The Federal Energy Policy Act, passed in August 2005, has accelerated the biodiesel revolution in the country to a phenomenal extent. According to the bill, the United States is to set a new standard to itself and use 7 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012. The said year is not far away and the country is already gearing up to produce gallons of renewable fuels – biodiesel is just one of them. So far, the biodiesel industry has relied only on plant oils (soybean oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil etc) and recycled cooking oils and greases (like yellow grease). With increasing costs of crops and plant oils, the industry has shifted its attention to animal fats like beef tallow and pork lard.
Beef tallow has been identified as a reliable source for biodiesel production. Though chicken fat and lard are used widely, beef tallow has gained prominence in biodiesel production due its cheaper availability and high cloud point. This article will deal with the future scope of using beef tallow as biodiesel.
Beef in your tank: Beef has a remarkable future in the biodiesel industry. There are several reasons for it, but the most important being its ready availability. Tallow is aplenty in the country compared to plant oils. Since plant oil production may affect the raise of crops, which in turn may affect food prices, animal fat is a safe and prudent alternative to soybean oil for biodiesel production. Manufacturers have shifted to animal fat due to cheaper production costs. It is estimated that with 2.5 billion pounds of animal fat (say, chicken fat), a biodiesel company can produce about 300 million gallons of biodiesel. Since biodiesel quality, usage and production varies with different blends, companies gain a lot from manufacturing biodiesel with animal fat like tallow.
Main drivers behind biodiesel production: Biodiesel has a stable future because of its environment-friendly condition. Biodiesel produced using tallow is greener compared to regular fossil based fuels, gasoline or even plant-oil based fuels. It is renewable, energy-efficient, nontoxic, biodegradable and is extremely eco-friendly. It has reduced tailpipe emissions, reduces particulates that cause global warming and can be used in all diesel engines without modifications. This is especially true with the B20 blend.
Biodiesel in the future: In the future, biodiesel produced from tallow will be the regular fuel pumped into our engines. This is because it now makes economic sense to invest in animal fat for biodiesel production than rely on plant oil (like soybean oil). Since plant oils like soybean oil are also used as food additives, the demand is higher than the produce. This has led to price creep in the United States, ruling out soybean oil from the biodiesel industry. A few manufacturers are attempting a blend of plant oils, animal fat and cooking oils. While this maybe possible, increase in price of one commodity may result in trading-in or displacement of it with another. This would keep the renewable energy chain on the upbeat and would never cause depletion or lack of any particular energy resource.
The Tallow Advantage: Tallow is at great advantage as alternative fuel source owing to its ready availability. The American cowman does not require any extra effort to keep the livestock production up and going. The USDA predicts that the American meat production industry has shown a continued growth of at least 1 percent a year. This would mean steady supply of animal fat for biodiesel. Tallow is a byproduct of beef fat and hence, is not a virgin material like plants. Tallow biodiesel has greater oxidative stability which reduces the risk of sedimentation. Above all, since biodiesel is not a consumable product, if the quality of biodiesel adheres to ASTM standards, there would be no question of the quality of tallow or lard used. In brief, beef tallow would be a promising resource for biodiesel production in the future.