Renewable Diesel Versus Biodiesel: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Renewable Diesel vs. Biodiesel

Renewable Diesel Versus Biodiesel: Which Is Right for Your Business?

As the world adopts more eco-friendly practices, businesses are now encouraged to switch to lower-emitting fuel alternatives. If you run a business that relies heavily on petroleum diesel fuel, you could lower your emissions and help clean the air in your community by switching to renewable diesel or biodiesel.

What Is Renewable Diesel?

Renewable diesel is made from natural waste like vegetable oil and grease. From an environmental perspective, this makes renewable diesel an ideal alternative to petroleum diesel, which is derived from crude oil and is a non-renewable resource.

What Is Renewable Diesel?

Renewable diesel is also known as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) because of its common source. Since it derives from natural, organic products, HVO is 100% renewable. The world has an infinite supply of renewable diesel because it is made from products that are constantly being re-grown from the Earth’s soil. Whereas crude oil requires digging and drilling in select regions, vegetable oil comes from products that are harvested throughout the world on a seasonal basis. Simply put, the world might have a finite supply of crude oil, but there will always be vegetables as long as water-based life exists on this planet.

Renewable diesel can be made by one of three different processes: hydrotreating, thermal conversion, and biomass-to-liquid. Each process radically alters the original composition and chemical makeup of the raw material:

  • Hydrotreating: Alternately known as hydrogenation, this method utilizes triglycerides, which add hydrogen to raw materials to eliminate elements of oxygen, nitrogen, and metal. Once the oil has undergone this process, it will burn cleaner as renewable diesel.
  • Thermal conversion: Alternately known as depolymerization, thermal conversion creates oil out of carbonized biomass. Once the oil is derived, refinement processes are employed to render the oil appropriate for fuel purposes.
  • Biomass-to-liquid: This process involves gasification, which is employed at high temperatures to convert biomass into synthetic, hydrogen-rich gas mixtures.

The benefits of renewable diesel are numerous since it works in all climates and requires no engine modifications. Renewable diesel can be used in all types of automobiles throughout the four seasons of the year, even in subzero temperatures. Vehicles that use renewable diesel can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%, thanks to the fuel’s highly efficient combustion and high cetane number, which is somewhere in the range of 75 to 85.

Renewable diesel is compatible with North America’s preexisting infrastructure for fuel distribution and can therefore be adopted by fuel services throughout the U.S. and Canada in place of conventional fuel types. The fuel can be stored in the same storage tanks previously used to house petroleum fuel.

While renewable diesel works best when added directly to an engine, the fuel can also be mixed with biodiesel and fossil diesel.

What Is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel made from byproducts of the meat and vegetable industries, such as soybean oil and chicken fat. Alternately referred to as fatty acid methyl ester, biodiesel can also be made from algae and similar organic materials. During the production stages, the oils or fats undergo a transesterification process where the ingredients are purified, but not stripped of oxygen.

Biodiesel is typically distributed in a petroleum diesel-biodiesel mix at a ratio of 5% to 20% biodiesel. While the 20% ratio is the maximum allowed by automakers, the majority of fleets use mixes with 5% biodiesel, as it is generally believed that higher amounts could cause problems with the seals in a vehicle’s engine components.

Unlike renewable diesel, the properties of biodiesel are affected by ambient conditions. In cold weather, the condition of biodiesel will depend on how the feedstock of the supply in question might take to such temperatures.

Renewable Diesel Versus Biodiesel

The difference between renewable diesel and biodiesel boils down to the processes made for each. With renewable diesel, the process is similar to petroleum diesel production.

