What is biodiesel? Definition, history and production:

biodiesel describes a fuel that is made entirely from oil plants. In Europe, it is obtained in particular from sunflower or rapeseed (see picture) with the addition of alcohols. Biodiesel produced from vegetable oil is also known as FAME, the short form for Fatty Acid Methyl Esther. It is used as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil diesel based on mineral oil. Biodiesel can be used neatly or as an admixture in various motor vehicles. Diesel, to which up to 7 percent biodiesel has been added, does not have to be labeled and can theoretically be used in any vehicle.

History of biodiesel

Initial attempts to extract fuel for engines from vegetable oil and alcohol were made as early as the mid-19th century. The inventor of the diesel engine Rudolf Diesel In 1900 in a lecture pointed out that certain engines can be easily operated with vegetable oil. However, the use of vegetable oil as a fuel did not prevail until the Second World War, after some countries in Europe, Asia and America with rape and soybean oil performed to operate battleships and vehicles. Today, several million tons of biodiesel are consumed in Europe alone. Well over ninety percent of the diesel fuel sold today contains biodiesel with an average share of more than 6.6 percent.


The production of biodiesel is based on the process of transesterification of fatty acids in vegetable oil with methanol, a monohydric alcohol. As part of this process, glycerine is obtained, which is used in cosmetics, medical products and food. The big advantage of biodiesel is that its greenhouse gas balance is much better compared to fossil diesel. However, the oil crops used must come from sustainable agriculture to prevent the release of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Over the last few decades, critics have repeatedly called attention to the problem of "food vs. fuel" ("Teller versus Tank"). Therefore, many biodiesel producers today emphasize that they do not use staple foods, but only expressly approved oils for the production of this fuel.