Is Biodiesel a viable alternative to petroleum for tucks and buses?

Essay by shortroundHigh School, 11th gradeA, August 2008

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

Is biodiesel a viable alternative to diesel from fossil fuels for trucks and buses?

Current practice of producing diesel from fossil fuels is in question regarding its sustainability. As the demand for diesel oils and petroleum, both of which are made from fossil fuels, increases, the supplies are decreasing. Therefore it is imperative we investigate alternative ways to power vehicles. This could alternative could be biodiesel.

I chose this question because oil supplies are being exhausted and we are releasing 8.4 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the Earth's atmosphere each year, which is damaging for the environment. 27% of the US's CO2 emissions are coming from transportation, with 11% coming from trucks and public transportation. Research into feasible alternatives for fuel e.g. electric and hydrogen have been conducted; however the technology needs to be developed further. Biodiesel however is a feasible alternative for which the technology currently exists.

Biodiesel is a liquid fuel made from biological ingredients such as new or used vegetable oils or animal fat, and it is an alternative or additive to standard diesel. It is a cleaner burning replacement and is biodegradable and non-toxic. Biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils or animal fats through a series of chemical reactions. The fats are known as triacylglycerols which are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are bonded together. Glycerol (C3H5(OH)3) is present in all biodiesels. Attached to it, are three long chains containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen; these are known as the fatty acids, as shown:

To turn a fat into biodiesel a process called transesterification is used. This is when the fat is purified and then reacted with methanol (CH3OH) or ethanol (CH3CH2OH) in the presence of a catalyst (a substance that increases the rate of the chemical reaction) such as potassium...