All fuels degrade after a certain period of time. The shelf life of bio-diesel varies significantly but if managed properly, bio-diesel can last long. The following article seeks to discuss what biodiesel is, its benefits, the factors affecting the life of bio-diesel and answers the question of how is biodiesel stored.
Benefits of Biodiesel
- Reduces global warming: biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon in the atmosphere. When biodiesel burns, it emits carbon dioxide in the air but crops that are used to make biodiesel take up this carbon dioxide from the air. A recent study revealed that biodiesel reduces carbon emissions into the air by 78% when compared with petrol.
- Biodiesel can be used in the engines of vehicles without executing any changes to the structure of the vehicle. Biodiesel can be stored, pumped and burned the same as any petroleum fuel. Biodiesel can also be used in blends or pure.
- Biodiesel is less toxic to the environment. When a spill of biodiesel comes in contact with animals and plants, it does no harm compared to other fuels. These attributes render biodiesel less harmful to the environment and less expensive to clean up and repair damage.
The main factors that influence the storage of biodiesel include:
- Microbial contamination
- Light exposure
- Air exposure
- Chemical contamination
- The kind of feedstock
If biodiesel is contaminated by a microbe, the growth of the organism will render it unusable in a few hours. To prevent such a reaction, you should always ensure that when storing biodiesel, you do it air tight biodiesel tanks. If your bio diesel has suffered microbial contamination, use a biocide to kill the microbes.
Oxidative damage also spoils biodiesel fuel at a fast rate. A question that most people ask is how is biodiesel stored to prevent oxidation. Oxygen attacks the chemical composition of biodiesel molecules. The oxidative attack causes acidic compounds to be formed and the fuel becomes acidic and lets out a rancid odor. As oxidation continues, the biodiesel becomes viscous and more corrosive and even starts to form sediments. Some of the factors that affect how long oxidative damage takes to render your fuel unusable include:
- The free oxygen content of biodiesel. Most biodiesel companies keep their fuel under nitrogen to prevent oxygen damage. A small company can extend the life of their fuel by keeping it in sealed biodiesel tanks. In actuality, the common place plastic diesel tanks that can be acquired cheaply will do if you’re storing it for some time. It’s not hard to find tanks up to a capacity of 1000 litres in Sydney, and elsewhere in Australia.
- Exposure to light: Oxidation can be facilitated by sunlight. To test the effects of sunlight on oxidation, take a small ration of oil and put it directly under the sun and in the open air for a few days. The oil becomes rubbery plastic. This is caused by the formation of polymers during the oxidation of the fuel. Practice storing biodiesel away from direct sunlight.
- Temperature: Cool temperature is good in preserving the life of biodiesel. Oils form polymers when under high temperature and this leads to their degeneration.
- Chemical contamination: Oxidation can be strengthened by trace metals mainly iron, copper and zinc. Biodiesel acts corrosively towards copper, brass and bronze. Therefore, you should ensure that the plumbing, valves and storage of biodiesel is done in containers that are not made of copper, brass or bronze.