Demand for biodiesel, made from soybeans and cottonseed, is growing across the country. Biodiesel blends with petroleum diesel to fuel engines.

Federal guidelines require that ultra-low sulfur diesel be available starting last month, Oct. 15, nationwide for use in highway vehicles. Lowering sulfur content not only reduces much of diesel engines' harmful emissions, but also reduces the lubricating ability of the fuel.

Biodiesel is uniquely suited to meet this need for engine lubrication, says Herb Willcutt, agricultural engineer with the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service.

Willcutt says removing sulfur from petroleum drives up the cost 5-15¢/gal. The lack of lubrication can be solved two ways. Refineries can include an additive in the fuel or the petroleum diesel can be blended with biodiesel.

“Biodiesel at a 2% blend has 66% more lubricating capacity than the traditional high sulfur fuels that we're burning now,” Willcutt says. “Using biodiesel is a cheap and easy way to get the lubricating quality back into the fuel.”

In Mississippi, soybeans and cottonseeds are used for the production of biodiesel. A cross-disciplinary team of MSU researchers looks for ways to boost the state's production of biodiesel, funded by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board.