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Topic 14: Discuss safety in biofuels

Samuel Bamkefa's picture

One of the renewable sources of energy that has gotten attention and is developing is bio-energy. It is obtained from biomass, which is an organic material that has stored chemical energy.

But, is the harnessing and use of biofuels completely safe? Are there issues that should be of concern?

Posts giving insight into safety issues in the use of biofuels are welcome

Samuel Bamkefa


Samuel Bamkefa's picture

A biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological
carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion,
as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases [1]. The
main catch in the use of biofuels is that they do not produce greenhouse
gases that cause global warming and that they help reduce dependence on
foreign oil for some countries. However, it would be a little reckless
to thing that biofuels (and biomass generally) do not come with their
own share of concerns. Some of them I discuss below 

Personal health impact:  

An example of negative health impact can be drawn from biodiesel. Biodiesel
production commonly uses some potential lethal chemicals including
methanol, caustic soda and concentrated sulphuric acid. Methanol
exposure on a small daily dose causes cumulative damage to the body,
possibly leading to blindness and death. It is also explosive, similar
to petrol, and when mixed with caustic soda it is poisonous, explosive
and caustic.
[2] This can be a particular issue related to non-commercial production

Food prices: 

Expanded production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel has a strong effect on prices because biofuel production draws largely on agricultural products. Increased biofuel demand in 2000–07 is estimated to have contributed to 30 percent of the weighted average increase of cereal prices. [3]

This effect on food prices will be more profound as governments give
subsidies for agricultural production for biofuels. The lucrativeness of
the biofuel production will make less focus to be on food production

Environmental Impacts 

Environment impacts are a particular concern with solid biofuels. A problem with the combustion of raw biomass is that it emits considerable amounts of pollutants such as particulates and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
Even modern pellet boilers generate much more pollutants than oil or
natural gas boilers. Pellets made from agricultural residues are usually
worse than wood pellets, producing much larger emissions of
dioxins and chlorophenols. [4]


Steps should be taken to regulate the production of biofuels, especially
non commercial production. In addition, governments should ensure that
agricultural subsidy for food is not relegated for biofuel production.
Lastly, increased awareness should exist on the inherent dangers in the
production and use of biofulels 


1. Demirbas, A. . (2009). "Political, economic and environmental impacts of biofuels: A review". Applied Energy 86: S108–S117.


2. Using vegetable oil as diesel fuel

3. International food policy research institute. High Food Prices: The What, Who,and How of Proposed Policy Actions. 

4. Cedric Briens, Jan Piskorz and Franco
Berruti, "Biomass Valorization for Fuel and Chemicals Production -- A
Review," 2008. International Journal of Chemical Reactor Engineering, 6,
R2 (as cited in

Samuel Bamkefa

RossWinter's picture

Your point about food
prices increasing is not entirely the case. Biofuels can be produced from
many different sources and now the emphasis is firmly on non-food crops. These
come in many different forms, from micro-organisms to large trees. Also what
used to be classed as a waste product from industries, such as farming and
forestry, can now be utilised in the biomass industry.

Your comment about
regulation is misguided; bio-energy contributes up to 90% of the energy needs
of some of the poorest countries in the world. Also production of bio-ethanol
and bio-diesel mean that, with only some conversions, we would not need to
completely replace our current cars and buses. 

Environmentally the
cultivation of crops for biofuels is easily managed and sustainable,
also many farmers are given diversification grants, from the
government, not to cultivate their fields for food crops so this is just
another way for them to get some money without it coming out of the taxpayers

Ross Winter
Msc Renewable Energy

adavis's picture

Even though biofuel maybe produced from non-food crops, those crops still require agricultural land which could lead to further deforestation.  In my opinion, it seems like a bad idea to pit a country or a community’s need for food against their need for energy.  The policy makers, who are usually better off than the general population, will generally opt for energy.  Haiti is a glaring example of a community that chose fuel over food.  With the world’s population growing exponentially, is Haiti simply foreshadowing the fate of the planet?  Biofuel may have its place in the world’s energy solution.  However, I personally hope it plays a rather small role until we have more viable solutions to world hunger.

Connie Shellcock's picture

I agree with you Aavis, I have concerns about producing Biofuels in vast quantities. I fear that if crops were to be grown for the soul purpose of fuel, the first things we would lose would be important nature reserves such as rainforests as room would be needed to grow the crops. This would completely destroy the planet. I study the module human factors and an interesting topic we discussed was the success ad failure of many previous societies gone by. The conclusion was that many of these societies died out as they had destroyed the very habitat that they were living in.

Menelaos Michelakis's picture

(Adding comment to Bamkefa_Samuel). (Topic : Safety and energy considerations)

This a very general topic, because there are many types of biofuels and many ways of processing. For instance we can grow specially chosen plants (corn, wheat, sugarcane, oil-seed rape) and either burn them in a power station for electricity, or process them for the production of ethanol and/or biodiesel, and use them as fuels. Each crop, varies significantly in the way of processing and the energy it pays. For example a sugarcane plantation can give more than 1.2W/m2 [energy] when harvested depending on the plantation, whereas when we turn oil-seed rape to biodiesel or corn to ethanol we get much less energy, in the best ocassion no more than 0.2 W/m2 [fuels]. Turning wheat to ethanol pays more than turning corn to ethanol, (a value much closer to 0.2 W/m2), but still the amounts of energy we get are low.

The above numbers make me think that plants are better to be used for the production of electricity than to be processed for the production of biofuels. In Europe, plantations pay even less energy than in other parts of the world, tropical zones for example, or southern countries where the climate is milder.

As an engineer i shall use numbers. In North Europe a good average for energy from plants is 0.5W/m2, whereas in tropical zones or milder climates, energy generated is much more, 0.75W/m2 or even more depanding on the irrigation and fertilization. So Europe, in my opinion sould not really think biofuels as an energy solution, at this time.

Let's examine safety (human factor and environment). When biofuels are burnt gases such as CO2 and CO - in much smaller quantities - are produced. Comparing with fossil fuels, where gases such as SO2 are produced they are more environmental friendly. But fossil fuels pay so much more energy that we cannot compare them with biofuels. CO2 is still produced in large quantities, which is the gas mainly responsible for the greenhouse effect.

But processing and/or burning sould not be the only things examined. I mean that plants need energy to be planted, energy to grow (irrigation and fertilizers), energy to be harvested, and also energy to be transported to the power station. So the amount of energy we get in the end is even less. During these process fuels are used too, so emissions occur.

Fertilizers used for the groth of the plants, can prove very dangerous for human health, in certain occasions even aquifers can be contaminated, for instance. The risk of accident for someone working in a plantation of sugarcane, for the production of biofuels is almost the same with the risk for someone working  in a tobacco plantation or a cotton plantation. The death rates in all occasions mentioned above are very small. An accident may happen but rarely something significant worthy of mentioning.

I will not provide statistics but in general, biofuels and their plantations are not to be considered dangerous for humans or the environment, by all aspects (accidents or pollution). The fact is that not enough energy is generated by burning plants, and we gain even less when turning them to biofuels...

References :

1. G.Boyle, B. Everett, J.Ramage (2003), Energy systems and sustainability 

2. J.C Mackay (2008), Sustainable energy without hot air


oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Before we discuss safety as pertaining to biofuel lets understand its origin. Biofuel originated from biomass solids i.e. agriculture and forest residues, energy crops, and algae etc. This biomass solid with the help of enzymes are broken down into liquid sugars. Microbes like yeast ferment this sugar into renewable fuels (biofuel).Industrially biomass is broken down into a bio crude oil that can be refined into biofuels. By adding oxygen to extreme heat, biomass solid is converted into gas and that gas can be converted into biofuel. Now, concerning biofuel safety. We all know that biofuel reduces dependence on foreign oil, and it doesn't produce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But, biofuels are not without their critics. Environmental impacts such as biodiversity loss, destruction of farmland and the energy necessary to produce them is associated with biofuel production. From the British daily reports, The Guardian "Almost half of the biofuels, a total of 12, had greater total environmental impacts than fossil fuels. These included economically-significant fuels such as US corn ethanol, Brazilian sugar cane ethanol and soy diesel, and Malaysian palm-oil diesel."  Now safety has been a key issue too in biofuels production presently, the European Union is working on a proposal to ban some imported biofuels believed to do more harm than good. As reported by the International Herald Tribune reports in its environment blog, which says:  "The idea is to refuse imports of fuels made from raw materials grown in forests, grasslands or wetlands that were recently cleared. The EU also wants biofuels used in Europe to deliver at least a minimal reduction in greenhouse gases compared to conventional gasoline and diesel." Presently some non-government organisations are raising concern of shortage of food supply as a result of biofuel involvement. In conclusion, we know that safety as regards to any work environs cannot be 100% guaranteed, I am advocating that it should be reduce to as low as reasonable practice (ALARP) by being more proactive especially on the after effect consequence’s and continuously planning to ensure that the environs is safe and free from hazard potentials.   Further reading:

Kareem Saheed Remi's picture

Production of biofuel (biodiesel) greatly
involve the use of various hazardous chemicals. These chemicals include
methanol, caustic soda and concentrated sulphuric acid. Gradual daily exposure
to these chemicals could cause cumulative damage to body system, blindness and
possibly death.


