Biodiesel or standard fuel when blended with biodiesel could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, says a report released by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national research agency.
Biodiesel can be manufactured from any product containing fatty acids, such as vegetable oil or animal fats.
The CSIRO report assesses the emission levels and environmental impacts of biodiesel produced from sources including used cooking oil, tallow (rendered animal fat), imported palm oil and canola.
CSIRO Energy Transformed National Research Flagship researcher and report author Dr Tom Beer believes the wider introduction of biodiesel in Australia could help address the high greenhouse gas intensity of our nation's transport sector.
"The results of this study show biodiesel has the potential to reduce emissions from the transport industry, which is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in Australia, behind stationary energy generation and agriculture," Dr Beer said.
"The greenhouse gas savings do however depend on the feedstock used to produce the biodiesel. The highest savings are obtained by replacing base diesel with biodiesel from used cooking oil, resulting in an 87 per cent emission reduction."
"Palm oil can produce up to an 80 per cent saving in emissions provided it is sourced from pre-1990 plantations. The palm oil source is critical as product from plantations established on recently dried peat swamps or cleared tropical forest will in fact have higher greenhouse gas emissions than regular diesel due to factors such as land clearing."
The use of biodiesel also reduces the particulate matter released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fuels, providing potential benefits to human health.
While the results are encouraging, further research is required to establish the viability of the biofuels industry in Australia and address some of the associated issues such as sustainability, technological improvements and economic feasibility.
CSIRO, as part of the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship, is undertaking an extensive research program into alternative fuels such as biodiesel to assess possible biophysical, social and economic impacts of their production and adoption.