UC Davis Works to Develop Renewable Diesel Fuels

Joanna Schroeder

Researchers at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) located at University of California, Riverside, are working to develop diesel formulations with higher levels of renewable biofuels. The research supports the goal of California to reduce emissions in fuels and lower greenhouse gases.

So far, researchers have evaluated the potential impacts of using biodiesel in diesel sold in the state. A common biodiesel blend is B20 (20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel) and many believe that higher blends can be successfully used. Research has shown that biodiesel lowers carbon dioxide emissions because it is produced from renewable sources.

Biodiesel use and production is on the upward swing in the U.S. and over the past decade has jumped from 2 million gallons produced annually in 2002 to 1.1 billion gallons produced in 2011 according the National Biodiesel Board.

Although biodiesel provides benefits in a number of emissions components, such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, one issue with biodiesel is its potential to increase nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, a key contributor to smog. Therefore, researchers are studying this closely to develop diesel formulations that would use biodiesel at higher levels, such as B20, while reducing or eliminating any NOx emissions.

“The results show that research is still needed to find optimal biofuel blends that achieve maximum environmental benefits in all aspects,” said Thomas D. Durbin, a research engineer at CE-CERT and the lead author of the recent journal article in Environmental Science and Technology where the findings were outlined.

California is looking to increase the use of B5 blends but is looking for more research before adopting widespread use of higher biodiesel blends.

Biodiesel, biofuels, Research