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Research Carried out on Biodiesel
The earliest research on vegetable oils dates back to 1930s, but no proper method was found to refine vegetable oil with properties suitable for the petroleum diesel engine. In year 1937 the process of transesterification was proposed to convert vegetable oil to fatty acid alkyl esters, the chemical name for biodiesel. This biodiesel fuel was later found to easily replace the petroleum diesel in the modern day diesel engines. In early 1980s the concerns for environment grew due to air-pollution caused by petroleum fuels and then there was also over production of agricultural products. These factors lead to greater interest in vegetable oil and its market was established towards the end of 1980s especially in Europe.
Lots of research has been carried out on biodiesel in the early 1990s in South Africa and Europe. US entered late in foray due to cheap and abundantly available petroleum fuels. One of the first companies to start production of biodiesel in US is Pacifica Biodiesel that started the operations in the year 1996. After the terrorists attacks in the year 2001, the there was more awareness of high oil prices and energy security in US, which led to biodiesel becoming the household name in US.
Most of the biodiesel production is still carried out in European Union. However, due to increasing oil prices and the pollution caused by it, a number of biodiesel plants are coming up in other parts of the world also.
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Future Prospects of Biodiesel
Biodiesel has number of benefits and it one of the most viable alternate fuels for the vehicles. Biodiesel is very easy to replace the petroleum diesel in the modern day engines without carrying out any changes in it. In the present times when the oil prices are increasing every day and air-pollution has risen to alarming rates, there is more and more awareness for using biodiesel. Further, due to various subsidies biodiesel is becoming cost competitive with the petroleum diesel and till now millions of people have enjoyed the benefits of biodiesel.
The most important factor that is going to lead the development and future growth of biodiesel is its cost. The cost of biodiesel will depend on the ability of the world to produce large scale renewable feed stocks of vegetable oil and animal fats without disturbing the ecosystem. Making the use of biodiesel sustainable will provide the world an excellent renewable fuel that can be used for the long-time to come without disturbing the environment and reducing dependence on petroleum fuels.