store
  • Performs comparably in terms of fuel economy, horsepower and torque*
  • No engine modifications required
  • More environmentally responsible:
    • Significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 63%*
    • Reduces emissions of particulate matter by 55.4%*
    • Reduces emissions of unburned hydrocarbons by 56.3%*
    • Reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 48%*
    • Reduces emissions of sulfur and benzene by 100%

Emissions control is central to the biodiesel argument, especially in legislation matters. There are a few components of emissions that are especially harmful and cause concern among scientists, lawmakers, and consumers.
Sulfur and its related compounds contribute to the formation of acid rain; carbon monoxide is a widely recognized toxin; and carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect. There are also some lesser known compounds that cause concern, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), ring-shaped compounds that have been linked to the formation of certain types of cancer. Particulate matter (PM) has negative health effects, and unburned hydrocarbons contribute to the formation of smog and ozone.
 Biodiesel is considered readily biodegradable under ideal conditions and non-toxic. A University of Idaho study compared biodegradation rates of biodiesel, neat vegetable oils, biodiesel and petroleum diesel blends, and neat 2-D diesel fuel.
Using low concentrations of the product to be degraded (10 ppm) in nutrient and sewage sludge amended solutions, they demonstrated that biodiesel degraded at the same rate as a dextrose control and 5 times as quickly as petroleum diesel over a period of 28 days, and that biodiesel blends doubled the rate of petroleum diesel degradation through co-metabolism.
The same study examined soil degradation using 10 000 ppm of biodiesel and petroleum diesel, and found biodiesel degraded at twice the rate of petroleum diesel in soil. In all cases, it was determined biodiesel also degraded more completely than petroleum diesel, which produced poorly degradable undetermined intermediates.
Toxicity studies for the same project demonstrated no mortalities and few toxic effects on rats and rabbits with up to 5000 mg/kg of biodiesel. Petroleum diesel showed no mortalities at the same concentration either, however toxic effects such as hair loss and urinary discoloring were noted with concentrations of greater than 2000 mg/l in rabbits
Many large companies are also seeing all the benefits of Biodiesel and are using it exclusively in their vehicles.  By using Biodiesel cars these companies are saving a lot of money.  These savings can be passed to consumers; so again, here is an example of how Biodiesel is positively affecting the economy. Not only will using a Biodiesel car save money, but it will also keep pollution levels down.  Many of these large companies are helping to keep air pollution levels down in places where it is extremely high.


There are some disadvantages to using Biodiesel. First, Biodiesel has slightly less energy that regular diesel, so if we were to use a large percentage of Biodiesel in a vehicle, the engine would either have less power or use more fuel to deliver equal power. Fortunately, at low percentages such as B5, the difference in energy compared to diesel without Biodiesel added is very small.
Biodiesel also oxidizes faster due to its chemical makeup. Long term storage of the fuel is more difficult so additives must be mixed with the fuel to improve storage capability.
Biodiesel may contain small but problematic quantities of water. Although it is hydrophobic (non-miscible with water molecules), it is said to be, at the same time, HYGROSCOPIC to the point of attracting water molecules from atmospheric moisture; one of the reasons biodiesel can absorb water is the persistence of mono and diglycerides left over from an incomplete reaction. These molecules can act as an emulsifier, allowing water to mix with the Biodiesel. In addition, there may be water that is residual to processing or resulting from storage tank condensation. The presence of water is a problem because:

  • Water reduces the heat of combustion of the bulk fuel. This means more smoke, harder starting, less power.
  • Water causes corrosion of vital fuel system components: fuel pumps, injector pumps, fuel lines, etc.
  • Water & microbes cause the paper element filters in the system to fail (rot), which in turn results in premature failure of the fuel pump due to ingestion of large particles.
  • Water freezes to form ice crystals near 0 °C (32 °F). These crystals provide sites for nucleation and accelerate the gelling of the residual fuel.
  • Water accelerates the growth of microbe colonies, which can plug up a fuel system. Biodiesel users who have heated fuel tanks therefore face a year-round microbe problem.
  • Additionally, water can cause pitting in the pistons on a diesel engine.


Previously, the amount of water contaminating biodiesel has been difficult to measure by taking samples, since water and oil separate. However, it is now possible to measure the water content using water in oil sensors.
The biggest disadvantage of Biodiesel is that pure Biodiesel begins to freeze or solidify at temperatures above 0 degrees. Using Biodiesel during a cold winter could be a problem in older diesel vehicles not equipped with fuel heaters, although blending the fuel with different grades of regular diesel will help prevent it from freezing.


