What’s the Deal with Bio Diesel?

 

The fuel that has run your car and most engines since its appearance has been petroleum. The carbon-based refined oil is increasingly becoming a scarce & expensive commodity. So the twenty-first century has made it its mission to find an alternative source of fuel, one that is reliable yet not ever-dwindling. There are several attainable options we have at our disposal. We have solar power which is being utilized by homes and other stationary buildings like apartment complexes more and more frequently. Countries like Germany have produced enough solar power so far in 2018 that they could virtually provide power for each of their country’s households. And China has recently become a leader in wind turbines, now cornering over one third of the wind power market.

The US, along with hydroelectric power, is a leader in bio fuel production. Bio fuel is defined as an energy source obtained from an organic material, whether it be animal or plant.

There are two different kinds of bio-fuel that can be made from plant and animal material, primary and secondary bio fuels. Primary bio fuels are usually unprocessed materials that are used for cooking and heating homes. Examples of this are fuel wood, pellets, and wood chips or sawdust. All of these can be burned directly to make heat and power

Secondary bio fuels are also made from plant and animal materials, but they have usually been processed and refined first. Secondary bio fuels are oils that go into some industrial processes and vehicles, like ethanol and bio diesel fuel. Ethanol is a plant based product that is high in carbohydrates, like corn. Bio diesel is usually made from infusing methanol and vegetable oil together.

Pros of Bio Fuels:
  • Renewable Resource– Bio fuels are made from materials that we are already constantly growing and producing and consuming like soy, corn, wheat, and sugar.
  • No Limit on Material– Constant crop production insures that there is always some raw material to process. There are also recycling processes to reuse animal and vegetable by-products, and used cooking oil, like MOPAC’s, to ensure every resource is used to its fullest.
  • Cleaner– It is believed by scientists that the carbon emitted during the burning of the bio fuel is equivalent to the carbon absorbed during the growing process. There is also no extraction or drilling process to obtain the raw materials, although there is a refining process that can affect the environment.
  • Flexible Usage– Secondary bio-fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel can be mixed with petroleum based products, which is helpful when trying reduce carbon footprints while also minimizing cost.
  • Low Cost– the cost to process and refine is less than that of petroleum production
  • No “Finding” Cost– animal and vegetable byproduct do not need to be “discovered” the way natural gas and oil are found, instead plants can be raised and collected locally to fuel bio-fuel process.
  • Manufactured & Recycled– unlike petroleum based products, UCO is a recyclable product that can be used in multiple ways before the recycling process, and afterwards. Typically before it ends up in someone’s engine, vegetable oil can be used (more than once too) in a cooking process like potato chips and then it is collected by a recycling company like MOPAC and is refined into a used cooking oil, where is it delivered to a refinery which infuses the UCO with methanol.
  • Self-Sustaining– Bio-fuels, unlike petroleum based products that can only be found in certain places underground, can be produced by any country that can produce staple crops.
  • Less Need for Transportation– petroleum has to travel extremely far distances, often across the country to reach the correct destination, but bio fuels have the advantage of being produced locally and can reduce the cost and need of longer distance travelling.
  • Localized Job Stimulation– Local production and transportation would mean that the local industry would need raw material and workers to process it, effectively giving local economies a boost.
Cons of Bio Fuels:
  • Heavy Machinery Needed– it is true that the refining and manufacturing process requires large machinery and the space to process materials, but it is overall still less equipment than required to mine and refine petroleum.
  • Currently High Costs & Energy in Production– to produce any bio-fuels, you need a plant-based operation, unlike solar power which can be utilized on a very small scale.
  • Large Quantifies Needed– To make a quantity of bio-fuel, it usually takes a lot of raw material. For example, to make one gallon of corn ethanol, at least one bushel of corn is required (which is roughly 9 gallons). This means there is an 11% yield for unprocessed corn. This yield fluctuates  depending on the material being processed, but it is true that to make bio fuels, a lot of material is required.
  • Crop Fluctuation– Some scientists believe that an increase in bio-fuel usage would mean a decrease in viable crops for consumption. As more farmers plant materials for bio-fuels, there is less food being planted for local consumers. But there are several ways to recycle and process used materials for bio-fuels that bypasses farmers growing crops specifically for bio-fuels, like MOPAC’s used cooking oil collection service.
  • Water Resources– To process large amounts of ethanol and biodiesel, a process must extract the water out of the material to concentrate it down into an oil. All of this water is a byproduct that can be harmful to the environment if not recycled properly. But there are simple solutions. MOPAC, for example, treats and recycles the water until it is safe for consumption, and then uses the water to feed farm animals at nearby facilities.

Overall, the ethanol market is doing nothing but growing as petroleum based resources are depleting, and though there are still some downsides to its application, the market for bio fuel is only growing. As its applications and usage is growing, the ways it is being refined and processed is being revised to better help our environment.