Biofuels are transportation fuels made from biomass materials. Biomass materials are found within our everyday lives. They include used cooking oils, wood debris, processing waste, and crops. The fuels are typically blended with petroleum fuels, but they can be used on their own as well. They are a cleaner burning fuel alternative when compared with diesel and gasoline, and biofuels can help improve air quality, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and boost economic development.
Biodiesel can be produced from different types of oils, but in South Carolina biofuels are primarily produced from soybean oil and used cooking oil. Future feedstocks could include algae oil and oils from other native crops. Biodiesel is commonly blended into diesel in a range from 2 percent to 99 percent. However, the most common blend is called B20, which contains 80 percent regular diesel fuel mixed with 20 percent biodiesel.
Low-level blends of biodiesel, like B5 and B20, can be used in all diesel vehicles; some manufacturers are even looking to approve blends as high as B30. However, medium- to high-level blends of biodiesel (B75, B100) should only be used in diesel vehicles that have been designed to operate with medium to high levels of biodiesel. Contact Palmetto Clean Fuels or your vehicle manufacturer to find out if your vehicle can use medium to high levels of biodiesel. Biodiesel’s solvent effect may release carbon deposits that have accumulated on tank walls and pipes from impurities in diesel fuel. The release of these deposits can cause filters to clog initially, but long-term use of biodiesel results in lower maintenance costs.
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Ethanol is manufactured exclusively from biomass sources such as agricultural grain products. E85 fuel is created by mixing 85 percent ethanol with 15 percent conventional gasoline. Vehicles that can run on E85 and conventional gasoline are called flex-fuel vehicles. Multiple auto manufacturers now host models with the flex-fuel capability as a standard feature. E85-compatible vehicles are equipped with a yellow gas cap. E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, is more widely accepted in vehicles. Check your owner’s manual for more information.
While most ethanol is created from corn products, many researchers are finding ways to create ethanol from the cellulosic breakdown of native, non-food plants like switchgrass, miscanthus, and many others.
On a lifecycle analysis basis, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reduced on average by 34 percent with corn-based ethanol produced from dry mills and up to 108 percent if cellulosic feedstocks are used, compared with gasoline and diesel production and use.
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A direct substitute for normal diesel fuel, renewable diesel is refined from lower carbon and renewable source materials. Renewable diesel is a hydrocarbon produced from processing fats, vegetable oils, and waste cooking oils and is indistinguishable from conventional diesel. Benefits of using renewable diesel include better vehicle performance, reduced maintenance, cleaner burning, less odor, and a greater than 50 percent lifetime reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to petroleum-derived diesel. Renewable diesel is considered a “drop-in” fuel, meaning no changes need to be made to existing engine components.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), sometimes referred to as renewable jet fuel, is made by blending conventional kerosene with renewable hydrocarbons. SAF is certified as “Jet-A1” fuel and is a “drop-in” fuel. SAF can be used interchangeably with petroleum-based aviation fuel with no required alterations to the aircraft or fueling infrastructure. These drop-in jet fuels are produced from a broad range of hydrocarbon sources (feedstocks) using a wide range of conversion processes. These fuels are sometimes referred to as synthetic fuels — fuel produced from sources other than petroleum via biochemical or thermochemical processes. The fuel can be blended up to 50 percent with conventional jet fuel, following ASTM D7566 specifications.
Depending on the feedstock and production pathway used, alternative aviation fuels can offer reductions in GHG emissions when compared to conventional fuels. Recent research has found that some approved pathways have up to an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to conventional jet fuel, assuming no land-use change.
In local news, Boeing is working on the logistics of offering the use of SAF to its customers at its South Carolina Delivery Center in North Charleston, SC.
Since 2006, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) has sought to enhance energy security and environmental sustainability for aviation through the use of SAF. CAAFI is a coalition of airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, energy producers, researchers, international participants, and US government agencies. Together, these stakeholders are leading the development and deployment of SAF for commercial and business aviation.
Learn more about renewable biofuels such as renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.