Thorough analysis of the different chemical
involved in the production of biofuel would give an insight into the hazards
involved in the production.

 is one of the extremely corrosive chemicals
known,  It causes burn to unprotected
skin and is particularly damaging to the eyes. While Stirring the liquid can
often produce a fine mist of liquid droplets,  If this mist is inhaled, severe irritation of
the respiratory tract and breathlessness can occur. Accidental swallowing can
cause major damage to the throat lining and digestive system.


Methanol being
a toxic chemical,  It can cause nausea,
dizziness and visual disturbances that can result in blindness when  It come into contact with human body through  breathing in the vapour, direct skin contact
or by accidental swallowing. Swallowing small quantities could pose a
significant health threat to the central nervous system and could also affect
other vital organs. It is a cumulative poison and repeated exposure to
relatively low concentrations could cause harm in the longer term.


due to the fact that
methanol is highly flammable, there is a serious risk of fire and explosion , and there are
many potential sources of ignition in most homes.


Adequate measures, mitigating
factors and applicable regulations should be strictly followed by energy
company producing biofuel, and domestic production should be discouraged considering
the hazards involved in the production of biofuel.



Kareem R. Saheed


Topic 14
: Discuss safety in biofuels

According to Leo Peskett, Biofuels  are organic primarly and/or secondary fuels
derived from biomass which can be used for generation of thermal energy by
combustion or by some other technology(1).They comprise both purpose-grown
energy crops, as well as multipurpose plantations and by-products (residues and
wastes)(1).There are mainly two common types of liquid biofuels namely;Bioethanol
which is an alcohol derived from sugar or starch crops (e.g.sugar beet, sugar
cane or corn) by fermentation and Biodiesel which is derived from vegetable
oils (e.g. rapeseed oil, jatropha, soy or palm oil) by reaction of the oil with

Biofuels are not 100% safe just like fossil fuels. As
already noted above, biodiesel is derived 
from vegetable oils by reacting them with methanol and sodium hydroxide;
this renders the production process hazardous the fact that methanol is highly
flammable  thus posing risks of fire
explosion especially where open flames, electrical appliances and smoking
materials are in the vicinity. Methanol is also toxic and may cause damage to
the skin and also if inhaled accidentally may cause serious long term effects
to the central nervous system as well as damaging the vital body organs. Sodium
hydroxide itself is corrosive and could also result in skin burns if poorly
handled. Therefore the entire production process needs to be well monitored and
proper health and safety procedures need to be adhered to. Employees involved
in the production process need to have protective gear to avoid such effects. The
wastes produced during the production of  biofuels i.e glycerol and waste water if not
well disposed of can also have serious environmental impacts.

Bioethanol is produced by fermentation of hexose sugars
such as glucose using yeast. Starch can also be used for the fermentation
process however it is first broken down to release glucose which is then
fermented to form bioethanol and the breakdown process is either facilitated by
an acid (hydrochloric or sulphuric acid) or enzymatic hydrolysis. The acids
used in the pre-treatment of biomass/starch are also toxic and may cause burns.
The fermentation process also results in production of greenhouse emissions
such as carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. Thermal conversion
processes such as pyrolysis and gasification are also at times used to convert
biomass to biofuels and these processes also result in carbon dioxide emissions .
It should however be noted that biofuels have got very much reduced greenhouse emissions
compared to the commonly used fossil fuels in the transportation sector.

In conclusion, Biofuels may not be entirely safe as
discussed above however health and safety issues associated with them can be dealt
with to as low as is reasonably practicable by properly selecting the type of
feedstock to use, the cultivation ,methods and conversion technologies for
example  bioethanol produced from sugarcane
has got the greatest greenhouse gas reductions. Another generation of biofuels
such as  lignocellulosic bioethanol and
Fischer-Tropsch biodiesel will also help to reduce on emissions.The
introduction and enforcement of appropriate technologies, regulations and
standards will therefore play a very important role in reducing emissions as
well as controlling other health and safety related risks.


John Bosco Aliganyira

Msc.Oil and Gas Engineering


1.      Biofuels, agriculture and poverty
reduction by  
Leo Peskett;
Overseas Development Institute (London, England) , 2007.

2.      Biofuels Alternative Feedstocks and
Conversion by Ashok Pandey, Christian Larroche, Steven C. Ricke, Claude-Gilles
Dussap and Edgard Gnansounou.

3.      Biofuels global impact on renewable
energy, production agriculture and technological advancements  by D. T Tomes (Dwight Thomas), 1946-; Prakash
Lakshmanan; David Songstad, c 2011

Maria Christou's picture

As John mentioned above, biofuels are not 100% safe,
especially biodiesel which is made of toxic flammable liquids. Many people try
to make biodiesel on their own (home brew biodiesel) but when you are trying to
do this you get exposed to a lot of risks. However, there are some simple
things we can do in order to reduce the danger and prevent accidents and fires
in your work place.

First of all, you have to be alert and prepared, accidents
most of the times happen because of the human’s ignorance. Secondly, you need a
suitable place to process since making biodiesel releases methanol vapors which
are poisonous. For example you can’t work at your house’s basement; these
vapors will cause you and your family health problems. Plus, you can prevent spontaneous combustion by keeping your
work area clean and free of oily rags. Don’t stockpile glycerin, dispose it
safely otherwise it might cause a fire hazard.

Another way to prevent accidents is to use timers on heating
elements so you cannot overheat your oil and use Ground
Fault Circuit Interrupter
(GFCI) protection which shuts down the power
if there is a grounding fault.

In case of an oil leak use secondary containment
to reduce environmental and fire hazards. Last, do not try to mix biodiesel and
methoxide with a drill or a paint stirrer .Because of the high temperature this
mixture releases methanol fumes which are toxic.

So if you trying to make biodiesel follow these
simple safety tips to protect yourself and the others next to you.






FELIXMAIYO's picture

This is an interesting topic because currently the world is
looking at safer forms of producing energy with minimal impacts on human and
environmental safety. All of us agree that everything is has its pros and cons.
In the case of biofuels, the cons seem to be more than the pros.

The raw material of making biofuels (biodiesel, biogas and
biomass) are vegetable oil and left over fats from animals. From Neste Oil
Company it says that biofuels will decrease the amount of carbon emission from
40 to 80 per cent. But in the production of biofuels they discharge emissions from
it like in any production plant and hence pollution is still a problem.

Chemicals such as Methanol, acids and other caustic acids
are the key components in the production of biofuels. These chemicals are very
harmful to human and the environment if not properly handled e.g. methanol is
highly flammable and can cause serious damage if left unmanaged. One of the
characteristics of methanol is it burns without colour and this makes it very

Biofuels discharge oily products into water bodies (rivers,
lakes etc.) surrounding the production plant. These oily products impact the aquatic
life and the birds because it blocks oxygen from entering the water and hence
suffocation of the aquatic life. There is no reported case for human being
affected by these oily products.



Kareem Saheed Remi's picture

In my previous post on this topic, and also as supported by other posts that biofuel production is not fully safe. Hence some mitigating factors can be put in place to reduce the potential risk.

  • Do not add water to acid or methanol to caustic soda, also adding methanol to hot oil should be discouraged because of splash.
  • Installation of electrical heating elements in the biodiesel reactor is not advisable  because the level sensor could be bad, it is advisable to use separate vessel for heating the vegetable.
  • There should be good cross ventilation system.
  • Plastic piping should not be used for transporting methanol downstream of pumps.
  • And lastly, all equipment both  electrical and mechanical should conform to the EU regulations for areas that may contain methanol vapour (methanol vapour is explosive at just 5% concentration with air).


