Biodiesel Myth #6 – Biodiesel is Incompatible in Boats.

In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is one of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.

Myth #6 – Biodiesel is Incompatible in Boats.

Wrong again.  That’s ethanol, and even that’s not entirely true.   Several older engines can not use any fuels that contain alcohol.  Eg. Certain fiberglass tanks, mostly manufactured prior to 1992, will decompose from alcohol.  Most modern marine grade combustion engines are compatible with alcohol based fuels.   But that’s enough about ethanol, we’re talking about biodiesel.

Biodiesel is an obvious candidate for use in marine applications. Independent tests have found that pure biodiesel is non-toxic, readily biodegradable and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

Biodiesel will not harm fish. The 96-hr. LC50 (lethal concentration) for Bluegills for C16-18 methyl esters was greater than 1,000 mg./L. Concentrations above 1,000 mg/L are deemed “insignificant” according to NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Guidelines in its Registry of the Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances.

Biodiesel is easier on humans, too. Vessel operators report a noticeable change in exhaust odor. The reduction in smell and change of odor are more palatable with engine workers. In fact, it’s been compared to the smell of French fries. Biodiesel users also report having no eye irritation.

Biodiesel is biodegradable. C16-18 methyl esters are considered biodegradable based on their chemical nature and test data collected for experimentally determined oxygen demand and carbon dioxide production as a percent of calculated theoretical values. C16-18 methyl esters do not show any micro biological inhibition up to 10,000 mg/L.

In tests performed by the University of Idaho, biodiesel in an aqueous solution after 28 days was 95 percent degraded. Diesel fuel was only 40 percent degraded. In a second study done in an aquatic environment (CO2 Evolution), various biodiesel products were 85.5-88.5 percent degraded in 28 days, which is the same rate as sugar (dextrose). Diesel degradation was 26.24 percent.

Biodiesel offers more environmental benefits. For research vessels and consumers using commercial vessels, biodiesel offers a more environmentally-friendly alternative to regular diesel. Because it is non-toxic and biodegradable, consumers and researchers may pressure owners for biodiesel use, especially in sensitive or protected waterway areas.

Biodiesel is a renewable, domestic fuel. Biodiesel is made from renewable fats and oils, such as vegetable oils, through a simple refining process. The by-product glycerin is used in commercial applications from toothpaste to cough syrup. One of the principal commodities used as a source for biodiesel is soybeans, a major crop produced by almost 400,000 farmers in 29 states.

Biodiesel helps speed diesel degradation when used in blends with petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel degrades about four times faster than petroleum diesel fuel. Also, when blended with biodiesel, the degradation rate of petroleum diesel tripled when compared to diesel alone, according to a 1995 University of Idaho test.

Biodiesel can work in several marine factions.
Because biodiesel can replace or blend with petroleum diesel with little or no engine modifications, it is a viable alternative to several categories of the marine industry, including: recreational boats, inland commercial and ocean-going commercial ships, research vessels, and the U.S. Coast Guard Fleet. Today, much of the emphasis is on recreational boats, which consume about 95 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Biodiesel is a safe alternative.
Biodiesel has a higher flash point – a minimum of 200 degrees versus about 125 degrees Fahrenheit for regular #2 diesel. Biodiesel also offers low-pressure storage at ambient temperatures, handles like diesel and is safer to transport.

Biodiesel has higher lubricity.
Biodiesel blended at a 20 percent rate with petroleum diesel has a lower wear scar than traditional fuel. At the 20 percent blend level, biodiesel shows improved lubricity with low sulfur petroleum diesel containing high or low aromatic levels. Start-up, power, range and cold-weather performance characteristics are similar to diesel.

Even low levels of biodiesel (1-5%) with diesel fuel offer superior lubricating properties. Recent test results using the HFRR test showed a reduction in wear scar from 0.61 mm to 0.35 mm using a 1% blend of biodiesel with the base diesel.

Triangle Biofuels currently offers a marine grade B20 biodiesel (includes additional anti-gel and fuel stabilizers to retard fuel decomposition and moisture attraction), and offers a biodiesel based diesel fuel additive called TerraSlick that can be used to improve diesel engine performance using regular diesel fuel.

