You're probably somewhat familiar with biodiesel, having heard about it in recent years, but what is renewable diesel? Sometimes referred to as "green diesel," renewable diesel is a type of biofuel that is derived from renewable sources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and used cooking oil. Unlike traditional diesel, which is derived from crude oil, this fuel is produced through a process called hydrotreating, which involves refining the raw materials into a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuel. In recent years, this type of fuel has been recognized as a cleaner alternative since it produces fewer emissions from renewable sources. In this post, we'll go over the benefits and how it compares to other diesel products.
What are the benefits of renewable diesel?
Lower emissions profile
One of the key advantages of this fuel is its lower emissions profile. According to a study by the California Air Resources Board, green diesel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional diesel. This is due in part to the fact that renewable fuel contains no sulfur, which is a major contributor to air pollution.
More energy efficient
It is also more energy efficient than traditional diesel. According to the US Department of Energy, it has a higher energy density than traditional diesel, which means it can produce more power per unit of fuel. This makes it a more efficient fuel for vehicles and other applications that require high levels of energy.
Compatible with diesel engines
Another advantage is its compatibility with existing diesel engines and infrastructure. Because of its similar properties to traditional diesel, it can be used in existing diesel engines without the need for modifications. This means that it can be easily integrated into the existing diesel supply chain, including distribution and retail infrastructure.
Potential economic benefits
In addition to its environmental benefits, green diesel also has potential economic benefits. For example, it could help reduce dependence on foreign oil. And by doing so, there could also be the opportunity to create U.S. jobs in the renewable energy sector. As the supply of this fuel product increases from ramped up production, the price of diesel fuel could end up being lowered.
How is this fuel produced?
The production process involves several steps. The first step is to collect raw materials such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and used cooking oil. These raw materials are then refined through a process called hydrotreating, which involves removing impurities and converting the raw materials into a cleaner, more stable fuel. Hydrotreating heats raw materials in the presence of hydrogen and a catalyst. This then causes the impurities to be removed and the molecules to be restructured into a stable form. Finally, the resulting fuel is cooled and purified before being used as fuel.
One of the challenges of producing renewable fuel is the availability of raw materials. While there is a significant amount of waste vegetable oil and animal fat available, it may not be enough to meet the growing demand for renewable fuel. This has led to research into other sources of raw materials, such as algae and different types of biomass.
Another challenge of production is the cost. While the cost of producing green diesel has decreased in recent years, it is still more expensive overall than traditional diesel. This is due in part to the higher cost of the raw materials and the refining process. But, as the technology for producing renewable oil improves and economies of scale are achieved, the cost is expected to decrease.
Renewable diesel vs. diesel
- Production process: Diesel is a petroleum-based fuel derived from crude oil through a refining process and used to power a wide range of diesel engines and equipment. Renewable fuel, on the other hand, is made from renewable feedstocks, and despite the different production process, this fuel is chemically similar to petroleum diesel. This means that it can be used in existing diesel engines without any modifications or blending.
- Environmental impact: In terms of environmental impact, renewable fuel is considered to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than diesel fuel because it is made from renewable resources and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It can also help lessen dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.
- Performance: Renewable fuel has a higher cetane rating, which means it ignites more easily and burns more cleanly compared to diesel, resulting in lower emissions and better fuel efficiency. It also has a higher energy density, which provides more power per unit of fuel.
- Cost: Green diesel is typically more expensive than diesel fuel due to the more complex production process and limited availability. This means that it may not be as cost-effective for some drivers.
Renewable diesel vs. biodiesel
- Production process: Both fuel products can be made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or used cooking oil. Biodiesel is made through a process called transesterification which involves reacting the oil or fat with an alcohol (usually methanol) and a catalyst. This produces a chemical reaction that turns the oil or fat into biodiesel. Renewable diesel, on the other hand, is refined through a process called hydrotreating. Both fuels can be blended with petroleum diesel or used on their own.
- Environmental impact: Both fuel types are considered to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than traditional diesel fuel because they are made from renewable resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
- Performance: Green diesel has a higher energy density and better cold-weather performance than biodiesel. It also has a longer shelf life and better stability than biodiesel. Green diesel can also provide better power and acceleration because of its high cetane level.
- Cost: Biodiesel is generally less expensive than renewable diesel. This is because biodiesel can be produced from a wider range of feedstocks. Biodiesel production methods are also less expensive and complex than renewable fuel production methods.
- Lower emissions profile: Renewable fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional diesel, making it a more environmentally friendly fuel.
- Energy efficient: It has a higher energy density than traditional diesel, making it a more efficient fuel for high-energy applications.
- Engine compatibility: It can be used in existing diesel engines and infrastructure, without the need for modifications.
- Economic benefits: It can help reduce dependence on foreign oil, create jobs in the renewable energy sector, and potentially reduce the price of diesel fuel.
- Availability of raw materials: There might not be enough waste vegetable oil and animal fat available to meet the growing demand for renewable oil. This is leading to research in alternative sources of raw materials.
- Cost of production: Renewable fuel is currently more expensive than traditional diesel due to the higher cost of raw materials and the refining process.
- Scale of production: As of now, it is not produced in large quantities due to the limited availability of raw materials and the cost. This can hinder its widespread use as an alternative fuel.
Despite its challenges, renewable diesel has significant potential as a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to traditional diesel. It offers numerous environmental, economic, and energy benefits and can be easily integrated into the diesel supply chain. As the demand for renewable fuel grows, there is likely to be greater investment in the technology and infrastructure that is needed to produce and distribute this fuel product.