Benefits of Renewable Diesel

The advantages of renewable diesel range from environmental to monetary:

  • Compatible with preexisting infrastructures: Renewable diesel fuel can be distributed to existing fuel supply systems. Renewable fuel is also acceptable in existing diesel engines. Therefore, no upgrades are required to use renewable fuel.
  • Environmentally friendly: Renewable fuel drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and makes for cleaner air in trafficked areas.
  • Incentivized in certain territories: In California and New York, programs have been enacted to encourage businesses to switch from petroleum fuel to renewable diesel, suggesting a trend that could spread nationwide.
  • Higher production costs: For now, renewable diesel costs more to produce than conventional fuel types, though incentive programs in certain states could offset these costs.

Ultimately, the positives of renewable diesel far outweigh the negatives.

Benefits of Biodiesel

The advantages of biodiesel are considerable, given that it makes good use of biomass and helps reduce your carbon footprint:

Benefits of Biodiesel

  • Reduces emissions: Biodiesel emits fewer greenhouse gases, rendering vehicles and diesel power generators friendlier to the environment.
  • Utilizes organic feedstock: Biodiesel is made from organic products such as algae and vegetable oil. Basically, the production of biodiesel puts byproducts and waste from the food industry to better use.
  • Not suitable for cold environments: Biodiesel contains oxygen and is therefore prone to contents separation, sludginess, and increased emissions during cold weather.

Overall, businesses stand to benefit by using renewable diesel or biodiesel.

How to Choose the Right Best Type of Diesel for Your Business

Depending on the type of business you operate, you could boost efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint by switching from petroleum diesel to one of the main alternatives, namely renewable diesel or biodiesel fuel. Both fuel types are suitable in a range of industries, including the following:

Mining Operations

Diesel generators have become standard throughout the mining industry, where diesel fuel powers the vast majority of operations. At coal mining sites, work crews rely on high-powered tools for ground excavation and rock breaking.

To power the cranes, drills, and conveyor belts employed by mining crews, diesel fuel must handle the various temperatures that crews and machinery might encounter during the course of an excavation, which may take many months or years to complete. Since it contains no oxygen content, renewable diesel is the ideal fuel alternative for the mining industry, which operates year-round in a variety of climates.

Healthcare Facilities

At hospitals and medical clinics, power must be available around the clock, 365 days a year. If the power goes out for even a minute, lives could be at stake. That is why modern-day hospitals use diesel engine generators as a power backup source for times when local power grids experience brownouts and blackouts.

Diesel Engine Generators

In the event of a power outage, the diesel generator ensures that each patient on life support, feeding tubes, or other vital life-preserving equipment continues to have his or her needs met without interruption. Since temperatures are regulated within the compartments that store the diesel engine generators at hospitals, both renewable diesel and biodiesel can serve as alternatives to petroleum diesel at medical facilities.

Shopping Malls and Storefronts

Time is money in the business world, where transactions occur every minute that add up over the course of a day. If a business goes without power for even an hour, the loss could be substantial, especially if the interruption affects communications with big clients and corporations. Even if the problem is localized to a shopping mall or retail storefront, untold sums of money could be lost during a blackout, as registers fail, computers crash and customers take their business elsewhere.

To avoid these problems, smart businesses use diesel generators for power backup in case the electrical grid shuts off for any length of time. Given the regulated temperatures inside storefronts, shopping malls, and business buildings, diesel generators at these establishments can be supplied with both biodiesel and renewable diesel.

Oil and Gas

At drilling locations, work crews operate pieces of machinery to extract raw fuel from the ground. These machines rely on diesel generators for most of their energy, since the majority of operations occur far off the power grid. As a source of power for all the drilling and pumping machines at drilling sites, renewable diesel is the ideal alternative to petroleum diesel.

Compared to conventional diesel, renewable diesel is cleaner burning and friendlier to the environment. The reduced emissions afforded by renewable diesel can significantly lower a drilling company’s carbon footprint. Renewable energy is also free of oxygen, which makes it more ideal than biodiesel for cold-weather drilling operations.

