Sunday, September 10, 2006


Bio Diesel for Costa Rica?

Treehugger Biodiesel Prices

Photo from, Note BioDiesel prices are less than tradition diesel.

I have been in Costa Rica for a few days now. The country has established national priorities in Sustainable Development, but this traveler has found an area where Costa Rica can make a big improvement.

The country travels by bus, and the busses have big diesel engines. In San Jose and to some extent in Santa Elena the pollution from diesel engines is intense. I believe Costa Rica should start a bio fuels program. This would reduce the countries dependence on foreign fuels, clean up the air and at the same time provide work for hundreds or thousands of people.

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a diesel-equivalent bio-based fuel usually made from vegetable oils.

Biodiesel fuels are biodegradable and non-toxic, and have significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. Biodiesel functions in current diesel engines, without any modifications and is a possible candidate to replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary transport energy source.

Environmental benefits (Wikipedia) in comparison to petroleum based fuels include:

* Biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by approximately 50 % and carbon dioxide by 78 % on a net lifecycle basis because the carbon in biodiesel emissions is recycled from carbon that was already in the atmosphere, rather than being new carbon from petroleum that was sequestered in the earth’s crust. (Sheehan, 1998)

* Biodiesel contains fewer aromatic hydrocarbons: benzofluoranthene: 56 % reduction; Benzopyrenes: 71 % reduction.

* It also eliminates sulfur emissions (SO2), because biodiesel does not contain sulfur.

* Biodiesel reduces by as much as 65 % the emission of particulates, small particles of solid combustion products. This reduces cancer risks by up to 94 % according to testing sponsored by the Department of Energy.

* Biodiesel does produce more NOx emissions than petrodiesel, but these emissions can be reduced through the use of catalytic converters. The increase in NOx emissions may also be due to the higher cetane rating of biodiesel. Properly designed and tuned engines may eliminate this increase.

* Biodiesel has higher cetane rating than petrodiesel, and therefore ignites more rapidly when injected into the engine. It also has the highest BTU content of any alternative fuel in its pure form (B100).

* Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic - tests sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture confirm biodiesel is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as quickly as sugar.

* In the United States, biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have successfully completed the Health Effects Testing requirements (Tier I and Tier II) of the Clean Air Act (1990).

Costa Rica should also start an Ethanol program similar to the successful program in Brazil. The feedstock for Costa Rican Ethanol can be agricultural waste from the already thriving Costa Rican agricultural industry. By using waste materials in a “cellusosic ethanol” conversion process Costa Rica can create gasoline equivalent fuel without farming a single extra acre.

(see previous post on ethanol)

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