Biodiesel: The Future of Fuel?

In 2008 the UK Government introduced ‘The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)’ which is ‘intended to deliver reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from fuel used for transport purposes by encouraging the supply of renewable fuels’. Such reductions apply to all road vehicles and non-road mobile machinery and are in place to help ensure the country meets EU targets including the ‘Renewable Energy Directive’.

Now in the seventh year of its application, recent studies have shown that biodiesel accounts for half of the ‘1,356 million litres’ of renewable fuels that have been supplied so far. This would suggest that biodiesel could be a viable option to meet future demand. So what exactly is biodiesel and how is it used in the UK?

Biodiesel Explained

In a nutshell, biodiesel is fuel made from converting substances including crops, vegetable oil, cooking oil and animal fats into a form of diesel. This is done through a process called ‘transesterification’ where other chemicals are added to make the biodiesel appropriate for use in vehicles. You can find out more about the scientific methods here.

How does it Help Meet Emissions Targets?

While you still get some emissions from burning biodiesel, these are far lower than typical fossil fuels. Equally, biodiesel is considered ‘carbon-neutral’ rather than carbon free because the C02 it creates is balanced out by the amount absorbed by the crops used to create it. Also it is far less harmful than normal diesel and biodegrades much faster.

How Easy is it to Find?

Biodiesel is more readily available than you might think. There are already several established biodiesel producers in the UK and demand is continuing to grow. In this article for Biodiesel Magazine for instance, it shows how one firm, Greenergy, recently expanded their operations to ‘meet more of its obligations domestically’. There’s also a number of biodiesel filling stations nationwide, details of which can be found here.

Options for your Vehicle

Standard diesel engines built after 1993 can use biodiesel ‘without negative impacts to operating performance’ according to Biodiesel.com. The site’s FAQ also details some of the minor modifications that can be made to older vehicles and with a little research you can also find cars manufactured especially for biodiesel use.

While they might be more beneficial for the environment, remember alternative fuel-powered vehicles aren’t indestructible. So if you are considering investing in converting, or purchasing one specifically for biodiesel, then be sure you also have the right insurance and breakdown cover in place as well, just in case.