Biofuel is a term that refers to a category of fuels derived in part or whole from biological sources, such as organic plant material and oils, or animal oils. In the U.S., the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) develops voluntary standards for a biofuel supplier that rate the grades of fuel. In the European Union, the European Commission has the authority to revoke the ability of biofuel suppliers to sell their products, if those suppliers are disseminating untruthful information about their biofuels to buyers.
It is important to choose a biofuel supplier that adheres to these standards. A biofuel supplier should also demonstrate a record of consistent supply to customers. As it is impossible to judge a biofuel's quality from looks alone, knowing if your supplier conforms to established standards is an important assurance in protecting your capital investment in your vehicle fleet.
In order to comply with standards, biofuel producers must ensure biofuel is handled and stored properly. If it is not, degradation may occur, which can result in damage to engines. Such damage may involve plugging of fuel filters, excessive wear and tear on engine components, and even engine failure. It is important to question a biofuel supplier about the supplier's record of compliance in the production and storage of biofuel.
The National Biodiesel Board in the U.S. represents the biofuel industry. Members of the organization have access to the latest scientific data on biofuel production and management, as well as a knowledge base on emerging technologies in the biofuel industry. Membership in this organization is another probable indicator of a biofuel producer's commitment to professional conduct. These biofuel organizations continue to develop and improve processing standards for a biofuel supplier.
Grades of biofuel are based on fuel properties as they pertain to oxidation stability, purity, acidity, corrosive qualities, and the volume of elements, minerals, ash, and other substances that may be present. Using a blend with too high of a level of biodiesel may degrade rubber seals in some engines. There are synthetic substitutes for engine components that eliminate this concern.
Ethanol and biodiesel have some distinctive differences. Ethanol, also referred to as ethyl alcohol, is a alcohol distilled from grains or other plant material. It is a fuel that can be used in gasoline engines.
Biodiesel is derived from animal or plant oils, and one of the main benefits to biodiesel is that is can be carbon-neutral, and non-toxic. Since it has a lower flash point, biodiesel is less likely to result in an explosive fire in the event of a vehicular accident. Biodiesel tends to be more costly, and less stable than petroleum-based fuels, while ethanol is usually blended with other non-biofuels, or even biodiesel.