The U.S. Canola Association has called upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) update the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) lifecycle analysis for canola to make its oil eligible as a feedstock for the production of “renewable diesel.” This diesel is produced through a different process than biodiesel and the current RFS feedstock approval for canola as an advanced biofuel does not allow for it as renewable diesel. Market demand for renewable diesel and industry investment has been increasing, creating a potential market opportunity for canola.
Types of Diesel
What is the difference between renewable diesel and biodiesel? While both are made from organic biomasses, they differ in their sources and production processes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Here is a run-down of the three types of diesel:
Petroleum Diesel:Conventional (petroleum-based) fossil fuel is made from crude oil — hydrocarbons, organic compounds and small amounts of metal from millions of years ago. To make petroleum diesel, crude oil is removed from the ground, pumped into a refinery, and subjected to a heat- and pressure-based process called hydrogenation.
Biodiesel:Instead of fossil fuels, biodiesel is made exclusively from lipids, such as vegetable oils, animal fats, grease and algae, which are renewable. It is also processed differently than petroleum and renewable diesel using transesterification, giving it different physical properties and hence, different fuel specifications. In addition, biodiesel is generally blended with petroleum diesel at a 5 to 20 percent ratio.
Renewable Diesel:Like biodiesel, renewable diesel is made of non-petroleum, renewable resources. But unlike biodiesel, these resources include lipids and cellulosic biomass, such as crop residues, woody biomass and dedicated energy crops. Renewable diesel is processed like petroleum diesel with hydrogenation or other thermochemical and biochemical means, making it chemically similar. That allows it to be used in engines designed to run on petroleum diesel without blending.
Both biodiesel and renewable diesel have places in the market and trump petroleum diesel as more sustainable, environmentally friendly choices. Canola oil is an excellent feedstock for these valuable fuels, including as a waste product in renewable diesel due to its use in high volumes by many foodservice operations and value as a heart-healthy, edible oil. Its usage in renewable diesel allows consumers to benefit from it for both personal and environmental health: first from consumption and secondly in their vehicles.