Biodiesel was actually invented long before the diesel engine. In 1853, Duffy and Patrick accomplished transesterification, or the moving of the oil esters off the glycerine part of oil and onto an alcohol. This results in a thinner product that can be used as fuel in place of diesel. Although his first diesel combustion was done using coal dust, Rudolf Diesel first ran a motor on peanut oil in 1893, thus creating the mechanism for the future use of biodiesel. The first patent for a fuel made through transesterification was in Belgium in 1937. And in 1977, the Brazilian scientist Expedito Parente invented the first industrial process for the production of biodiesel. In the 90’s, biofuel went through its infancy for general automotive use, and this century has blossomed into a full on alternative for the average diesel car driver.
Biodiesel has better lubricating properties and a higher cetane rating than today’s low sulfur diesel fuels. When it is added to regular petroleum based diesel, it reduces fuel system wear. Typically used at levels of 2% to 5%, this mixture is known as BD2 and BD5. Biodiesel has almost no sulfur content. Modern diesel fuel is known as Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel or ULSD, as almost all the sulfur used for lubricity has been removed. Biodiesel is therefore often used as an additive to ULSD fuel to aid with lubrication. Both Volkswagen and Audi endorse using up to 5%, or BD5, in their engines to combat lubricity issues.