What Is Biodiesel?

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification. It is the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel.

A Technical Definition

Fuel-grade biodiesel must be produced to strict industry specifications in order to ensure proper performance. Biodiesel blends meet specifications for legal diesel motor fuel (ASTM D7467). Also, B100 must meet the ASTM definition for biodiesel itself (ASTM D6751). Raw vegetable oil cannot meet these diesel fuel specifications and therefore is not considered biodiesel.

The technical definition of biodiesel is as follows:

Biodiesel, n - a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100, and meeting the requirements of ASTM D 6751. 

Biodiesel Blend, n - a blend of biodiesel fuel meeting ASTM D 6751 with petroleum-based diesel fuel, designated BXX, where XX represents the volume percentage of biodiesel fuel in the blend.

Producing Biodiesel

Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification whereby the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products – methyl esters and glycerin.

Methyl esters is the chemical name for biodiesel and glycerin is used in a variety of products, including soap.

Growth of An Industry

Biodiesel’s early growth was careful and deliberate, with a focus on sustainability for the industry. Biodiesel works seamlessly with existing infrastructure and vehicles, and the industry has spent significant time documenting and showcasing the fuel’s abilities. Today, more than 78 percent of diesel vehicles coming off production lines are approved for up to B20 use.

Current Production

Biodiesel production spans across the US and has grown to more than 125 plants with the capacity to produce 3 billion gallons. In 2018, the US biodiesel industry produced 2.6 billion gallons of biodiesel. Production isn’t only about gallons produced, but also about the economic benefits to the US. The biodiesel industry supports nearly 60,000 jobs and generates billions of dollars in GDP, household income and tax revenues.

Biodiesel Availability

Biodiesel is available nationwide and blends over 4 percent are required to be labeled at the pump. Look for the Black and Blue biodiesel sticker when filling up. Biodiesel can be purchased through distributors or at retail locations.


New land is not required for biodiesel production. Instead, this advanced biofuel uses readily available, diverse resources. And, that’s not all. Biodiesel has several environmental benefits when compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel:

  • Reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases by 86 percent
  • Lowers particulate matter by 47 percent, reduces smog and makes our air healthier to breathe
  • Reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67 percent
  • For every unit of fossil energy it takes to produce biodiesel, 3.5 units of renewable energy are returned, the best of any U.S. fuel

What is Bioheat® fuel?

Bioheat® fuel is a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil. It is a simple choice and a smart solution that results in a better fuel for your home and the environment. Bioheat® fuel blends are the future of heating oil and are taking the industry by storm. Dealers today are commonly delivering Bioheat® fuel blends from as little as B2 all the way up to even B100. Heating customers should consult their fuel dealer on the benefits of each, and on what type of Bioheat® fuel blend is best for their home. More information can be found at www.mybioheat.com

Terms & Acronyms

To help, we've compiled an assortment of basic terms and acronyms and created a simple list to help keep track of key industry information.


For additional information on biodiesel see our Biodiesel Fact Sheets.


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