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New research shows biodiesel energy balance at 4.56:1 and climbing

By | May 11, 2009
Biodiesel has the highest energy balance of any domestically produced transportation fuel, and new research shows the ratio of energy output to lifecycle inputs has increased to an impressive 4.56:1. This energy balance measures energy output for biodiesel compared to the fossil fuel used to produce the renewable fuel.

The latest report from the University of Idaho shows energy used to produce biodiesel from soy (including cultivating, harvesting, transporting, crushing, processing, and fuel transport) compared to the final energy gained from the renewable fuel is constantly moving toward greater energy efficiency. In 1998, the energy balance was 3.2:1. Noted improvements have resulted from farming techniques requiring less fuel than other inputs, more efficient soybean crushing and more efficient conversion to biodiesel. By 2015, the balance is projected to reach 5.44:1.

Petroleum diesel has a negative energy balance and yields only 0.83 units of usable energy per unit of fossil energy consumed.

Biodiesel supporters have long been aware of the fuel's many benefits. With the highest energy content of any alternative fuel produced in the U.S., it has higher average cetane than diesel and similar fuel economy, horsepower and torque. Work continues to improve yields of traditional crops on existing acres and new feedstocks are being developed to bolster what is already the most diversified fuel on the planet.

Dev Shrestha, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at UI, completed the new lifecycle analysis with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and co-authors A. Pradhan, A. McAloon, M. Haas, W. Yee, J. A. Duffield and H. Shapouri. At press time, the report was under final review by the USDA Economic Research Service.
 

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