Kareem R. Saheed


Just like every other process involving
hazardous chemicals, biodiesel raises a serious health and safety concern if it
is produced in an uncontrolled environment. The production of biodiesels does
not involve any complex processes and this has resulted to individuals making
it in their homes. People’s homes are the most unlikely controlled environment
when dealing with chemicals. Chemicals like methanol and Sodium hydroxide
majorly used in the production of biodiesel, when exposed in an uncontrolled
environment especially by people who have no training in handling them can
cause a fire or an explosion. It is easy for these chemicals to find an
ignition source in the domestic production of biodiesel. There are electrical
appliances in the homes, gas burners and smoking materials.

Okechukwu Chukelu (51231798)

Andreas Kokkinos's picture

are the type of fuel which is produced from biological sources such as corn and
sugarcane. The most notable or most well known biofuels are the Bio-diesel and
Bio-ethanol which we use them usually in our vehicles. There are other sources
of biofuels such as Biogas, Sygngas which are not as widely used as Bio-diesel
and Ethanol. For this reason I will provide a brief description of the safety
issues related with Bio-diesel and Ethanol.

For Bio-diesel:

to the Health and Safety Executive; there are some major issues for the
production of Bio-diesel. First of all, the whole process involves hazardous
chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and methanol which can cause serious damage.
Sodium hydroxide is a very corrosive chemical and very harmful when it comes in
contact with our skin causing serious burns and with our eyes causing serious
damage or even blindness. Methanol is also very dangerous; firstly because is a
toxic chemical. Vital organs, our nervous system can suffer major damage when
affected with methanol. [1]

risk for fire or an explosion is extremely high because methanol is a highly
flammable substance and can easily be ignited by various sources such as usual
electrical equipment, an oven and static discharge. Additionally; due to the
fact that biofuels involve chemical mixtures the risk of a violent chemical
reaction is high. This can be caused either by a single mistake with the recipe
either due to poor mixing. [1]

For Ethanol:

ethanol fuel is consumed in Ethanol – Gasoline blends starting from 10% ethanol
(E10) to 25%. According to a paper of the Environmental Working Group (EWG);
there are health risks associated with ethanol production and combustion. Toxic
emissions are released in the atmosphere during the production and combustion
of ethanol fuel. Additionally there is an issue regarding the distribution of
higher ethanol blends due to the safety risks that may occur. Moreover higher
ethanol blends tend to enhance the health risks due to the air pollution when
these blends are consumed. [2] Finally, there is an argument that the diversion
to ethanol fuel may lead to the worldwide rise of food price since ethanol is
produced from corn which is considered very significant to the food industry.





Andreas Kokkinos

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

michael saiki's picture

It is one of the oldest and most well established
energy sources in the world. It is simply the conversion of stored energy in
plants into the energy we can use such as burning wood.

Examples comprise

Wood—Trees, shrubs, wood residue e.g

Waste—Municipal solid waste, paper, food waste,
livestock waste, process waste, sewage

Crops--  Starch
crops; Wheat &barley, Sugar crops; sugar cane & beet, Forage crops;
grasses, clover, Oilseed; soybean sunflower,

Aquatic Plants-Algae, water  weed, water Hyacinth, Reed & rushes.


Can contribute greatly to global warming due to the
release of greenhouse gasses

Still an expensive source in terms of production

On a small scale this is likely to be a net energy
loss because energy must be put in to grow the plant


Michael Saiki

As I was reading my classmates' posts on this issue, I came along with an idea to write a post about the measures which can be taken to mitigate the risks of biofuelswhile being produced.


Designers and users of biofuel proccessors can reduce the risks of the process by taking heed to these points:

* Do not use plastics for the biodiesel reactor since methanol will leak due to melting of plastics in the process tempreture and leaking methanol can easily cathch fire.

* Use electrical and mechanical equipment that conforms to regulations for areas that may contain methanol vapor.(methanol vapor is explosive at just 5% of concentration with air)

* Do not use heaters in the reactor. Use a seperate vessel for heating the vegetableoil.

* Never add water to acid or methanol to caustic soda.

* Install very good ventillation system in the workspace.

*Never make biodiesel in the houses as many do this nowadays.

*Never use plastic piping for the transport of any fluid containing methanol downstream of any pump for the reason mentioed before.

* As methanol vapor is dangerous and ignites easily, do not forget to mix and react methanol in a vented container.

* Never breathe in methanol fumes, even if at low concentrations.

* Do not leave caustic soda on the graound a it smells off salt and animals willeat it.

* Make sure that the person who is making biodieselis awaare enough and is not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

To sum up,Designers and users of these reactors should ensure safe processing and they should not skimp on safety to save money.


Mykola Mamykin's picture

Algae as biofuel.

I haven't noticed anybody mention algae as a possible breakthrough in closing World's demand for fuel.

Algae is normally referred to a large and varied group of plantlike organisms often found in water.

In fact, we can already use algae as a form of biofuel today.

Algae provide what is known as a carbon sink. While alive, they take in carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gases behind climate change, and release oxygen.

Method of making oil out of algae is simple - it is pressing, similar to getting olive oil.

The technology to make all this happen isn't perfect yet, but researchers all over the globe say they're zeroing in on methods to make algae easier and more productive to grow for fuel.

The U.S. Navy, for one, is betting big on the tiny organisms. In 2012 they had 4 ships, supporting Nimitz aircraft carrier to run on the mixture of algae and vegetable fuel. That time Navy paid about $27 a gallon, which is crazy, but the point is the momentum of research and the learning curve. We will get there eventually.

And the big point is - want could be safer? Tiny little organisms growing in tanks, getting cropped from time to time and pressed for oil - amazing safety record.


Angelos Hadjiantoni's picture


I agree with you and I also believe that algae production the way forward for biofuels.
Algae can be grown in tanks and processed to produce a range of biofuels like biodiesel, biobutanol etc.

A lot of research is going on in order to find a way to speed up the growth rate and to increase the quantity of lipids used to produce biofiuels.  The way to do this is by genetically modifying algae.
As long as this is in a controlled lab environment it might be ok. If modified algae are used in outdoor environment the impact is unknown.

Alission Snow states:
“...we also need to know whether some types of genetically engineered blue-green algae, for example, could produce toxins or harmful algal blooms - or both."

In my point of view I think algae should be grown without any modification until known results are known about the safety of such experiments.
I think algae are the best alternative way of producing biofuels instead of conventional crops.
As with genetically modified crops I think that any modification might cause a chain reaction.

Best regards,
Angelos Hadjiantonis
MSc Renewable Energy


Kwadwo Boateng Aniagyei's picture

I agree with you on the potential use of algae for bio-fuels
and the pace at which it is being developed. Algae fuel or algal bio-fuel is an
alternative to fossils fuels that use algae as its natural deposit. Several
companies and government agencies are funding efforts to reduce capital and
operating costs and make algae fuel production commercially viable. The increase
in oil prices, the competition between food sources and other bio-fuel sources
and the world’s energy and food crisis have ignited interest in algaculture
(farming algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline,
biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels, using land that is not suitable for
agriculture. Algae fuel can be grown with minimal impact on fresh water
resources, can be produced using ocean and wastewater, and are biodegradable
and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. Harvested algae, like fossil fuel, release CO2
when burnt but unlike fossil fuel the CO2 is taken out of the
atmosphere by the growing algae.
It’s more environmentally
friendly compared to other sources of bio-fuel. The United States Department of
Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the
United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2) which is only
0.42% of the U.S. map,[10] or about half of the land area of Maine. This is
less than 1⁄7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000. This tells
how potential and economically viable algaculture can be if accorded the
necessary attention and resources.



faizakhatri's picture


Safety should be the top priority for complete operation(including processing,chemical handling,production facility)Although the biodiesel manufacturing process is fairly straightforward, there are several aspects of biodiesel production that need careful attention to detail for a productive, safe, and environmentally sound practice By following “best practices” for safety, will continue to remain in compliance responsible for public and environmental healthEmployee training must be done before and it include at least:Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area (such as monitoring conducted by the employer, continuous monitoring devices, visual appearance or odor ofThe physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the work area;The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment to be used; and,The details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labeling system and the (MSDS)material safety data sheet, and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information. This will allow workers and fire or emergency personnel to readily locate chemical safety information in case of an accident.


