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FAQ / What Is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel consists of chemicals known as fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) that can be used as a diesel fuel substitute or diesel fuel additive. Biodiesel is typically made from oils produced from agricultural crops such as soybeans or canola but can also be made from various other feedstocks such as animal fats.

Currently, most biodiesel in the United States is produced from soybean oil, but recent increases in soybean crop prices have caused producers to switch to other feedstocks such as waste animal fats from processing plants or recycled grease from restaurants. Biodiesel can be made from virtually any feedstock that contains an adequate amount of free fatty acids, which are the raw materials that are converted to biodiesel through a chemical process. Research is underway to harvest algae for biodiesel production because they contain fat pockets that help them float, and this fat can be collected and processed into biodiesel. Continued biodiesel production and usage will help the United States meet levels of biofuels consumption mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard.

In addition to biodiesel derived from FAME, it is also possible to make a diesel fuel substitute from cellulosic material. This fuel, sometimes called renewable diesel, would also count towards meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate. Like cellulosic ethanol, however, its commercial viability has yet to be demonstrated.



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