20 Frequently Asked Questions (updated 1/6/11)
- What do I need to do to convert my car to biodiesel?
- Will biodiesel eat the rubber in my fuel system?
- Should I replace my fuel filter before using biodiesel?
- Can I run biodiesel in a newer car? What about those with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs)?
- If I am on the road and cannot find Biodiesel anywhere, are there problems with using diesel again?
- How are warranties responding to biodiesel usage?
- What is biodiesel made from, besides vegetable oil?
- Should I worry about residual methanol, lye, or glycerol?
- Since you need to grow vegetable oil, is there an inherent "food vs. fuel" cropland usage issue? Also, won't we will run out of restaurant oil pretty quick?
- I have heard that a gradual increase in biodiesel percentage in my diesel fuel is the best way to introduce biodiesel to my vehicle. Is this true?
- Are there special storage considerations for biodiesel?
- I have read that algae can grow in biodiesel very easily. Is this true?
- Which is better, a gas/electric hybrid or a biodiesel vehicle?
- I am converting my bus to run on straight vegetable oil (SVO) because it does not involve all the chemicals, is considerably cheaper, and burns cleaner. Should everyone convert to SVO?
- Will biodiesel work in kerosene heaters?
- What are some other applications for biodiesel?
- I read in a magazine that you can make biodiesel at home for 30¢ per gallon. Why in the world would I buy it instead of making it?
- When is the price on biodiesel going to come down?
- What kind of subsidies and incentives does the biodiesel industry receive?
- How do you plan on competing with "big" oil?
- [top] What do I need to do to convert my car to biodiesel?
First, you need to have a diesel engine. Any engine that runs on diesel #2 will run on biodiesel. Other than having a diesel engine, there is nothing you need to do specifically to convert your car to biodiesel. For pre-1994 vehicles, it is often said that you need to replace your rubber hoses with synthetic ones, but that is not necessary unless you have a leak.
- [top] Will biodiesel eat the rubber in my fuel system?
Biodiesel is a solvent and, as such, it will dissolve low-grade rubber materials. Since 1993, diesel engines and equipment have been re-designed, utilizing better, synthetic types of rubber. If you have an older vehicle and believe you are experiencing leaks from worn rubber, you will want to replace the components with ULSD-compatible materials.
- [top] I heard that I should replace my fuel filter before using biodiesel. What is the story?
The idea is on the right track, but the timing is wrong. Positive effects from biodiesel being a solvent may affect your fuel filter in time, depending on the age of your vehicle. Chief among them is that it keeps a fuel system clean. This is true for a newer car. It will keep your new car's fuel system exceptionally clean and in good working order. With an older vehicle (roughly 30,000+ miles of petroleum diesel usage), the solvent action of biodiesel will purge the system of accumulated diesel debris first. This process can take weeks or months. At some point after switching to biodiesel, you may experience symptoms of a clogged fuel filter (i.e., trouble starting, coughing, smoke, poor fuel economy, loss of power). It is best to always keep an extra filter on hand in case you need it. Changing the fuel filter, when you experience the symptoms, will take care of the problem in most cases. A second filter change might be needed in very old vehicles. Regardless, once your vehicle's fuel system is purged of diesel debris, it will stay remarkably clean, thanks to biodiesel's solvency.
- [top] Can I run biodiesel in a newer car? What about those with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs), i.e. 2008 and later?
Yes, we have customers running biodiesel in these vehicles without problems. While DPFs have not been around long, it is clear that the biggest issue they present is in vehicles with late post injection, also known as in-cylinder injection, as part of the DPF system. If this is a component of your vehicle, then biodiesel is going to dilute your motor oil over time. The same thing happens with petroleum diesel in these vehicles, but it is volatile enough to vaporize out of the hot oil. Biodiesel builds up, requiring you to check the level of your motor oil more frequently, and to change it more frequently. Our customers using biodiesel in these vehicles have tended to change their motor oil every 3,000 miles, which is quite frequent for a diesel vehicle, but on par with gasoline vehicles. There is no need to worry about the lubricating effect of the motor oil being inhibited- biodiesel is quite lubricitous itself. There is also no stability issue- we put an effective stability additive in our fuel.
- [top] If I am on the road and cannot find Biodiesel anywhere, are there problems with using diesel again?
Mix and match however you like, there are no problems with using diesel #2. The terminology for a particular blend is BXXX, where XXX is the percentage (1-100%) of biodiesel. Examples: B5 is 5% biodiesel and 95% diesel #2; B20 is 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel #2; and B100 is pure biodiesel.
- [top] How are warranties responding to biodiesel usage?
