Biofuel - Renewable Energy

On this page you will find sections on different types of biofuel, essentially providing power and heating with bio-technology. However, this page focuses on biodiesel as a fuel suited for your home power needs.

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Bio-fuel - What's That?

Well simply, it is a fuel that can be made from any biomass such as plants, recently living organisms or from metabolic byproducts, e.g, cow manure.

The types of fuel extracted from biomass include ethanol, methanol and biodiesel.

  • Ethanol is alcohol and is produced from agricultural crops, wood, straw and plant matter and has uses from medical sterilization to gasoline octane enhancer.

    The volume needed for the fermentation process, and the use of this bio-fuel is not suited as a fuel resource for your home.

  • Methane is a gas given off by organic waste matter like manure, and although it can be used as fuel, as far as biofuels go it is expensive to process, and therefore not cost effective as a home fuel resource.

  • Biodiesel is simply made from waste vegetable oil and can be used in any diesel engine. You can use biodiesel either by mixing it in with your petroleum diesel (any ratio will work) or neat - just the biodiesel itself.

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How Can This Be Used in My Home?

An electric generator fueled by biodiesel can be used as supplementary or backup power for a home photovoltaic (PV) system, wind turbines, or a hybrid system that are stand alone (Off Grid). Any excess power can be stored in batteries. Biofuel can be used in home furnaces and boilers that run on No 2 oil or diesel providing home heating. 

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What Are The Advantages in Using Biodiesel?

  • Biodiesel is a renewable biofuel made from vegetable oil
  • It is carbon neutral and non-toxic - unlike fossil fuels the carbons dioxide (CO2) that is released when these plants are burnt doesn't increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere as the plants extracts CO2 from the atmosphere to grow
  • This type of bio-fuel is simple to make and can be used directly in diesel engines mixed (blended) or neat (straight)
  • Less noxious exhaust emissions and is biodegradable
  • Has a high flash point (needs high temperature to ignite) so is safe to store and transport
  • Burns more efficiently than petroleum diesel and has a higher lubricity (better lubricating) than petroleum diesel so reduces engine wear

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What Are The Disadvantages?

  • Poor availability as very few of the fuel giants have looked at or even invested in this technology
  • Poorly made biodiesel or one that is a low quality biofuel may cause engine problems
  • Any chemical process can be dangerous without the proper equipment and proper safety precautions
    • Although the chemicals required are caustic and must be carefully handled, biofuel is relatively easy to make. It is a reaction between alcohol (methanol or ethanol) from wood or grain with animal or vegetable fat using sodium hydroxide as the catalyst.
  • Over extensive farming of bio-crops can be detrimental to the environment, e.g, through land clearing and large scale deforestation programs
    • Bad bio-fuels such as palm oil and corn, release more carbon into the atmosphere in their production than they can save in motor vehicle emissions. Additionally, the over farming of palm oil and corn is directly responsible for the global food crisis as food crop land is converted to biocrop.

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Bio-fuel is an alternative renewable energy resource that with the proper management can be less harmful to our environment than fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal.

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