If you are are marine biodiesel user, the National Biodiesel Board would like you to take a brief survey to help provide better information about using biodiesel in a marine environment.  Please take a minute to help them (and us) by filling it out:

*Source – The National Biodiesel Board

Biodiesel Myth #5 – Biodiesel makes food costs higher.

In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is one of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.

Myth #5 – Biodiesel makes food costs higher.

This myth began with the increase in ethanol and biodiesel production in 2007.  It reached a fever pitch in 2008 with numerous articles claiming that corn and soy costs were skyrocketing because of ethanol and biodiesel production increases to meet consumer demand.

Soybeans and SME

The truth is that it was just the food industry capitalizing on speculation.  Want proof?  In 2010, biodiesel production in the USA is at 35% of it’s volume from 2009, but prices for soybean oil are at .50 per lb now ($3.75/gal), versus .35 per lb ($2.60/gal) this time last year.

Biodiesel?  Well, it’s at $3.80 per gallon now, versus $3.40 this time last year.

So, biodiesel production has decreased by over 65%, and prices only marginally increased (in spite of not having a federal tax credit), but soybean oil costs have gone through the roof.  What’s the real cause?  The same thing as last year, and the year before that.  Exports.  We’re exporting ridiculous amounts of virgin fats and WVO to Asia, Latin America, and Europe for things such as animal feed, and biodiesel feedstock.   With the dollar being depressed and petroleum less heavily subsidized in other countries, it makes sense to send cargo shiploads of vegetable oil to make biodiesel out of.

So, what should our government do to help biofuels? Restrict exports for feedstocks in the interest of national security?  Structured commodity markets?  In an environment where Ag companies are used to price supports and price fixing, it’d also be nice to see a fixed price per gallon for inedible soybean oil that is specifically used for biodiesel, and mandatory allotments that must be sold. (Think tobacco, and it doesn’t sound that harsh.)



Biodiesel Myth #4 – Biodiesel Will Void My Warranty

In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is one of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.

Myth #4 – Biodiesel Will Void My Warranty

In a word, No.   This is a myth perpetuated by people that either don’t understand the issue or are trying to keep the status quo. For engine manufacturers of engines and fuel injection equipment, the manufacturers warranty their products against defects of materials & workmanship, not the fuel.  No engine is warrantied against bad fuel, even if it’s petroleum fuel.

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

The Magnuson-Moss Act (P.L. 93-637) is a United States federal law (15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.). Enacted in 1975, it is the federal statute that governs warranties on consumer products.

Certain items specific to the Magnuson-Moss act apply to biodiesel which specifically exclude engine manufacturers, or car/truck dealers from requiring someone to use petroleum diesel (or even a specific blend of biodiesel) to fuel the car:

The Act provides that any warrantor warranting a consumer product to a consumer by means of a written warranty must disclose, fully and conspicuously, in simple and readily understood language, the terms and conditions of the warranty to the extent required by rules of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has enacted regulations governing the disclosure of written consumer product warranty terms and conditions on consumer products actually costing the consumer more than $15. The Rules can be found at 16 C.F.R. Part 700.

Under the terms of the Act, ambiguous statements in a warranty are construed against the drafter of the warranty.   Likewise, service contracts must fully, clearly, and conspicuously disclose their terms and conditions in simple and readily understood language.

Warrantors cannot require that only branded parts be used with the product in order to retain the warranty. This is commonly referred to as the “tie-in sales” provisions, and is frequently mentioned in the context of third-party computer parts, such as memory and hard drives.

Thus, you are free to use any fuel you wish, as long as it meets the qualifications as an approved motor fuel for use in the type engine (in this case combustion) you have purchased.  Since biodiesel purchased from a reputable, registered biodiesel supplier (like TBI) meets or exceeds the ASTM D6751 standard, the fuel can be used in any diesel engine without fear of voiding the warranty.

With biodiesel that meets the D-6751 specification, there have been over 45 million miles of successful, problem-free, real-world operation with B20 blends in a wide variety of engines, climates, and applications. The steps taken by the biodiesel industry to work with the engine companies and to ensure that fuel meets the newly accepted ASTM standards provides confidence to users and engine manufacturers that their biodiesel experiences will be positive and trouble-free.

For more information about biodiesel blends and engine warranties, see the NBB guidelines at:

Biodiesel Blends above 5% and engine warranties:

Biodiesel and OEM Warranties –