Biodiesel - Sailors for the Sea


This renewable, non-toxic, clean-burning fuel can be a great alternative to conventional diesel – and requires very few (if any) modifications for switching over. 

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What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a renewable, non-toxic, clean-burning fuel, which can be a great alternative to conventional diesel. It’s produced from seed oils (canola, sunflower, soybean, etc.) and can also be made from waste vegetable oil, animal fats and algae, which don’t compete with food production. Biodiesel burns cleaner with reduced air emissions, including a decrease in soot, smoke, carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

Generally, biodiesel is blended with petroleum diesel at different concentrations up to 20% biodiesel (B20). There will be a noticeable change in the odor and smoke in the exhaust from an engine using B20. As a result of cleaner emissions, there will be reduced air and water pollution from boats operated on biodiesel blends. 

Do you need to modify your boat to use it?

Biodiesel is safer to handle, store and use, but before converting to this biofuel, check your engine’s warranty. Very few (if any) modifications are needed before switching to this alternative fuel. Biodiesel can soften and dissolve natural rubber hoses and seals, so some people replace all lines, gaskets and seals with synthetics. Biodiesel is also an excellent solvent, and will clean out your tanks and lines, so you will need to change your fuel filters more often. It’s also important to note how often you go boating. If you rarely use your engine(s), biodiesel may not be the best alternative as it has a short storage life.

During the winter, it’s recommended that biodiesel require the addition of a cold flow improver, which combats crystallization and allows for optimal flow performance in low temperatures. For the best cold weather performance, ask your fuel provider to ensure the correct blend. 

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Biodiesel in action

The Atlantic Cup, an intense double-handed, offshore sailing race held on the eastern seaboard (Charleston to New York, NY to Portland, ME), is one of the most environmentally sustainable races in the United States. Teams were provided with sustainable fuel from waste vegetable oil from Newport Biodiesel. A B20 blend (20% biodiesel/80% unleaded) was used for instances when engines were necessary (e.g. help get boats from docks to the racecourse). 

biodiesel, Atlantic Cup

Did you know?

  • Blends of biodiesel can also be used in your home heating furnace.
  • Biodiesel reduces greenhouse emissions by 59-86% compared to petroleum diesel (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA).