Biodiesel is fatty acid alkyl monoesters derived from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled cooking oils. Chemical modification of those oils is required to produce a fuel that can be used in an unmodified diesel engine. Through base-catalyzed transesterification, a major chemical modification method, vegetable oils will react with alcohol in the presence of a catalyst to produce an alcohol ester and glycerol. This reaction results in three moles of fatty acid alkyl monoester (biodiesel) and a mole of glycerol that is the by-product of this reaction.

Biodiesel production and use in the United States began in the 1970s. At first, cooperatives and small-batch producers provided a limited supply of fuel to a small number of cars and farm equipment. After the U.S. Department of Agriculture ...

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