Distillate Usage Patterns in Minnesota: Development of Data and Tools To Analyze Policies Affecting Biodiesel Usage


Douglas Tiffany

January 2005

Report no. MnDOT 2005-08

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oils or animal fats that can substitute for diesel fuel in engines or fuel oil in furnaces. Biodiesel is produced by the process of transesterification, a simple chemical process that breaks individual triglyceride molecules into three molecules of methyl esters consisting of long chain fatty acids, similar to diesel derived from petroleum. Biodiesel has proven lubricity benefits at low blends, which will be important when sulfur levels are reduced in the U.S. supply of diesel in 2006. In addition, blends of biodiesel and its usage in a pure form reduce particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOC), as well as other toxic gases and Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Reduced emissions from biodiesel blends result from its zero sulfur content and higher oxygen content versus petro-diesel. Federal standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may force local authorities to implement a variety of policies to reduce VOC's, one of the precursors of ground level ozone formation, and other toxic emissions. There is also substantial concern among public health professionals concerning the formation of particulate matter (PM) from diesel engines, especially when originating from school buses, transit buses, and diesel-powered electrical generators.

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