I thought the development of biodiesel was relatively new.
However, during a presentation at the Northern Illinois Farm Show I learned that
in 1900, a diesel engine was run on 100 percent peanut oil with no refining.
Throughout the years, diesel fuel has gone through several
changes since it became available in 1920 as high-sulfur diesel fuel that was
made from crude oil. At that time, the fuel contained 5,000 parts per million of
Low-sulfur diesel fuel, with 500 ppm of sulfur, became
available in 1993, said Mark Johnson, with MEG Corp., a fuel-consulting business
based in Plymouth, Minn. In 2006, ultra low-sulfur diesel with 15 ppm of sulfur
was introduced to the market.
With the high demand for crude oil in the U.S., the need to
find another source of fuel led to the development of biodiesel, which became
commercially available in 1998.
“The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, but we
use 20 percent of the world’s crude oil,” Johnson noted. “Crude oil is not used
just for transportation fuel — many products are made from oil.”
“Biodiesel has the highest energy balance of any fuel at 5.5
to 1,” he said. “That means for every one unit of energy spent to make
biodiesel, it creates 5.5 units.”
In 2011, Johnson said, 1 billion gallons of biodiesel were
produced in the U.S., and the following year, the production increased to 1.18
“In 2013, production increased to 1.28 billion gallons,” he
The vision is to replace 5 percent of the nation’s diesel
with fuel made from renewable resources by 2015.
“The U.S. uses about 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel, so 5
percent would be 3 billion gallons, and we’re probably not going to get there by
2015,” Johnson said.
Several biodiesel blends are available, including B2, B5,
B11 and B20.
“A B20 biodiesel fuel will consist of 20 percent biodiesel
and 80 percent petroleum diesel,” Johnson explained.
In 2013, he said, 55 percent of the 1.28 billion gallons of
biodiesel was made from soybean oil.
“According to a study, biodiesel adds 73 cents of value to
each bushel of soybeans,” he reported. “That’s a value of $35 per acre,”
During the presentation, Johnson talked about several
benefits of blending biodiesel with ultra low-sulfur diesel.
“A biodiesel blend is compatible with everything you’ve
got,” he said. “The tanks, hoses, seals, gaskets — all the equipment you have
now all works.”
In addition, a biodiesel blend greatly enhances the
lubricity of ultra low-sulfur diesel, it reduces harmful emissions, the power
and performance of the engine is virtually unchanged and it is renewable and
“Illinois drivers receive a 6.25 percent sales tax relief
for fuel that is higher than B10 — that’s why we have a B11 blend,” Johnson
explained. “Iowa also has a tax incentive, and Minnesota has a B5 mandate and
that state is going to B10 on June 1 for the summer months.”
Sounds like it is a good idea for farmers to use biodiesel
for all their diesel-engine-powered vehicles and equipment, especially since the
fuel is adding value to the soybeans they grow. I wonder how many farmers will
make the move now that they have more facts for that decision.