Can a diesel generator run on biodiesel?

Here’s a crazy fact: the first diesel engine was designed to run on peanut oil. Nuts, right? Since then, it has become more economical to fuel diesel engines with fossil-fuel diesel, available at your nearest petrol station for a cost just under that of petroleum (most of the time). However, with the green movement gaining momentum as we move further into this new decade, diesel generator operators are feeling the pressure to convert to more eco-friendly fuel sources. One of these is biodiesel. So, can a diesel generator run on biodiesel? Is biodiesel healthier for the environment? Let’s take a look:

What exactly is biodiesel?

One thing to know about biodiesel is that it’s pretty hard to find, and when you can find it – it’s more expensive than regular diesel. Having said that, biodiesel is becoming a popular low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels, and it’s only a matter of time before biodiesel will be as common as petrol and paraffin.

The process of creating biodiesel involves a process called “transesterification”, and can be applied to pure vegetable oil, animal fat, tallow, and even used cooking oil. The latter will require a few more filtrations before becoming useable. Commercial biodiesel production plants use commercial crops like soybean, palm oil, and rapeseed.

Is it better for the environment?

Biodiesel is considered better for the environment, due to the belief that it is a “carbon neutral” fuel source. In other words, the carbon dioxide produced by burning the fuel is neutralised by the carbon dioxide that was absorbed by the rapeseed, soybeans, etc. Whether or not biodiesel is truly carbon neutral, there is no question that growing and re-growing crops for fuel production is much better than destroying valuable fossil fuels that cannot be replaced.

Can biodiesel be used in a diesel generator?

Pure biodiesel can be used in almost any diesel engine or generator. However, when it comes to fuels like animal fat and straight vegetable oil, the generator will require a special conversion. Since vegetable oil is thicker than diesel, a secondary fuel system is installed to start the generator on diesel fuel – then switch over to vegetable oil once it has reached a suitable temperature. So, if you have access to pure biodiesel, you should be able to run your diesel generator on it! And if you want to put your old cooking oil to good use, chat to a generator specialist about a fuel system conversion.

Diesel generator installation & repairs in KwaZulu-Natal

Before grabbing for that crusty bottle of old chip oil at the back of your pantry, give S&A Generators a call to see if your generator is able to run on biodiesel. We’ll be able to advise you on how best to convert your generator into an alternative fuel consumer, or on an eco-friendly replacement generator. If you’re in KwaZulu-Natal and your issue involves a generator – think S&A Generators! Contact us here to arrange a generator conversion assessment.