As the industry matures, more original engine manufacturers (OEMs) are making positive statements on 100% Biodiesel (B100). These include John Deere, Caterpillar, and New Holland, all of whom explicitly warrant the use of B100 in their engines. Some OEMs are taking a more cautious approach, explicitly warranting blends like B20 (Ford, for instance) or B5 (Dodge, VW, etc.), while others say, "We neither support nor oppose . . ." There is no problem with warranty issues in Europe; however, here in America OEMs do not tend to support the biodiesel industry. The thing to remember is that properly-used biodiesel that conforms to the ASTM standard will not hurt any existing diesel engine. If an OEM, such as Volkswagen, wants to deny a warranty based on biodiesel use, legally, they have to show that biodiesel hurt the engine. This is a very compelling reason to use ASTM fuel, especially, in new vehicles.
- [top] What is biodiesel made from, besides vegetable oil?
A chemical reaction called transesterification is used to thin the vegetable oil. This reaction removes the glycerol component of the vegetable oil molecule (thick and moisturizing), replacing it with methyl alcohol (methanol). In order to achieve this reaction, the methanol is mixed with sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye) prior to being mixed with the vegetable oil. The end result is crude biodiesel and crude glycerol by-product. This is the basic process. Commercial production often involves additional ingredients and processes.
- [top] Should I worry about residual methanol, lye, or glycerol?
For biodiesel homebrewers, the possibility of residual ingredients or by-products in the brewed biodiesel is a compelling reason to "wash" or purify the fuel. Commercially sold fuel, which is regulated by the ASTM standard, does not allow for residuals to be present.
- [top] Since you need to grow vegetable oil, is there an inherent "food vs.
fuel" cropland usage issue? Also, is it possible that we will run out of restaurant oil pretty quick?
First, it's important to point out that Yokayo Biofuels biodiesel is exclusively made from recycled restaurant fryer oil, thus not competing with food, but actually extending its usefulness. The "food vs. fuel" argument would be more compelling if it were not for the thousands of acres of fallow cropland in this country. The government pays subsidies to farmers on a good number of these acres in order to keep them fallow, sustaining the crop prices. With competitive uses, the subsidies could be eliminated without hurting farmers. In addition, innovative, new sources of oil, such as algae that can be grown in deserts off of waste carbon dioxide, have yields that far surpass traditional crops. As to the second part of the question, the "fast food" and restaurant business is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and, unless our current eating habits change drastically, it will continue to grow and sustain itself for quite a while. The American "fast food" industry produces over 3 billion gallons of fryer oil yearly and that is increasing. The amount is more than sufficient today. Of course, if everyone switched to biodiesel, all this would change, but the change would speed along technological innovations.
- [top] I have heard that a gradual increase in biodiesel percentage in my diesel
fuel is the best way to introduce biodiesel to my vehicle. Is this true?
No, this is not true, although, it is a popular myth. There are no scientific reasons to perform a gradual increase in biodiesel. Any blend of biodiesel and diesel can be used in any diesel engine.
- [top] Are there special storage considerations for biodiesel?
The short answer is "No". We even add a special additive to the fuel to make sure that it will be stable for as long as possible. However, we recommend a familiarity with petroleum diesel storage basics, since many of the same issues apply. Any problems that might arise, such as exposure to air and water, are taken into consideration in the design of the storage facilities. We are happy help with designing your system and deciding what components would be most suitable for your situation to avoid any potential problems. Feel free to call us.
- [top] I have read that algae and other contaminants can grow in biodiesel very easily. Is this true?
See #11, above. The fact is that biodiesel stores similarly to petroleum diesel. If you leave lots of access to water and air, then all sorts of things can happen, including algae growth or other kinds of contamination. The bottom line is that you should know the basics of storing fuel before you do it. We can help you with that.
- [top] I have it narrowed down to a gas/electric hybrid or a biodiesel vehicle. Which is better?
A gas/electric hybrid is a commendable improvement over gas vehicles, especially when it can run in pure electric mode. However, it still relies on petroleum and it still contributes to global warming. Biodiesel solves both of those problems. Obviously, diesel hybrids are in order. Check out these articles on diesel hybrids: story 1 story 2. They exist, just not for the "masses" yet. "We need diesel hybrids now." Make this your mantra.
- [top] What about straight vegetable oil (SVO): it does not involve all the chemicals, is considerably cheaper, and burns cleaner. Should everyone convert to SVO?
