In 1996, the Trust worked with the Maryland Soybean Board to evaluate the use of a vegetable based diesel fuel, called biodiesel, as an alternate fuel source in marine engines. Tested previously in city buses in Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore as a way to help improve urban air quality, efforts are increasing to being this product to the mainstream marine market.

After a review of existing research, the Trust determined that using biodiesel at a 20% blend with 80% petroleum diesel will:

  • Reduce unpleasant exhaust odors.
  • Improve lubricity.
  • Help clean injectors, fuel lines, pumps, and tanks.
  • Improve diesel engine performance.

However, there are some side effects to using this product. For example, as it helps clean out fuel lines, fuel filters will need to be replaced at closer intervals. In addition, both the higher cost per gallon and the ability for the average boater to obtain the product are hindrances to immediate widespread acceptance.

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Biodiesel - Frequently Asked Questions

Biodiesel, or SoyDiesel, is a cleaner burning diesel fuel made from soybean oil instead of petroleum oil.  It is formulated to improve diesel engine performance and yet be non-toxic and biodegradable.

Q: Is biodiesel safe to put in my engine?

Yes, using biodiesel at a 20 percent blend with 80 percent petroleum diesel requires no engine modification, but achieves significant performance, emissions and aesthetic benefits.  Biodiesel has been tested by government agencies, universities, transit authorities, and private industry in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  Biodiesel is also recognized as an alternative fuel by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: What are the benefits of using biodiesel?

The first thing you'll notice is a cleaner smelling exhaust - some users have compared it to the smell of French fries.   Biodiesel will also reduce emissions, provide a cleaner burning exhaust, improve lubrication, improve cetane levels, and help clean injectors, fuel lines, pumps and tanks.   It is also safer to store and transport since it has a higher flash point than traditional diesel and is classified only as combustible, not flammable or explosive.   Consider keeping a handy five-gallon container on board as emergency fuel.

Q: How do I use biodiesel?

Biodiesel can be used as a fuel additive and mixed with petroleum diesel, with a 20 percent blend being most popular.  If you use biodiesel at higher blends, modifying fuel lines might be advisable.  To determine how much fuel is 20 percent of your tank, divide the total volume by five.  That's how much biodiesel you need to add to make a 20 percent blend in a full tank.

Q: Is biodiesel safe for the environment?

Biodiesel is safer for both the air and water.  In its pure form, it is non-toxic and biodegradable, which is especially important in sensitive or protected waterway areas.  It is also free of sulfur and aromatics, which reduces harmful emissions.  When added to petroleum diesel, it makes fuel burn cleaner.  However, any fuel spill still needs to be reported and cleaned up in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

Q: Will biodiesel harm my boat in any way?

You should know that at higher blend levels, biodiesel's solvent properties, over time, may begin to react with certain types of rubber gaskets and hoses.  You should also be aware that biodiesel will clean fuel tanks and line of built-up residues which will then accumulate in the fuel filter - you may have to change your fuel filters more frequently when first using biodiesel.  Also, because of its solvent properties, you should promptly wipe up any spills that should occur on your boat with soap and water so that your gelcoat and teak are not affected.