Faiza Khatri

Giorgos Hadjieleftheriou's picture



Producing energy from biodiesel means that we burn
vegetable oil as a fuel. There are lot accidents in the biodiesel industry.

The most common accidents happen when the biodiesel processor
blows up due to immersion heater is accidentally turned on when is empty. The solution
is to build a processor without an immersion heater installed in it.

To produce biodiesel requires lethal chemicals which can
cause damage to the body, eyes and even can cause explosions.  

In Biodiesel industry people don’t pay attention at the
safety and health and expose them self into the dangerous environment. Also the
equipments can be harmed when left for a long time into methanol vapors or any
other chemical. Those factors can cause severe damage to the workers, the
company and the environment.

Omololu Oyebola's picture

Increasing emerging
economies has resulted in an increase in energy demand, and thus a look into
the Biofuel. Factors such as oil prices, global warming, and explorative access
issues has spurred the development of biofuels.

Biofuels are carbon
neutralizers but issues and challenges such as Fuel vs. Food debate,
life-cycle-environmental impact of biofuels [1] raises question marks over its
development and sustainability to substitute fossil fuels.

Feedstocks for first generation biofuel
production are mainly food crops and their utilization will lead to high demand
and food scarcity, thus leading to inflation. The vast land also required to
cultivate this crop is also an issue of concern, this destroys the rain forest,
exposes land to erosion, air pollution due to increased application of fertilizer
which releases greenhouse gas N2O and pest
control techniques to improve production by reducing pest invasion causes pollution to the environmant. All of these possess safety concern to human lives and the environment



Society of Petroleum Engineers Biofuels (SPE 140626): Green energy for the century? 

ikenna_ekekwe's picture

In addition, I would also like to add that, during combustion Biomass releases a lot of Carbon dioxide since more than half of its composition is Carbon. Biomass resources also release other Green House Gases such as particulate matter and Sulphur dioxide to the atmosphere, depending on the choice of biomass materials and the technologies and pollution controls used.

Also, in order to counter the resulting deforestation from Biomass exploration, energy crops such as corn need to be cultivated in a very large scale and this could lead to increases in pesticide and fertilizer use that are harmful to wildlife and habitat.

Angelos Hadjiantoni's picture


Since most concerns raised here are regarding the processing of the materials to produce energy I would like to point out an issue about producing those materials.

In my opinion biomass is a safe and sustainable source as long as the resources are managed properly to avoid running them out.
In 2000 genetically modified corn crops were introduced in US market to make them resistant to bugs and pests.  The modification was inserted directly into the crops DNA.
This gene manipulation has raised a lot of concerns regarding the effect on human health.  Although the method has been adopted by many farmers in the US, it is banned in the EU.

This makes me wonder? How can this method be banned in one place in the world while at another place is being used without any concerns? There is not any proof yet about any effect on human health but I think that a manipulation in a part of the ecosystem might produce a chain reaction. 

Best regards,
Angelos Hadjiantonis
MSc Renewable Energy

Duo Wu's picture

Because of the major ingredient of biofuel is alcohol, water and oxygen gas are the most emissions of burning biofuel. That means much lower carbon emission are made and reducing the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, the production of biofuel is much different to fossil fuel; the working place of biofuel producing is kind of assimilator and extractor. Technically, it is much safer than the people work when facing to the underground, ocean those kinds of title with lots of unknown factors. If comparing with other chemical products, the raw materials of second generation biofuels come from a variety of sources - any kind of plant which can offer cellulose have no harmful to human.

Duo Wu  51230750 

Duo Wu's picture

Even though people treat biofuel as clean energy, biofuel is not that clean. A research institution from United States finds that the major exhaust emission of biofuel burning is alcohols which haven't burned up. Unfortunately, this kind of alcohol has different properties to the common one. Because of biofuel has chemical property been transferred from its basis materials (corns, sugarcanes), the chemical stability alcohol exhausted are pretty low. That's related to those plants' source of nutrition are photosynthesis. Because of its chemical unsteadiness, those alcohol exhausted are very easy to transfer to acetaldehyde. As we know that, acetaldehyde is an irritant of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes, throat and respiratory tract. Symptoms of exposure to this compound include nausea, vomiting, headache. These symptoms may not happen immediately. It has a general narcotic action and large doses can even cause death by respiratory paralysis.

Duo Wu  51230750 

Lee Soo Chyi's picture

Biofuel is derived from “biomass” like wheat, corn, soybeans, flax, rapeseed, sugar cane and palm oil. Indeed, greenhouse gas emitted by biofuel is less than that of fossil oil. However, we must also consider the adverse impact that caused by the biofuel production process. It is reported by CNN that “Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of CO2 emissions, 10 times more than petroleum”. The total environment impact would be greater than fossil oil when one considers the entire lifecycle of biofuels, from deforestation to cultivation and the energy necessary to produce them. I witnessed that huge area of natural rainforest in Malaysia has been degraded because of the planting of palm trees for the production of the biofuel palm oil. Deforestation also diminishes so called “carbon sinks”—thereby reducing the Earth’s capacity to absorb and re-process atmospheric CO2 while also adding to air pollution through the burning of land to clear it from cultivation (CNN News). The production of biofuel consumes huge amount of water- another precious resource. “To produce a liter of ethanol takes three to five liters of irrigation water and produces up to 13 liters of waste water” (CNN news). In addition to environmental impact, biofuel also brings side effects like food crisis. They have an adverse impact on poor consumers particularly in developing countries.  So, why do us burn foods while people from third world are suffering from starvation.

CNN World (2008). True or False: Biofuels. Available at [Accessed 30 October 2012].

CNN Science and Space (2007). Biofuel: Green savior or red herring. Available at [Accessed 30 October 2012].

Soo Chyi, Lee

Samuel Bamkefa's picture

Good submission by RossWinter

It is quite enlightening to see that biofuels can also be produced from non food crops, industrial wastes and even domestic wastes. However, talking about regulations, I did not mean to refer to the traditional use of fuels like wood for producing enerygy. As you rightly pointed out, a lot of undeveloped communities have been using this for a long time. What I was actually trying to point out is the indiscriminate production of liquid biofuels (biodiesel) which should normally require some level of technical input. Having said that though, I believe regulations can still be applied to the use of solid biofuels like wood. Many of the underdeveloped communities are undergoing a high rate of deforestation. The level of education about planting new trees is not high. I have been a personal witness to this

My point is that the regulations not just to stem the tide of what is going wrong, but also to maintain what is going right.

Samuel Bamkefa



Elle Allswell David's picture

Biofuels are fuels derived from recently dead organisms. They can be divided into
I. First generation biofuels which are made largely from edible sugars and starches.
II. Second generation biofuels which are made from non-edible materials.
III. Third generation biofuels which are made from algae and other microbes.

The main aim of Biofuels is to be Carbon neutral. Biofuels have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission when compared to conventional transport fuels.
In reality they are not carbon neutral because it requires energy to grow the crops and convert them into fuel.
There is fear among environmentalist that by adapting more land to produce crops for biofuels more habitat will be lost and our wild life and plants reserve will be in extinction.
There is another concern that if biofuels become lucrative, farmers will grow more crops for biofuel production instead of food and this will cause a rise in inflation.
There is also the risk of growth of soil erosion as plants are replaced. In the dry season a lot of water will be required to water the plants so this places heavy demand on available water.
Proper care should be taken as we push to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emission so we don't endanger the ecosystem.

chukwuemeka uzukwu's picture

Biodiesel is a clean, renewable fuel
that can be made from various biomass oil feedstocks such as waste vegetable
oil, yellow grease, animal fats, and virgin vegetable oils. Small-scale biodiesel
production has been growing due to higher fuel prices, a desire for energy
independence, and interest in environmentally friendly renewable fuel
production. Although the biodiesel manufacturing process is fairly straightforward,
there are several aspects of biodiesel production that need careful attention
to detail for a productive, safe, and environmentally sound practice. First, some
chemicals used could pose serious risks to the operator or to the environment,
unless the proper precautions are taken for storage, process safety, handling,
ventilation, and use. Second, disposal of glycerol by-product and waste water
generated from biodiesel production could cause environmental harm, unless
approved practices are used. Finally, operators need to pay close attention to
the quality of the biodiesel produced and proper storage to avoid costly engine
problems or excessive emissions during use. Most enthusiastic newcomers to
biodiesel production will find that successfully running a safe and responsible
operation is not as easy as it looks. Production of biodiesel on a small-scale
carries inherent risks, and careless producers are likely to have mishaps.
While the obvious goal of all producers should be to minimize mistakes, it is also
important to know how to deal with these mistakes and respond appropriately.
Knowledge, attention to safety, and advanced planning are the best approaches
to preventing serious accidents.