Today there are many different alternative fuels that you car can run on. Whether the future brings us one industry standard engine-type and/or fuel source or creates an array of engines and fuel types, it’s worth it to be familiar with the options. The following is a quick list to the alternatives to petroleum (gasoline)-only vehicles:
Petroleum electric hybrid vehicle
a petroleum electric hybrid vehicle uses a rechargeable energy storage system and a fuel for propulsion. Full hybrids use the combustion engine to spin an electrical generator in order to recharge a battery or directly feed power to an electric motor and shuts down the engine when idling.
Plug-in hybrid
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have energy that can be recharged by connecting to an electrical power source. Plug-in hybrids have both conventional hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles. As of April 2007, plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles are not in mass production. However, Toyota and General Motors have both announced plans to introduce production as early as 2009.
Flex-fuel vehicle
some flexible-fuel vehicles alternate between two sources of fuel, with separate tanks for each. The most common flex-fuel vehicles can accept gasoline mixed with varying levels of ethanol (E85). Some vehicles carry a natural gas tank and can switch from gasoline to gas. The fuel mixture type is automatically detected by sensors that tune the timing of spark plugs and fuel injectors. Over 4 million flexible-fuel vehicles are currently operating.
Electric car
Electric vehicles uses energy stored in rechargeable battery packs with an electric motor alone or in conjunction with an internal combustion engines to power the vehicle. Electric cars can charge from the power grid. Times between charging depend on battery type and can range from 20 to 50 miles. Some are capable of up to 80 miles per charge. New lithium-ion batteries are said to achieve 250 to 300 miles per charge.
Straight vegetable oil/waste vegetable oil
many vegetable oils have similar fuel properties to diesel fuel. Vegetable oil discarded from a restaurant and used as fuel is called waste vegetable oil. It is different from Biodiesel because diesel engines that use straight vegetable oil need specific engine modifications.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use fuel cells and electric motors instead of the traditional combustible engine. Hydrogen used as fuel reacts with oxygen inside the fuel cells and produces electricity to power the engine. Hydrogen is produced utilizing natural gas, coal, liquefied petroleum gas, biomass or from water by electrolysis.
Internal combustion hydrogen vehicles
Hydrogen internal combustion engines are a slightly modified version of the traditional gasoline internal combustion engine. Hydrogen engines burn fuel in the same manner as gasoline engines. Hydrogen can also be used in as a mixture in fuel, and can increase efficiency and reduce emissions. This process requires a number of modifications to existing engine air/fuel and timing controls.


Most modern diesel automobiles can already be used with biodiesel - but only to a point. Biodiesel is chemically different from conventional diesel fuels and, among other factors, has a higher solvent action. This can lead to premature failure of components in the fuel system, for example.
 Low ratio blends, such as B2 and B5 rarely cause problems, but higher blends can damage some vehicles. There is also many other factors to consider when converting to the different concentrations. The most being for B99 such as:
Fuel Filters:
B99 is likely to dissolve the accumulated sediments in diesel storage and engine fuel tanks, which can lead to plugged fuel and dispensing filters. Before using or storing B99, clean the fuel system, including fuel tanks, where sediments or deposits may be present. Then, be sure to monitor fuel filters and change them as needed until the sediment build-up is eliminated. Previous successful use of B20 does not mean that tanks are without sediment. B20 is too dilute to “clean” tanks and therefore caution is still warranted when switching to B99. Plan and budget for the time and expense of cleaning fuel systems in advance, or for increased fuel filter changes afterwards.

Oil Changes:
 Some B99 may make its way past the piston rings and into the oil pan. This is due to the slightly higher viscosity and density of biodiesel compared to petroleum diesel. High levels of biodiesel present in the engine oil may polymerize over time and cause some engine oil sludge. This can be remedied with more frequent engine oil changes. Blends of B50 and above might reduce extended drain intervals. Monitor and test engine oil as necessary.

Engine Components:
Certain materials are incompatible with B99 and should be replaced. These include natural rubber compounds, polypropylene, polyvinyl, and Tygon materials. Material incompatibility is usually only an issue with engines made before 1995 because, at that time, most original equipment manufacturers made component changes to accommodate the switch to low-sulfur diesel fuel. The new materials used are also compatible with B99. Components that may need to be replaced include hoses, gaskets, seals, and other parts that would have prolonged exposure to B99. Materials that are compatible with B99 include Teflon, Viton, fluorinated plastics, and Nylon. B99 suppliers and equipment vendors should be consulted to determine which components need to be changed out. However, this process is not overly difficult or expensive.

Cold Weather Management
Unlike gasoline, both petroleum diesel and biodiesel can gel at cold temperatures. If the fuel begins to gel, it can cause increased stress on fuel pumps and fuel injection systems. It can also clog filters or eventually become too thick to pump from the fuel tank to the engine. B99 gels at a higher temperature than conventional diesel fuel. Most B99 begins to thicken (cloud) at around 35°F. To prevent cold flow issues, some users switch from B99 to a blend of B50 in cold weather (below 35°F). B50 provides adequate dilution to prevent cold weather gelling. Other options for using B99 in cold weather include keeping vehicles in a heated garage, using fuel system heaters, or using winterized biodiesel (biodiesel with cold flow additives).

Biodiesel Storage for B99
Many petroleum companies do not recommend storing petroleum diesel for more than six months, and the same holds true for biodiesel blends. Current industry recommendations are for biodiesel to be used within six months or reanalyzed to ensure that fuel continues to meet ASTM D 6751 specifications. Most tanks designed to store diesel fuel will store blends of B20 and above with no problem. However, B99 requires some additional considerations.

Tank Materials:
Most tanks designed to store diesel fuel will store blends of B20 and above with no problem. However, B99 requires some additional considerations. Acceptable storage tank materials include aluminum, steel, fluorinated polyethylene, fluorinated polypropylene, Teflon, and most fiberglasses.

Keep tanks dry. Moisture is detrimental when combined with any biodiesel product and can ultimately affect both equipment performance and equipment maintenance. Keeping tanks dry also minimizes bacteria and algae growth. Periodic testing is recommended to ensure that microorganisms are not present.

Temperature: B99 should be stored at above 40° F. B99 can be stored underground in most cold climates without additional considerations as underground storage temperatures are normally above 45° F. Above-ground fuel systems should be protected with insulation, agitation, heating systems, or other measures if temperatures regularly fall below the cloud point of the fuel. Make sure that fuel pumps, lines, and dispensers are protected from cold and wind chill with properly approved heating and/or insulating equipment.




This site was created by Keian Wilson who is a student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Last updated on November 4, 2008

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