Can You Use Biodiesel In a Generator?

Increasingly, our industrial power sales team is being asked whether it’s possible to use biodiesel in a standby generator system. It’s not a straightforward answer because there are some biodiesel fuels that can be used, and some that can’t. If you’re looking to “go green” and reduce your carbon footprint, there are some things you should know about using biodiesel in a standby generator.

Biodiesel Engines Aren’t New

The earliest diesel engines produced around the turn of the last century were designed to run on peanut oil. Demonstrated at the Paris World Exhibition, the technology was built as a clean, safe, inexpensive option for “modern” engines.

But, peanut oil was more difficult to refine, more difficult to transport, and costlier for consumers than petroleum products. Thus, the cheaper alternative won the day, and decades since. However, strict Tier 4 standards, global instability in oil supplies, rising costs, and greater attention to eco-friendly operations have brought back into focus the potential of biodiesel alternatives.

BioDiesel 101

Biodiesel is often produced from soybeans, sunflower seeds, rape seeds, and even palm oil. If it’s not sufficiently refined, the viscosity makes it appear almost like molasses. Vegetable based biodiesel fuels are produced by reacting a combination of vegetable oil with alcohol. This transesterification process creates alcohol ester. This finished product closely resembles the properties of petrochemical-based diesel.

Biodiesel Isn’t a Cheaper Alternative

Biodiesel can reduce your carbon footprint. It can deliver the same performance. It is significantly safer to transport and store. But, it is more expensive than traditional diesel. Plus, it’s harder to find. Unless you have a nearby source, it’s unlikely you will find a company capable of delivering fuel to your location. Further, even if you do find a nearby source, you are going to have trouble finding a backup supplier if the regular provider’s tanks run dry.

Biodiesel Will Run In a Generator

Biodiesel can be used in any generator provided it is pure biodiesel. However, if you use biodiesel made from animal fat or vegetable oil, your engine will require a conversion. That’s because fat and plant-based biodiesel are typically thicker. This requires you to start the generator on regular diesel fuel to warm the system up before pure plant/animal-based biodiesel will flow through the system. And, that’s another problem; two fuels require two different fuel storage tanks.

Are you considering using biodiesel fuel for your standby generator system? Contact the generator specialists at Gen-Tech at (800) 625-8324 and our industrial power sales team will be happy to answer your questions and discuss your fuel options with you. We’ll give you the honest advice and dependable recommendations you can use to make the best decision for your operational needs.

Posted Under: industrial power sales