It is however, important to ensure
that best management practices are followed in order to protect the health and
safety of the producer and the environment, and to minimize the risk of
vehicle/machinery problems.

Each biodiesel producer must take personal
responsibility for his or her own safety and fuel quality. Producers are encouraged
to keep up to date with new technologies and to stay informed. 



Safety is a condition of being protected against negative consequences of failure,damage,error or accident or events that will be considered non-desirable. Biofuels are fuel or energy mix that is gotten from the biological waste and materials. The development of biofuel as an alternative to fossil fuel is crucial to the development of the future energy market of the world. biofuel produes much less carbon dioxide emissions and therefore has shown to be more environmental friendly than the conventional fuel. With the rapid development in the biofuel industry as an alternative to the current conventional fuels, we must ensure the good practices and laws that will ensure the current high standards as seen in the biofuel industry are maintained. The strategic development of biomass energy industries can help improve the environmental safety of developing countries with high population density like indonesia,india, nigeria, etc. Positively, the relative low FAR and SIR of the Biofuel industry when compared with the conventional energy industries such as Oil & Gas, Coal, etc is highly commendable. Also the biofuel industry needs to be well managed to ensure that the good statistics of the biofuel industry as regards to low accidental rates or events are maintained. 

Igwe Veronica Ifenyinwa's picture

conversion of Biomass is
another  thrilling alternative energy is the production
of biomass fuels called Biofuel.  Biofuel
is the liquid fuel made from   biomass, usually from plant matter. There are
many types of biofuel with some common ones including methanol and ethanol, as
well as synthetic gasoline, biodiesel, and aviation fuels. Their use in
contemporary locomotion and industrialization has brought them to the
front-burner as a safe and an indispensable energy resource.

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) biofuel which
is harvested from corn, sugarcane and soybeans, is now the most commonly obtainable
biofuel worldwide and is generally considered to be a "renewable energy
resource" because it is primarily the result of conversion of the Sun's
energy into usable energy. Apart from the multifarious use of biofuel as a
valuable energy resource, several indications of its safety has endeared it to
its users. Transportation also requires fuel, and ethanol can be used to run
cars replacing or augmenting gasoline as a significant source of automotive
fuel, as ethanol burns more cleanly than gasoline thereby producing fewer


Abiaziem Davidson's picture


This is a type of energy derived from biological carbon fixation. it is also derived from biomass conversion, solid biomass, liquid fuels and varieties of biogases. Biofuel is another means of energy generation that is receiving positive attention from the public and scientist and this attention is driven by factors such as oil price hikes and the need for increased energy security.

Most European Union have introduced or intend supporting policies to increase the proportion of biofuels within their energy sector by engaging in extensive research on developing and improving on biofuel production with limited thought given to safety issues.

Risk and hazard exposure exist throughout the life cycle of biofuel chain; high safety concern is on production and storage of biofuel products such as acids, bioethanol and papers. The two major safety issues in biofuel is the risk pertaining to transport and the risk pertaining to storage and use of materials.

The risk pertaining to transport of chemicals, by-products and biomass towards the plant, and transport of biofuel from plant towards stations by road tanker, boat, railroad tanker or by pipeline. Different accidents have been witness during transport of biofuels and an example is the derailment of 23 ethanol tanker carrying ethanol on a south-western Pennsylvania bridge (USA) in October 2006. The ethanol was spilled, several tanker cars exploded. No one was hurt in the accident but 100 people were evacuated.

The second is the risk pertaining to storage and use of materials; the biofuel chain include the storage of and use of chemicals such as acid, alkali, solvent, catalyst etc. These materials are stored in large amount and the risk of self heating which exists, in given conditions and can be subjected to phenomena of fermentation or oxidation. If the self heating is not detected on time, the temperature rise of the material can induce its thermal decomposition causing explosion, or lead to a fire incident. 

Production and storage of biofuel has also health risk such as toxicity of the materials and environment risk such as ecotoxicity of the materials in case of spill.


Oluwasegun Onasanya's picture

Biofuel are renewable, meaning their sources can be grown. Advanced biofuels can offer environmental benefits such as lower carbon
emissions and lower sulfur compared wit first generation biofuels and conventional petroleum-based fuels.

There is no such thing as a perfect fuel. All energy sources feature a number of benefits, risks and trade-offs as the world will
need every available form of energy that can be produced in an environmentally, economically sustainable manner and safely as well.

It does not rule out the fact that biofuel just like the conventional fuels that not have its own risk, safety implications and
issues attached to them right from the production upto their usage by final users. But if the risks are reduced to as low as reasonably
practicable (ALARP), they have the same chance of survival jus like the conventional fuel coupled with their outstanding chemical

Also i am also of the opinion that regulating bodies should ensure that companies do obey to the letter and be compliant with all the
safety policies and regulations in place for the production of the biofuel and safety informations are also made available for the end
users as well.


Soseleye F. Ideriah's picture

This source of energy provides an alternative to other much talked about petroleum products that are accompanied by high carbon emissions. Taking a closer look to develop a more precise understanding of the factors involved in biofuel production exposes some shortcomings. If the aim of harnessing alternative energy is to save the planet, a fundamental question would be – how do biofuels save the planet?

Ross Winter’s post states that “Biofuels can be produced from many different sources and now the emphasis is firmly on non-food crops”. The fact that the demand for fuel crop has contributed to an upward trend in the price of food crops cannot be denied. Also, other non-food sources may provide additional global challenges. A good example would be the use of wood for bioenergy. This results in serious negative impacts on forests, other ecosystems, air quality, climate, as well as human rights including land rights [1]. 

If produced properly, there is nothing wrong with the use of biofuels. However, current processes often cause food shortages, loss of wildlife habitat, huge carbon emissions and population displacement. There are exceptions (for example producing biofuel from algae) but they seem to be in the minority. It is necessary for further research to be carried out in this field before the use of biofuels can take on the role of being an adequate solution to the reliance on petroleum [2].





Richard Sedafor's picture

Biofuels such as bioethanols made from the fermentation of maize or other starchy cereals may cause serious hunger to the planet if measures are not taken to address the problem. Biofuels are fuels in liquid, gaseous, or solid state made from recently dead organic or biological material which can be combusted to produce energy. These fuel once produced help to supply energy needed for many engines and industries. But these fuels are made from the materials which is the staple food of many small communities in Africa. For example, corn and maize are used in the production of bioethanol in the United States but it is also a staple food in parts of Ghana, Nigeria, somalia etc. A report by Mitchell (2008) stated that 70% of food price increas was due to biofuel production. Another report by Tollens (2009) stated that beween 2007 and 2008, 33% of the maize price increase in the U.S was related to bioethanol production. So the question, should drivers be hungry while Cars get satisfied? This question relates also to the production of biodiesel. To feed the number of Cars that are being produced, more ariable land must be cultivated and this could potentially poss a serious threat. Especially biodiesel produced from soybeans. In concept, Biodiesel may be very beneficial. Some clean biofuels are being produced which can save the planet through the reduction of greenhouse emissions from these fuels.

Energy for industry/cars versus Energy for humans in the world's poor places. This is a question that must be addressed. Are humans in the world's deprived places safe with the mass production of biofuels?


Mitchell D. (2008). A note on rising food prices. The World Bank Development Prospects Group. Policy

Research Working Paper 4682 July 2008. 20 pages  

Tollens E. (2009). Biofuels in Developing Countries: Situation and Prospects. International Symposium: Developing Countries Facing Global Warming: a Post-Kyoto Assessment. June, 2009. The Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, Brussels

Bassey Kufre Peter's picture

After going through some of the posts my course mates, I will like to make some points clear here. Friends, as we know, no Legislation holds the duty holder at ransom to eliminate risk but to reduce it to as low as reasonably practicable. The safety in BIOFUEL is within the tolerable region of the ALARP TRAINGLE. Afterall no process is entirely safe. For example, sugar consumption is sweet but if not properly consumed can cause diabetes. 

