Biofuels are solid, liquid, or gas fuels made from organic materials such as plant mass. Biodiesel is a clean-burning biofuel designed specifically for diesel engines. It is made from vegetable oils. B100 is pure biodiesel, and is made of nothing but vegetable oil. Other types of biodiesel, such as B20, are blends of petrol diesel and bio diesel fuel. The most common plant used in the production of biodiesel fuel is soy. Other plants include switch grass and canola.
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A bushel of soybeans can produce 1.5 gallons of biodiesel. According to Purdue University, the yield of biodiesel per acre of soy rises proportionate to the density of the plant. In other words, dense planting does not negatively impact fuel production capability. For instance, 40 bushels of soy planted per acre will yield 59.2 gallons of 18 per cent B1000 per acre. If 60 bushels are planted per acre, per acre 18 per cent B1000 yield will be 88.8 gallons. Findings by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that soy biodiesel produces more usable energy and reduces greenhouse gases more than ethanol.
Canola, the edible version of rapeseed, is the highest yield biodiesel plant in the United States. According to the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, the average acre of soil yields 46 gallons of biodiesel while the average acre of canola yields 122 gallons of biodiesel. This statistic makes no mention of planting density. In addition to its high-oil content and yield, canola is purportedly prized as a biodiesel plant for the increased lubricity it brings to engines and its low level of saturated fats. Canola production in the United States is centred in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Switchgrass is a diverse plant that can grow as tall as 10 feet and is used in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is a type of biofuel for automobiles that run on nondiesel fuel. According to Auburn University professor David Bransby, switchgrass makes an ideal biodiesel plant because it is perennial, meaning that one planting can produce numerous crops over the course of several years. Bransby further asserts that using switchgrass as a fuel plant can reduce carbon dioxide output, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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- Iowa State University Soybean Extension and Research Program: What is Biodiesel?
- Purdue University Extension: What is Biodiesel?
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels
- Texas State Energy Conservation Office: Biomass Crops
- Switchgrass Profile: David Bransby