UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the comparative performance of biodiesel against petroleum-derived diesel by analyzing their environmental, economic and social impacts Yew, Khai Siang; Koo, Teng Jian; Tham, Wei Heng


Through University of British Columbia’s (UBC) SEEDS program, the initiative of replacing the majority of UBC vehicle fleets is investigated. Most of UBC vehicle fleets currently run on petroleum-based diesel with biodiesel produced from waste grease disposed by AMS Food and Beverage Operations as well as the UBC Food Service Operations. The objective of this report is to prepare a comparative investigation of the performance of biodiesel against petroleum-derived diesel by examining their environmental, economic and social impacts. The scope of the report includes qualitative and quantitative data related to the environmental, economic and social performance of two popular blends of biodiesel which are B20 (20% biodiesel 80% diesel) in comparison to B100 (100% biodiesel) and petroleum-derived diesel. Although a large number of UBC vehicles are using B5 blend and diesel, it is assumed in this report that all UBC vehicles are utilizing diesel as fuel due to the lack of data available for B5 blend. The environmental implications of petroleum-derived diesel, B20 and B100 are evaluated based on the greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollutants. The economic viability of replacing diesel fuel in campus vehicles with biodiesel is assessed based on its fuel cost, energy efficiency and the incentives from non-governmental organization (NGO) and the government. The social impacts of diesel and biodiesel are assessed based on their physical and chemical properties, human health effects and the social benefits they bring to the community. From the findings of this report, GHG emissions are reduced by 15.9% on average using B20 and 78.6% on average using B100 with respect to diesel. The analysis also shows that B100 and B20 reduce smog pollutants by 40.0% and 8.3% respectively compared to diesel. In terms of price per unit energy of fuel, B100 ($0.414/kWh) has the highest fuel cost, followed by B20 ($0.348/kWh) and finally, diesel fuel ($0.341/kWh). However, 80% of the fuel cost of biodiesel production is associated with the feedstock used. By using waste grease produced in UBC as feedstock, the cost of biodiesel can be reduced. Through various government incentives, the capital cost to build a biodiesel plant in UBC will be partially subsidized, making it a very appealing option. In terms of health risks, B20 emits 13% less polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and 10% less particulate matters as opposed to diesel. The reduction of hazardous pollutants is even more significant for B100, which emits 80% less PAH and 47% less particulate matters than diesel. Based on the analysis of the report, it is recommended that UBC vehicles’ fuel should be replaced with B20, since it has less environmental impact and more positive social impact compared to diesel. Although the fuel cost of B20 is slightly higher than diesel, it can be offset by using waste grease from UBC and incentives from government. Despite the fact that B100 has the highest positive environmental and social impact with respect to B20 and diesel, the fuel cost is the most expensive. However, the cost of biodiesel production is predicted to decrease, positioning B100 to be a competitive option in the future. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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