Biofuel is CLEAN, RENEWABLE and REDUCES GLOBAL WARMING FROM GREEN GAS EMMISION  and the advanced biofuels offers environmental benefits such as lower the carbon emission and lower sulfur compared with the conventional petroleum based fuels.

The Excess CO2 emitted into the atmosphere on account of continued consumption of fossil fuels can be offset by capturing it at industrial sources and pumping it into deep geological formations or by growth of biomass employing naturally occurring PHOTOSYNTHESIS. Biomass in this context refers to non-fossil organic materials such as wood, straw, vegetable oils, and biodegradable wastes from plants or animals and agricultural residues that could be used for energy generation. It also includes aquatic living, or recently dead organic material such as phytoplankton or algae.

The risk associated with the transport, storage use of biofuel, Biodegradation, deforestation, threatening of wildlife habitat etc, can be mitigated by applying the GOAL SETTING LEGISLATIVE as stated in the Health, Safety and Environmental Laws and guidelines.

Bassey, Kufre Peter
M.Sc-Subsea Engineering-2012/2013
University of Aberdeen.

Sineenat Kruennumjai's picture

Discussion Topic 14: Discuss safety in biofuels

Biofuels are the compounds of traditional fuels and biological source such as grasses, corn, seed oils, and animal by-products. As a consequence of such combination, they are potentially reducing in greenhouse gases emission. Although biofuels can be used safely, they still have some risk. Biofuels are chemically difference from traditional fuels, so corrosion and leakage might occur and create some certain damage. Moreover, biofuels can be differently combusted and might require some special device. Consumers have to be able to digest biofuel and understand more about the differences of biofuels and traditional fuels in order to use then safety.  For example, consumers have to identify the fuels that can be used for their devices or not. If they are not sure that their equipment is compatible, they must not use the biofuel with such device. Another way is the instruction manuals of equipment should generally provide guidance on can it safely use with biofuels.    

Refference ;

    Posted By 

Sineenat Kruennumjai

Student ID 51126536

Elvis.E.Osung's picture

Fellow colleagues have been doing a great deal of debate on the unsafe aspects of commercial production of biofuels, i will like to xray the risks associated with the domestic production of biofuels.Information about domestic production of bio fuels is available on the internet and can be carried out by personnel that are not trained and in environments that are not controlled posing great risk to the individual and the neighbourhood in the event of a fire outbreak. domestic production of biofuels is a high risk activity due to the mixture of harzadous chemicals which could increase the risk of fire and explosion. Methanol and sodium hydroxide commonly used in domestic production of biofuels have negative side effects while methanol can be absorbed through the skin and causes blindness and death if improperly used, sodium hydroxide can cause sever burns and death too. i would suggest that domestic biofuel production is made illegal by law.

amir masoud bayat's picture

As I was searching through the net,I came across some articles about the dangers of biofuels on human health and also accidents in biofuel industry.All the articles share the same idea that som biofuels do cause more problems associated with health and safety than oil and gas.

On the one hand, corn which is the source of biofuels needs nitrogen fertilizers like ammonia. The particles of ammonia are charged and attract dust. they stick together and form particles of 2.5 micron which has crucial health impacts.

On the other hand. alot of accidents have been occured in biofuel industry.Some of them are: methanol spillage igniting and fire spreading to storage tanks, people being burnt by sulphuric acid, small processors exploding due to accidentally switching on electric immersion heaters, pipework bursting due to using incompatible materials, adding methanol to hot oil and small fires escalating to large fires due to using plastic reactor vessels.

 As you can see, as much as biofuels are eco-friendly, they can lead to significant dangers.

Liu Yishan's picture

There were a few of accidents causing by biofuel both in UK and worldwide. Last year, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington recalled some companies' ethanol fuel gels as they had been considered unsafe for public use. One is PatioGlo biofuel which caused dozens of accidents resulting in serious burns and three deaths, along with nine other brands in September 2011. The other recalled liquid gel fuel is called FireGel which caused two very serious accidents. The product exploded and badly injured a 14-year-old boy on May 28 and then another explosion accident burned a 24-year-old man in Manhattan several days later. After these fatal incidents, the Suffolk County Legislature enacted "Michael's Law," which named after the young boy, to ban the sale of ethanol gel fuels in Suffolk County. We always learn from experiences, but if we can do something before these accidents, they may be not happened.


Fungisai N Nota's picture

 Like any other source of fuel that is available and can burn
there is always safety issues that are associated with it. If we look at the
bio fuel under industrial production in a controlled environment they are less temperamental
with very few accidents recorded. Where there come the issue is the fact of the
carbon footprint that they still leave and the green house gases as most may
want to argue that during their life cycle the plants themselves would have
taken some of that carbon in so that which they give out during their
production will cancel out. As the world looks to a carbon free economy a
source of fuel that is carbon free is the target. There are those that chose to
produce some of the bio fuels at home hence increasing the risk chemicals like methanol
and sodium hydroxide are dangerous substance when not handled well  but when we compare the bio fuels to other
fuels like oil and gas the safety and environmental risk is lower .      

Fungisai Nota BEng(Hons) MIET

Keqin Chen's picture

generally mean Fuels sourced from biomasses which are used for transportation. E.g.
Biodiesel from vegetable oils (Rapeseed), algae, recycled vegetable and animal
oils; Biomethanol from synthesis gas or biogas; Bioethanol from Sugarcane &
Corn or ligno-cellulosic materials (e.g. Wood & Straw); Pyrolysis Oils from
range of feedstock.

Derived from biomass conversion,
biofuels are important renewable energy. And a lot of studies have shown that
biofuels have significantly less impact on the environment than ordinary fossil
based fuels. However, some issues should be focused on:

Firstly, other
kinds of resources are consumed during the production of biomass. Secondly, carbon emissions
 levels still can not be satisfied. Thirdly, we have to face
the puzzles of deforestation, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity [1]. Fourthly, the impact on water resources is obvious huge, as well as energy balance
and efficiency. Lastly, biodiesel
production commonly uses some potential lethal chemicals including methanol,
caustic soda and concentrated sulphuric acid. E.g. Methanol exposure on a small
daily dose causes cumulative damage to the body. And it is also explosive, when
mixed with caustic soda it is poisonous, explosive and caustic. [2]

So the environmental
and social impacts of biofuels need to be assessed throughout the entire






Keqin Chen

Msc of Oil and Gas Engineering


Oluwatadegbe Adesunloye Oyolola's picture

Although the biodiesel manufacturing process is fairly straightforward, there are several aspects of biodiesel production that need careful attention to detail for a productive, safe, and environmentally sound practice. First, some chemicals used could pose serious risks to the operator or to the environment, unless the proper precautions are taken for storage, process safety, handling, ventilation, and use. Second, disposal of glycerol by-product and waste water generated from biodiesel production could cause environmental harm, unless approved practices are used. Finally, operators need to pay close attention to the quality of the biodiesel produced and proper storage to avoid costly engine problems or excessive emissions during use.

Here are some basic biodiesel safety tips.

1.     Do not make biodiesel or leave the chemicals where there are children... ever!

2.    Always make biodiesel outside or in a well ventilated area

3.    Do not store large quantities of methanol in your home. Your fire regulations probably restrict you to 5 liters but this will depend on your local fire department, avoid storing large quantities in your production area in case you have a biodiesel fire

4.    Store methanol in steel containers and put an earth strap on them. This earth strap must be connected to a spike in the ground or a water pipe

5.    Always wear a dust mask when working with the hydroxides. There will often be dust in the bags which can be inhaled and burn your lungs.

6.    A cartridge respirator will not protect you from methanol. Only a closed-circuit air supply will keep you safe. For this reason ventilate your area with a forced air extraction system, or just make it outside or in an open area.

7.    Never, ever smoke. Biodiesel safety and smoking do not go together

8.    Do not mix methoxide in plastic soda bottles, use glass or stainless steel. Many small plants use Plastic Carboys to mix the chemicals in. The plastic is Poly Ethylene and this is resistant to the chemicals, but if the mixture gets to hot this can be a problem.

9.    The best way to mix on a small scale is to put the chemicals in a suitable container, outside, close to running water. Give the container a swirl every now and then until the hydroxide is dissolved. This can take half an hour or so. There is no need for mechanical agitation. Keep the container closed as much as possible.

