Frequently asked questions

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a diesel fuel with properties that strongly correspond to ordinary diesel. Biodiesel is a methyl ester that can be made from products such as vegetable oil. In Europe, colza oil (rape oil-methyl-ester, RME) is most commonly used, but other oils such as sunflower oil and soya oil are also suitable for this purpose. Spent frying fat and animal fats are also used as a raw product.

What is the quality level of biodiesel?

There is an international quality standard for biodiesel. The production of biodiesel is subject to European standard EN 14214. This is a product standard for pure biodiesel. The standard guarantees the production of a high quality, responsible form of biodiesel. Members of the VNBI mainly use colza seed as a raw product to meet the requirements of this quality standard. Palm oil, which is used as a raw product in large parts of the world, is less suitable for the Northern-European countries. Palm oil coagulates during colder times of the year.

What are biofuels?

Biofuels are liquid or gaseous fuels that are extracted from biomass. Biofuels can replace fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. Biofuels have been already been used in internal combustion engines for a hundred years. The inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel, was already running his engines on peanut oil at the end of the 19th century, and Henry Ford considered bio-ethanol to be the most suitable fuel for his T-Fords at the beginning of the last century. There are various types of biofuel (see also point 3). The currently commercially available ones are pure plant oil (PPO), biodiesel, bio-ethanol and oil from remnant substances. A lot of research is also being conducted into advanced production methods.

What biofuels are currently available?

The currently commercially available ones are pure plant oil (PPO), biodiesel, bio-ethanol and oil from remnant substances. Click here for more information.

What is meant by 1st and 2nd generation biofuels?

The term 1st and 2nd generation biofuels is used to indicate that there may be a big difference between the CO2 emission reductions of the various biofuels. The biofuels such as biodiesel from products such as colza oil or sunflower oil and alcohol from sugar beets or corn are also referred to as first generation biofuels. These have already been commercially available for a number of years in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, the United States and Brazil, and achieve a maximum CO2 emission reduction of 50%. The further development of these biofuels results in biofuels with a CO2 emission reduction of around 90%. These biofuels are generally based on a more advanced production technology (such as Fischer-Tropsch (FT) and cellulose fermentation), but relatively simple production technologies are also able to yield biofuels with a high CO2 emission reduction of around 90%. In short, rather than making a distinction between the 1st and 2nd generation it is better to refer to the reduction potential of the fuels.

Can I use biodiesel in my car?

If your car is diesel fuelled you are already using a blend of 95% diesel and 5% biodiesel. This is laid down in European standard EN590 (the standardisation of diesel for passenger cars and the haulage sector). In many cases as much as 20% biodiesel can be blended without any difficulties. The car needs manufacturer approval to use diesel with a blend of more than 20% or even 100% biodiesel.

Where can I find biodiesel?

Click here for a biodiesel map of the Netherlands.

Click here for a biodiesel map of the UK.

Why is it important to use biodiesel?

Fossil fuels are finite and will run out in the future. It is therefore important to develop alternative fuels. But there is also another reason to use biodiesel. Since the raw material for it is available in our own region, our country will become less dependent on unstable oil producing countries for its fuel requirements.

What happens if biodiesel gets into the soil or water?

If biodiesel gets into the soil or the water it is naturally broken down and is not harmful to the environment. For this reason only biodiesel is used in the forestry sector in some countries, and the lubricants are based on colza oil.

What about the ‘black smoke’ that diesel produces?
As recently covered in the news, the government plans to reduce the smoke emission of diesel (such as that produced by lorries and buses).

Diesel engines often produce smoke because the diesel engine has not been adjusted properly. This phenomenon can be greatly reduced by using biodiesel, preferably pure. This substantially reduces the soot emission (smoke), which is one of the favourable properties of biodiesel.

How much sulphur does biodiesel contain?
Biodiesel contains virtually 0% sulphur and therefore makes a huge contribution to reducing the emission of the sulphur produced by normal diesel.

Does biodiesel cost more than fossil diesel?

The price of biodiesel is related to the prices of the raw products. These are mainly agricultural products, the harvest prices of which vary. The question of whether biodiesel costs more than fossil diesel is related to the price of mineral oil. That price is expected to rise sharply in the years to come. Biodiesel is a responsible alternative in pricing terms.

Is biodiesel dangerous?

No, biodiesel is classified as a non-hazardous substance. It is not toxic, it is biologically degradable and, with its flashpoint of more than 120°C, it does not cause a fire hazard.

Are there any examples of experiences with using biodiesel?

Click here for practical examples in the Netherlands.

Does the government encourage the use of biodiesel?

No, it does not provide any financial incentives. The government does make it compulsory for oil companies to mix diesel oil with biodiesel. This is based on European policy, which starts out from standard EN590. The amount of biodiesel to be blended is a fixed percentage that may vary per year. In 2010 the biodiesel blending percentage in the Netherlands was 4 percent. In Germany, Austria and France this approached 7 percent. Sunoil Biodiesel believes that this percentage could easily be raised to 20%. For a higher percentage this requires the approval of the car manufacturer.

How does biodiesel fit within the theme of sustainability?

Biofuels are more sustainable than fossil fuels. They are extracted from vegetable materials (biomass) with a short carbon cycle. This means that the plants and crops extract CO2 from the air, which is released again during incineration. CO2 that was formed in prehistoric times is released when fossil fuels made of coal, oil and gas are burnt. This released CO2 is additional and accelerates the greenhouse effect.

What is the Dutch policy on sustainability and biodiesel?

For the developments in Dutch policy click on the following link of SenterNovem.

Are there any sustainability criteria?

Yes, they have been formulated in detail. There is the CO2 tool of Senternovem, for example. This is the instrument used to calculate the greenhouse emissions in production from biomass. Also, in 2006 the Cramer commission formulated criteria that sustainable energy has to meet to limit the CO2 emission compared to fossil fuels.

What does biodiesel contribute to CO2 reduction?

Taking account of the overall chain from cultivation, transport and processing, each litre of biodiesel saves 2.2 kilograms of CO2. Based on the CO2 calculation tool developed by Ecofys and CE for SenterNovem, this represents a CO2 reduction of about 40%. This percentage may vary depending on which raw product is processed.