Biodiesel – production, raw materials, certificates and vegetable oils

Biodiesel is a liquid fuel made from vegetable oils or animal fats. As an alternative fuel, biodiesel plays a key role in the field of sustainability and the reduction of atmospheric emissions. Its main advantages are its biodegradability and its ability to be used both in pure diesel engines and in blends with petroleum.

Biodiesel production

The biodiesel production process is based on an esterification reaction in which vegetable oil (or fat) reacts with alcohol (usually methanol) in the presence of a catalyst. This reaction produces biodiesel (methyl ester of fatty acids) and glycerine as a by-product.

There are several methods for producing biodiesel, the most popular of which are:

  • The simultaneous hydrolysis and esterification method: Fat is mixed with methanol and a catalyst in the presence of water. This reaction results in simultaneous hydrolysis of the fat (breakdown into glycerine and fatty acids) and esterification of the fatty acids with methanol (formation of biodiesel).
  • Two-step method: In the first step, the fat is hydrolysed to produce fatty acids. In the second stage, the fatty acids are esterified with methanol using a catalyst.
    Raw materials for biodiesel production

The main raw materials for biodiesel production are vegetable oils.

The most commonly used are:

  • Rapeseed oil: This is the most commonly used raw material for biodiesel production in Poland and Europe. It is cheap and readily available, making it an attractive choice for producers. However, its high content of erucic acids, requires a refining process to reduce their levels and ensure the quality of the biodiesel.
  • Sunflower oil: It has a high content of unsaturated acids, which makes biodiesel using it have a low viscosity temperature. However, this can lead to deposition problems in engines, which requires attention during its production.
  • Soybean oil: It has a high content of linolenic acids and good resistance to oxidation. However, it can cause problems with biodiesel filtration, which can be a challenge for producers.
  • Other oils: In addition to those mentioned above, there are a number of other oils such as palm oil, coconut oil, corn oil and linseed oil that can be used to produce biodiesel. Each has its own advantages and limitations, which must be taken into account when selecting a feedstock.

Interestingly, in addition to vegetable oils, animal fats such as pig fat and beef fat can also be used for biodiesel production. In addition to traditional vegetable oils and animal fats, there are a number of alternative feedstocks that can be used for biodiesel production. These innovative sources can offer new opportunities for the biofuel industry, while minimising negative environmental impacts.

Waste fats (UCO | Used Cooking Oil), such as waste from the food industry or fats from food production processes, are another potential feedstock for biodiesel production. Their use makes it possible to reduce waste and minimise negative environmental impacts. In addition, waste fats are usually cheap and readily available, which makes them an attractive feedstock for biodiesel producers. Nevertheless, they may contain impurities that require appropriate treatment before being used for fuel production.

Given the variety of available feedstocks, biodiesel production can be adapted to local conditions and resources. For example, in countries with high rapeseed production, the use of rapeseed oil may be the most cost-effective and ecologically sustainable. Conversely, in tropical countries where palm oil is available, its use may be more economically beneficial.

In addition, the development of biodiesel production technology, including refining and purification processes, can lead to improved fuel quality and reduced environmental impact. Investment in research into new feedstocks and production methods can also contribute to the further development of this green industry.

Choosing the Optimal Raw Material for Biodiesel Production

As a key part of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, biodiesel production requires a considered choice of raw material. The primary feedstock categories are vegetable oils, animal fats and other alternative sources such as algae oils, insect oils or waste fats. Below, I will discuss the factors that determine the choice of raw material and the characteristics of each type.

Availability: The availability of the raw material is a key factor in determining the choice. The raw material should be readily available in the region, which minimises the cost of obtaining and transporting it. For example, in countries with developed agriculture, vegetable oils such as rapeseed or sunflower may be the preferred choice.

Price: Another important factor is the price of the raw material. The choice should be based on the raw material with the lowest possible price in order to make biodiesel production profitable. Waste fats are often an attractive option due to the fact that they are cheap and readily available.

Properties: The properties of the raw material have a significant impact on the quality and technical performance of the biodiesel. For example, oils with a high content of unsaturated acids may be more susceptible to oxidation processes, which can affect the stability of the fuel. On the other hand, fats with a low content of unsaturated acids can cause filtering problems in biodiesel.

Environmental impact: The environmental aspect also plays an important role. The choice of raw material should take into account its environmental impact. The right raw material should have a low negative impact on the environment, minimising greenhouse gas emissions and negative effects on local ecosystems.

Certificates and permits

Biodiesel production in Poland is subject to strict regulations to ensure fuel quality and protect the environment. In order to start producing and selling biodiesel, it is necessary to obtain the relevant certificates and permits.


  • Certificate of origin of biodiesel: This is issued by the Polish Chamber of Biofuels and confirms that the biodiesel has been produced from renewable raw materials. This certificate provides transparency about the source of raw materials, promoting sustainable production.
  • Biodiesel Quality Certificate: Issued by an independent testing laboratory, it confirms that the biodiesel meets the quality standards set out in the legislation. This ensures that the fuel is safe for users and does not harm engines.


  • Biofuel marketing permit: Is issued by the President of the Energy Regulatory Authority. Obtaining this permit is key to legally selling biodiesel on the market.
  • Integrated permit: Issued by the governor, it includes a permit for emissions into the air, the discharge of waste water into waters and the processing of waste. This integrated process allows the environmental impact of biodiesel production to be controlled.

In Europe, biodiesel production is also regulated by laws that are harmonised at European Union level. There are directives on fuel quality and the sustainable production of biofuels. The most significant directive in this context is the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), which sets targets for the share of renewable biofuels in transport.

The requirements for obtaining certificates and permits can be quite stringent, which can be challenging for new producers. The need to meet quality standards and environmental requirements may require investment in advanced technologies and production processes. In addition, the need to provide a sustainable source of feedstock can be difficult, especially in the context of competition for agricultural land and concerns about negative environmental impacts.

In Europe, the introduction of biodiesel to the market may be hampered by differences in regulation between member states, which may lead to the need to comply with different standards and procedures. Nevertheless, harmonisation of regulations at EU level aims to facilitate trade and promote sustainable biofuel production across Europe.

Summary: Biofuel Production in the Context of a Sustainable Future

Certainly, Biodiesel is an important part of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants, as its combustion in diesel engines generates significantly fewer harmful substances compared to traditional petroleum fuels. In addition, its production can contribute to the development of local economies by using local plant or animal raw materials.

The production of biofuels, including biodiesel, is an important step towards a sustainable energy future. Diversified feedstocks, regulations and the environmental aspect are key elements in this process. Despite challenges such as production costs and feedstock availability, innovation and technological development offer prospects for improved efficiency and sustainability in this industry. However, the implementation of biofuels requires a conscious approach, taking into account environmental, social and economic aspects, in order to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels.