Biodiesel 201: Beyond the Basics


Chevron Renewable Energy Group has an introductory guide to biodiesel that we call Biodiesel 101. With growing awareness and adoption of biodiesel among North American fleets, retailers and others in the fuel and transportation segments, namely, those who are more experienced with the renewable fuel may want to learn even more.

So, congrats. You’ve graduated from Biodiesel 101. Welcome to Biodiesel 201.

What differentiates one biodiesel producer from another?

One secret to creating some of the highest-quality biodiesel is in the producer’s manufacturing and purification processes. As an example, Chevron Renewable Energy Group has a proprietary pretreatment and production process that allows us to take lower-cost feedstocks from various sources and refine them into a  lower carbon biodiesel product. This feedstock flexibility provides customers several benefits:

  • Consistent pricing and availability due to the ability to easily switch to a different feedstock without negatively impacting the finished product.
  • The ability to combine various feedstocks to capture some of the best properties from each feedstock type, creating a finished fuel that meets or exceeds the ASTM specifications.
  • Lower carbon emissions as producers can use feedstocks having lower carbon intensity scores.

What is distilled biodiesel? Isn’t distillation a petroleum thing?

Distillation is a purification process for some liquids. Yes, it’s used in petroleum refining (and in alcohol and other production processes). However, it’s also used by some high-tech biodiesel producers. In biodiesel distillation, unrefined methyl esters are evaporated and then recondensed, and minor components that can contribute to filter plugging are left behind. Distillation can do a better job than other types of purification methods at removing minor components, with the end result giving distilled biodiesel advantages over undistilled biodiesel that include superior cold weather performance, exceptional purity and the potential for lower carbon intensity scores.

Biodiesel vs. renewable diesel — what fuel should you consider?

Fleets looking for a drop-in fuel replacement for petroleum diesel often think renewable diesel is the way to go, but biodiesel offers equally impressive performance and reduced carbon emissions. Here are some additional advantages biodiesel provides:

  1. Price — Not only is biodiesel typically less expensive than renewable diesel, it often can cost less than petroleum diesel as well.
  2. Supply — Part of the price difference is due to supply and demand. Biodiesel production is currently higher than renewable diesel production in the U.S., and a lot of the nation’s renewable diesel supply goes to the West Coast.
  3. Emissions — Compared with petroleum diesel, both fuels do a great job at reducing harmful carbon emissions (more on that below). Using biodiesel reduces most engine head emissions, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and total hydrocarbons.

Here’s an added bonus: Like renewable diesel, biodiesel performs well in diesel vehicles. It has higher cetane and added lubricity compared with petroleum diesel. Many fleets say biodiesel’s more complete combustion causes them fewer problems with diesel particulate filters.

I’m already using biodiesel. What’s the next step for me? 

Many first-time biodiesel users start at B5 or B10 blend level. If you’re ready for the next step, try higher blends for increased benefits.

If you’re a retailer, blending at higher levels could help save you money, as many states have financial incentives for biodiesel. 

For fleets, the higher the blend, the more you reduce carbon emissions and the more you gain from performance advantages like increased lubricity and cetane. Check out this video case study of a fleet that studied its use of biodiesel before increasing the blend levels. They now use B20 year-round and enjoy operational and carbon emissions benefits.

Still want to learn more about the right biodiesel blends for your business? Call us at (844) 405-0160 or email us at [email protected].


1 Chevron Renewable Energy Group calculations based on Chevron Renewable Energy Group biodiesel produced from used cooking oil and based on the CA-GREET model




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