10.  When you add the methoxide to the oil make sure the oil is no hotter than 60 deg C.




Oluwatadegbe A.O

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

I intend to bring forth some health and safety considerations when producing bio diesel (a common form of biofuels) from vegetable oil.

Bio diesel production typically makes use of potentially noxious chemicals such as methanol, caustic soda and concentrated sulfuric acid.

methanol is a hazardous chemical cabaple of making its way into the body through inhaling the vapour, direct skin contact and even swallowing by accident. its presence in the body causes nausea, dizzness accompaanied by visual impairment which could result in blidness. furthermore, swallowing even a minute dose could critically affect the central nervous system and cause severe damage to some of the vital organs in the body. This makes continous exposure to methanol  a risky exercise healthwise in the longterm.

caustic soda (sodium Hydroxide) on the other is an extremely corrosive chemical. it can cause burning to the skin and stiring the mixture is accompanied by the release of very tiny vapour droplets. these droplets if inhaled can severly irritate the respiratory system and even cause breathlessness. 

considering the the chemicals involved in this common type of bio fuel production, it could be deducted that biofuel manufacture is far from a riskless exercise as far as health and safety goes.  

common accidents in the bio fuel industry typically involve methanol spilage resulting in fires and sulfuric acid burns.



Harrison Oluwaseyi's picture

The word ‘biofuel' is used to describe any fuel, liquid or
gas made from plants or microorganisms. Biofuels have been in existence since
the 19th century when a French scientist called 'Rudolf Diesel' ran his engine
on peanut oil at the world exhibition in France. Over the years as fossil fuels
are been consumed at a faster rate than ever and there effects on the
environment are becoming more pronounced, other sources of energy which can
provide similar energy and less effects on the environment have been invented.
One of the few renewable sources which can fulfil global demand is the
BIOFUEL. Major biofuels include
ethanol, butanol, biodiesel, hydrogen from biomass etc.

Biofuels can be produced using different techniques they include
anaerobic digestion of waste, conversion of sugar into alcohol, transesterification,
etc. There have been concerns about the impacts of biofuels on the global
economy, food prices and the environment. Certain economies are solely
dependent on fossil fuels; the introduction of fossil fuels would cause a disaster,
on the issue of environment the use of biofuels produces little or no green
house gases. Hitherto, there have been no reports about accidents occurring as
a result of using or producing biofuels. Although there have been some debates
about its effect on food prices.


 Reid Detchon, ‘Biofuels for Our Future: A


Harrison Oluwaseyi, Biomass to Biofuel: Anaerobic digestion of waste.


eddy itamah's picture

As a result of the continous increase in the price of oil, several different important methods and innovations have been developed to help address this issue of oil price increase. Among several important and innovative techniques which have be exploited to address this issue is biofuel. However, as the different types of biofuels that are now currently in production and development are still relatively new to the market, there is however a strong debate about the overall efficiency, effectiveness and safety of biofuels.

Biodiesel which is the most important and common biofuel is produced with lethal chemicals which include methanol, caustic soda and concentrated sulphuric acid. Theses potential lethal chemicals used in the production of biodiesel are mostly the environmental and health safety issues inherent in biofuel. Methanol is a toxic chemical, which when come in contact with the body either through direct skin contact or through breaking in the vapour,can cause serious nausea, dizziness and visual disturbances which can invariably lead to blindness. On the other hands, sodium hydroxide is regarded to be extremely corrosive, and can cause burning to unprotected skin and is particularly damaging to the eyes.

Other safety issues associated with biodiesel which is the most common biofuels are methanol spillage igniting and fire spreading to storage tanks, workers being burnt by sulphuric acid due to poor training, supervision and suitability, small processors exploding due to accidental switching on of electric immersion heaters, pipework bursting due to use of incompatible materials, adding methanol to hot oil and small fire escalating to large fires due to use of plastic reactor vessels.



Kwadwo Boateng Aniagyei's picture

Bio-fuel is considered by many as a clean source of energy
and I concur to that. It has very little greenhouse gases emissions and
somewhat environmentally friendly. Just as other fossil fuels and every other
energy source; it has some inherent safety concerns which are worth mentioning
and suitable for further consideration.

Chemical exposure and
: The conversion of the biological materials to vegetable oil and bio-diesel
require the use of methanol (a flammable toxic alcohol) and lye (a corrosive
caustic base). These two chemicals are hazardous and can pose several health
dangers. Overexposure to methanol can cause neurological damage and other health
problems; and it presents a serious fire risk. Lye can cause skin and lung

Handling of
: The processing of bio-diesel produces a substantial amount of
crude glycerol. Other processing plants also use water for fuel purification,
and may generate as much as three gallons of waste water for each gallon of
fuel produced. Both glycerol and waste water require handling and disposal consideration
as improper disposal will adversely affect human life and the environment.

The growth of the bio-fuel industry (growth of plant capacity)
has increased the hazards of biodiesel production and the consequences of
accidental scenarios, due to the increased complexity of plants, the number and
dimension of equipments and the larger inventory of chemicals.

Rigorous precautions are necessary to avoid personal
poisoning, fire, and contamination of soil and water resources. Process safety
and handling of by-products should be well regulated to ensure enhanced safety in
the bio-fuel industry.




Tianchi You's picture

As I have read a publication online, I have known some disadvantages of the biofuel which may result in safety issues.Biodiesel is aclean, renewable fuel that can be made from various biomass oil feedstocks such as waste vegetable oil, yellow

grease, animal fats, and virgin vegetable oils. However, it needs high attention on its production and storage. Firstly, some chemicals are used for production which could cause serious risks to the operators unless the proper cautions on it. Secondly, since it needs glycerol and wasted water and its disposal exists harmful effects to the environment. Finally, it has a high-level demand of operation which means people need to pay attention on its production ,transport and quality. 

What's more, a lot of people show their doubt about the biofuel's efficiency.

In that case, we need to consider about the safety issues of biofuel and also pay attention to the ways which can improve its efficiency.


Tianchi You


Oil&Gas engineering 

Maxwell Otobo's picture

Biofuels is one of the fast growing part of the energy sector and are produced from renewables such as grains, plant biomass, animal fat, vegetable oil and treated municipal & industrial wastes.

There are basically two main types of biofuels being produced and they are; Ethanol and Biodiesel.

Ethanol - is an alcohol fuel produced from the sugars found in grains such as corn, barley, sorghum, rice, sugarcane and potato skins. The production process involves hazardous materials such as acids bases and gasoline; making ethanol a flammable liquid that ignites at ordinary temperatures.

Biodiesel - is a fuel made from vegetable oil, animal fats or greases. It is combustile and readily burns when heated. The production process involves reacting the organic material e.g vegetable oil with an alcohol mainly methanol using a strong base catalyst known as a caustic. A by-product (glycerine) is then produced.

All of these materials used in the production of biofuels are hazardous and require careful attention/management to protect workers and the environment.

Potential hazards and controls  in the production and handling of biofuels include:

A. Fire and explosion - workers producing biofuels are exposed to potential fire and explosion hazards. Safety precautions should be taken to prevent this hazard by preventing releases, avoiding ignition of spills and having appropriate fire protection system and emergency response precedures.

B. Toxicity hazards in biofuel manufacturing - biofuels and their manufacturing chemicals present toxic exposure hazards to workers and these hazards needs to be carefully controlled. A good ventilation and drainage system is required to reduce exposures and personal protective equipment should be used when necessary.

C. Chemical reactivity hazards in biofuel - Chemicals used in biofuel production e.g acids and bases may react vigorously with many materials. Glycerine, a by-product produced from the manufacture of biodiesel is often treate with acid and needs to be properly controlled. Failure to carefully control potential dangerous chemical reactions may lead to rupture of equipment, explosions, fires and exposure to hazardous chemicals. These can be avoided by controlling the rate and order of chemical addition, providing robust cooling and the use of detailed operation directions.

