What are the disadvantages of biodiesel?

Asked March 27, 2013, 8:37 PM EDT

My 8th grade advanced studies science class is doing a research project on renewable resources. My group was given the topic disadvantages of biodiesel. I have found that biodiesel is more expensive than traditional fuel and that the companies making it are clearing forests. I guess what I am trying to ask is, what are a few of the disadvantages of biodiesel?

Jackson County Missouri ag energy biodiesel

1 Response

Biodiesel has many advantages over conventional diesel fuel—and also some disadvantages. As for your statement that “the companies making it are clearing forests,” I will assume that this is in reference to the land being put into soybean production in South America. While they are clearing land for agricultural production, the biodiesel market is only a small part of the soybean market.

Advantages of biodiesel:

  • Biodiesel fuel is a renewable energy source, unlike petroleum-based diesel.
  • Biodiesel is less polluting than petroleum diesel.
  • The lack of sulfur in 100% biodiesel extends the life of catalytic converters.
  • Biodiesel can be blended with other energy resources and oil.
  • Biodiesel fuel can be used in existing oil heating systems and diesel engines without any alterations to those systems or engines.
  • Biodiesel can be distributed through existing diesel fuel pumps, which is another advantage over other alternative fuels.
  • Sulfur, which acts as a lubricating agent, must be removed from conventional petroleum-based diesel fuel. The lubricating property of biodiesel fuel can lengthen the lifetime of engines.
Disadvantages of biodiesel:
  • At present, biodiesel fuel is more expensive than petroleum diesel fuel.
  • Biofuels are a solvent and therefore can harm rubber hoses in some engines.
  • As a solvent, biodiesel cleans dirt from engines. This dirt can then get collected in fuel filters, clogging them. As a result, filters have to be changed after the first several hours of biodiesel use.
  • Biodiesel fuel distribution infrastructure needs improvement to make biodiesel more widely available.
  • In cold weather, pure biodiesel can thicken or gel, making it hard to pump.