No, not everyone should convert to SVO. As we have said, even though some of the first diesel engines burned unadulterated peanut oil, much has changed in engine design since then. We now have to lower the viscosity (thickness) of the oil to work efficiently in today's diesel engine. We can accomplish this by modifying the vegetable oil (turning it into biodiesel through a chemical reaction) or by modifying the vehicle (via a SVO conversion kit that heats the vegetable oil to a suitable viscosity). Obviously, we can reach the most people with the first option. But, there are other reasons not to use SVO. It still contains glycerol, which burns dirty and can leave deposits in the injection chambers. Additionally, SVO still needs to be de-watered, filtered and heated prior to fill-up, requiring equipment, energy, and time. By the time you've designed that process, you might as well make biodiesel! Other problems include a general lack of standards and little scientific testing. First generation "dual tank" vegetable oil conversion kits have had many problems and are definitely considered experimental. But, the newer kits, led by the Elsbett kit, seem to be on the right track. It must be remembered, however, that a vehicle with the wider Elsbett injectors and hotter Elsbett glowplugs will burn biodiesel cleaner than it will burn vegetable oil. At Yokayo Biofuels, we believe that SVO conversions are best for vehicles traveling to places where SVO will be easier to find than diesel or biodiesel as well as old tractors (a relatively low-risk application).
- [top] Will biodiesel work in kerosene heaters?
Biodiesel is 100% compatible with diesel #2, also known as heating oil #2, or more simply as diesel. If your heater is designed to run on heating oil #2, then it can run on B100 just fine. Kerosene, which is called diesel #1 or heating oil #1 and is thinner than diesel #2, requires experimentation. In general, if a heater is designed specifically for kerosene, then it can work with some kind of biodiesel blend (the blend being a low percentage of biodiesel and higher percentage of kerosene).
- [top] What are some other applications for biodiesel?
Numerous applications exist for biodiesel other than your vehicle. We have supplied biodiesel as a fuel for water heaters, boats, generators, air compressors, smudge pots, lanterns, campstoves, kilns, tractors, irrigation pumps, miscellaneous farm equipment, and sawmills. Additionally, we have supplied it to be used as a concrete slipform, industrial solvent, and agricultural carrier. Let us know if you have any other uses for biodiesel that we can add to this list.
- [top] I read in a magazine that you can make biodiesel at home for 30¢ per gallon. Why in the world would I buy it instead of making it?
The first reason is that homebrewers generally do not have the consistent lab-tested quality that meets the official ASTM standards. Second is the convenience. The low costs often quoted in magazine articles are not realistic. They assume free oil, cheap methanol, and no other costs. In reality, a lot of infrastructure is needed. It is definitely possible to homebrew high quality biodiesel. It requires knowledge of testing methods, and a serious commitment of time, energy, and equipment. If you are a do-it-yourself type and ready to take up a new hobby, then it is definitely worth considering. We recommend that any home-brewer occasionally send a sample of their fuel to a suitable lab for testing to make sure the biodiesel meets the ASTM standard.
- [top] When is the price on biodiesel going to come down?
An important question and we certainly get asked this one a lot. It is possible that, as the biodiesel industry matures, several things will bring the price down. Some of these are the growth of the market, innovative technology, and new government incentives. However, it is important to understand that the price of biodiesel is a more honest price than that of other fuels. There are no hidden taxpayer fees unlike with petroleum diesel. The true cost of a gallon of petroleum fuel has been often been evaluated at well over $10 per gallon. This high "real" cost is due to things such as taxpayer-financed subsidies to the petroleum industry and the guarding of our pipelines by the military. The potential of the "real" price of petroleum going even higher increases as we aggressively use the military to protect "our" oil supply. We think it is a safe assumption that the price of petroleum will continue to climb.The law of supply and demand, as well as a dependency on ingredients like Methanol and KOH, tend to dictate that biodiesel will not be immune to this trend, but the more local control of its inputs, the more insulated from market pressures biodiesel's price will be.
- [top] What kind of subsidies and incentives does the biodiesel industry receive?
In the last few years, tax incentives and carbon credit markets have emerged that add value to each gallon produced. However, this is nowhere near the subsidies allocated to the petroleum industry. Since the biofuel industry does not have the excess money to support politicians in the same fashion as our petroleum counterpart, the sole way this inequity will be changed is for you to encourage your representatives and other politicians to recognize the value of biodiesel to the economy, in combating global warming and its effect on the environment, and in eliminating global warfare.
- [top] How do you plan on competing with "big" oil?
This is where you come into the picture. For us, this has always been a grassroots, community affair. Your support of Yokayo Biofuels, other companies like us, and the sustainable biofuels industry in general is what will help level the playing field and make competition feasible. We intend on remaining a local organization that utilizes community products, contributes in kind, and one that acts responsibly in the best interest of the community's sustainability and its citizens.