Construction Crews

Construction crews rely on diesel generators for power at sites in developed and remote settings. When construction work is underway on hot days, diesel fuel powers the air conditioners that keep work crews from over-perspiring under the humid sun. Diesel fuel also powers lighting equipment at construction sites to allow for evening and night work.

In the event of a local blackout, the diesel generator allows work crews to continue without interruption, thus avoiding the costly delays that would otherwise be incurred by the parties involved. For cranes and other nearby working equipment, renewable diesel is a viable alternative to petroleum diesel at America’s construction sites.

Festivals and Carnivals

At outdoor events, diesel generators are often the only option for lighting and equipment power. Given how many of these events take place off the power grid, a diesel generator is the only source of energy for sound systems, lighting fixtures, refrigerators, and USB charging ports. In essence, diesel generators and the fuel inside them make outdoor events profitable for the organizers and hosting companies as well as comfortable and enjoyable for those in attendance.

Considering that most of these events take place in the spring and summer months, renewable diesel and biodiesel are both practical alternatives to petroleum-based diesel for the generators used at festivals and carnivals.

Manufacturing Plants

At manufacturing plants, fuel is used to power a variety of equipment that cannot be confined by connection cords. Moreover, diesel is used to fuel backup power generators, which are vital to manufacturing plants everywhere. Without diesel generators, a manufacturing plant could suffer huge setbacks in the event of a power blackout.

Manufacturing Plant Generators

Productions can be costly on all fronts, and a manufacturing line relies on nonstop power during each stage of the process. If the power goes out for even an hour, production volumes stall and certain products can spoil during the downtime. To fuel the generators that prevent these costly blackouts, renewable diesel is the best alternative to petroleum diesel fuel for year-round productions in both warm and cold weather.

Agriculture

On farmlands across America, diesel fuel is used to power the tractors and plows that prepare the land for new seasons of cops. With diesel fuel, farmers can also power the irrigation systems that bring newly planted crops to fruition. Given all the fuel required at farming sites for stationary and moving equipment, farmers often rely on diesel generators as the primary power source for agricultural operations.

At many farms, the roads that lead to and from the nearest fuel stations are too narrow for some of the larger pieces of rolling stock. This makes it all the more practical for farmers to have on-site diesel generators for the majority of operations, which can be powered with either biodiesel or renewable diesel.

Cloud Storage Providers

In the business world, computer data is resourced every minute to access customer records, order information, and internal software programs. Today’s organizations rely on cloud servers for access to data in all time zones. This makes it possible for authorized personnel to access company databases at any time, day or night, from any location, whether from a PC or mobile device.

At the operating headquarters of a cloud server, it is crucial to have nonstop power to keep the data accessible to businesses that pay for the service. Any downtime, however brief, could be costly for the companies impacted. If power grid failure does affect a cloud server headquarters, renewable diesel or biodiesel are both ideal fueling options for the diesel generators that serve as backup power supplies.

Schools and Universities

In earlier decades, power outages at schools meant added free time for students. Today, there are too many technological components at risk for a school or university to go without power. If a local blackout occurs and a school has no electricity, numerous things could go wrong in their technology departments, especially if dozens of students are in the process of taking standardized tests or saving their work onto class servers or flash drives. Blackouts could also send alarm systems, electronic doors, and sprinklers into chaos.

To ensure that all operations run as intended without interruption, schools and universities need onsite supplies of fuel as a power backup option. For campus diesel generators, renewable diesel and biodiesel are both practical options that provide clean-burning, eco-friendly energy at times when the main power is down for any reason.

School Fuel Supply

Commercial Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Services from Shipley Energy

In the commercial and industrial sectors, it is crucial to have power running nonstop, around the clock, to ensure that processes continue without interruption. To make that happen, you must have fuel for your backup power option. At Shipley Energy, we provide alternative fuels to businesses in select areas of Pennsylvania and Maryland. For more about how your business can utilize renewable fuel options, contact Shipley Energy to learn about our commercial biodiesel and renewable diesel services.