Biodiesel Yields Higher Energy Balance

A new study shows for every unit of energy needed to produce biodiesel 3.5 units are gained.

The University of Idaho in cooperation with the USDA researched the energy balance of biodiesel and found that the positive ratio has increased since the last study was performed in 1998. In that study, the National Renewable Energy Lab found that for every unit of fossil energy used to produce biodiesel 3.2 units was gained. The new research shows that ratio has increased to 3.5 to 1.

"The bottom line is that the energy balance of biodiesel has definitely improved in the last decade," says University of Idaho Department Head of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Jon Van Gerpen. "The increase in soybean yields and a decrease in herbicide use greatly contributed to the increased energy balance. Meanwhile, energy used for crushing soybeans is significantly lower than what was reported in the NREL study."

The results of the study were released Wednesday at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Orlando. The announcement was made during a session exploring new developments in feedstocks for biodiesel, such as higher oil content in soybeans and other potential feedstocks. The National Biodiesel Board, in an attempt to help the market find additional feedstocks for biodiesel, has launched a development initiative that has found new sources, such as algae.

"As demand for biodiesel climbs, having enough feedstock available at a competitive price will continue to be an important issue," says Ed Hegland, NBB chairman. "Soybean oil will continue to play an important role, but we are also excited about the prospect of algae and other feedstocks on the horizon."

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