REFERENCES's picture

Bio-fuel refers to the biomass composition or extraction of solid, liquid or gas fuel. Moreover, it can replace the gasoline and diesel which are refined from oil. Bio-fuel is the renewable energy that utilized in most important direction. The so-called biomass is refers to the use of the atmosphere, water, land and through photosynthesis to produce a variety of organisms.
In order to produce bio-fuels, many land changed to farmland, furthermore, the development of new farmland will damage to the ecosystem. The wide use of bio-fuels also causes high food prices, and threaten the survival of poverty. To manufacture and transport bio-fuel will lead to pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and using water resources, chemical fertilizer. If we can produce and use the bio-fuel in the same place, this action can address these issues, but even if in the same location, biomass fuel may still is not worthy on environmental protection. In addition, some research shows that, to manufacture corn alcohol need energy more than corn alcohol can provide energy.
However, tung oil tree can be used to produce bio-fuel, these plants can grow in wasteland which is not suitable for food crops. This kind of plant almost does not need to fertilized while its seed also does not edible which will not affect the food production.
To use the waste oil to produce bio-diesel will not influence food source and it is considered to be the real worthy of popularizing in bio-fuel, but waste oil contains many useless materials, which will result in production problems.'s picture

Bio-fuel refers to the biomass composition or extraction of solid, liquid or gas fuel. Moreover, it can replace the gasoline and diesel which are refined from oil. Bio-fuel is the renewable energy that utilized in most important direction. The so-called biomass is refers to the use of the atmosphere, water, land and through photosynthesis to produce a variety of organisms.
In order to produce bio-fuels, many land changed to farmland, furthermore, the development of new farmland will damage to the ecosystem. The wide use of bio-fuels also causes high food prices, and threaten the survival of poverty. To manufacture and transport bio-fuel will lead to pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and using water resources, chemical fertilizer. If we can produce and use the bio-fuel in the same place, this action can address these issues, but even if in the same location, biomass fuel may still is not worthy on environmental protection. In addition, some research shows that, to manufacture corn alcohol need energy more than corn alcohol can provide energy.
However, tung oil tree can be used to produce bio-fuel, these plants can grow in wasteland which is not suitable for food crops. This kind of plant almost does not need to fertilized while its seed also does not edible which will not affect the food production.
To use the waste oil to produce bio-diesel will not influence food source and it is considered to be the real worthy of popularizing in bio-fuel, but waste oil contains many useless materials, which will result in production problems.

ZHANGYANAN's picture

The safety of biofuel

Recently, the US researchers discovered that the incomplete burned ethanol may transform into the ether easily because of the unique characteristic it has. It may have the potentially hazardous to human health. The bio-fuel emission is doubted again.

Because of the different raw materials and technologies, bio-fuel can be device into 4 generations. The first 3 generations are made from corn, sweet potato, grass, wheat straw or wood. The 4th generation of biofuels uses metabolic engineering technology to transform algae metabolic pathways, making it directly synthetic ethanol by absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Also, the harmful emission during the produce of biofuel is always the centre point of controversy.

For these problems of biofuels, the major countries of the world focus on some aspects such as raw materials, processes and the way of using biofuels etc… to enhance the quality of biological materials.



"ADM Biodiesel: Hamburg, Leer, Mainz". Retrieved 2010-07-14.

Evans, G. "Liquid Transport Biofuels - Technology Status Report", National Non-Food Crops Centre, 2008-04-14. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.


Zhang Yanan      ID: 51233945




As we all know no energy source comes without its safety concerns. Biofuels can greatly reduce the over dependence on fossil fuel as such mitigating the effect of climate change. This goal definitely comes with its own downside. Biofuels are produced from organic matter such as plants, animal fats, algae, organic waste etc.

These sources can offer new market for agricultural producers and can even stimulate rural growth with increased income but this definitely has its downside. A study suggests that the amount of maize required to produce 100litres of bioethanol can feed one person in a year. It has been criticised for diverting food away from the human food chain to the engine.

Biofuel is said to offer about 20-70% reduction in greenhouse gases emission but Noble Laureate, Paul Crutzen pointed out that some biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels they replace. A quick summary of the concerns of biofuel are:

1. Food vs. fuel

2. Carbon emission levels

3. Deforestation

4. Soil erosion

5. Loss of biodiversity










Although biofuels
have many advantages, there is still a significant dilemma for bioenergy that
bioenergy development might cause the shortage of food and land. The experts of Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations warned on 23rd January, 2008, the
pushy development and utilization of bioenergy is leading to rising in the price
of corn and other food crops and possibly results in further deterioration of
water resource shortage and people in poverty losing the land they rely for
existence. And in the meantime, there is large water consumption for agriculture
which could use 70% of the total water resource. Bioenergy development aims at reducing
the usage of nonrenewable resources such as petroleum or coal, but in the
meantime, the consumption of water, electricity and crude oil is tremendous in
the process of bioenergy production and transportation.

Biodiesel is a synthetic fuel made of vegetable oil treated with chemical. It is produced by mixing methanol with sodium hydroxide and adding it to vegetable oil. This is a hazards process. This process involves risk of fire and of hazards chemical. The hazardous chemicals used in biodiesel are sodium hydroxide and methanol. Sodium hydroxide is a corrosive, it causes burning to unprotected skin and damage eyes. A fine mist of liquid droplets is produced while stirring and this will damage the throat lining and digestive system. It can also create respiratory irritation and breathlessness. Methanol is a toxic substance that causes nausea, dizziness and blindness. It can also cause threat to the central nervous system and to other vital organs. Methanol is a highly flammable substance which can cause fire in the presence of a potential ignition source. Wrong mixing of chemical can cause violent chemical reaction that increases the risk.

Kingsley ENEM's picture

Biofuels are a category of fuel resulting from organic matter. It is generally described as biomass produced by living organisms i.e. plants and animals. Biofuels can as well be represented as alternates for fossil fuel sourced mostly from a range of agricultural and energy crops, forests and waste streams.
There are diverse ways of using of biofuels; unrefined biomass can be used to create electricity via steam turbines and gasifiers, or heat by directly combusting the raw material. Biomass can as well be converted to bioliquids and used as fuels for transport, as in bioethanol and biodiesel. Lastly, biomass can be converted to an energy-rich gas for boilers usage and gas turbines to create heat and electricity, used in gas-fuelled transport as compressed biomethane (CBM).
There are a number of technical/safety problems related with biofuels, most of which are around the quantity of energy used in the farming and cultivation phases of the feedstocks, and the quantity of energy (in terms of fossil fuels) used to transport and change the feedstocks into the final biofuel product. These fossil fuels used in process of producing biofuel causes serious pollution to the environment as hydrocarbons are release to the atmosphere.


Kelvin Arazu's picture

Biofuel is the fuel that is produced when biodegradable materials such as biomass, sewage, agricultural wastes and food wastes are digested by anaerobic bacteria in an anaerobic environment.

The main components of biofuel are methane 55-70% by volume and carbon dioxide 30-45% by volume the trace components include nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and siloxanes.


Upgrading biofuel may cause it to lose its green benefit as energy is consumed in the process.

Producing biofuel might have a negative impact on food security and increase the risk of explosion in the plant.

It produces dirty smell.

In conclusion, biofuel is a versatile source of renewable energy that can be produced from a wide range of raw materials. To mitigate food shortage caused by the use of food crops to generate bioenergy, I would recommend the growing of crops as this will ensure that the raw materials used for this technology are bountiful. This will promote food security and energy yield.  

t01sik12's picture

Biofuel is considered as a possible alternate source of regular petroleum. There are concerns about safety issues.  Biofuel plants are  known to discharge oily product into rivers and waterways in local communities.This is not harmful to humans, its is harmful to birds and fish. The glycerin and oil in the mix can deplete oxygen from the body of water and kill the fish and is toxic to birds when it is ingested. Natural risk could result as a production of biofuel. Farmers are subjected to extreme weather condition such as drought or floods which also affects the crops.

Measures should be put in place to mitigate their effect through Insurance mechanisms.


Samuel Kanu

Msc Subsea Engineering

Ernest Appiah's picture

Biofuel is environmentally friendly and renewable source of energy. It has lower carbon emissions as compared to fossil sources of energy such as diesel and also come with high energetic efficiency.
Like any other energy forms, the production process of Biofuels can be very dangerous. Examples are methanol and other flammable reactants such as sodium methylate can make the production plants very susceptible to fire and explosion if not properly engineered and operated.
There are numerous examples of accidents occurring in Biofuel process plants in the USA. From the year 2006 to 2009, there were accidents involving 8 fires and 6 explosions and in most cases there were total destruction of the plants involved. It should be clarified that, there has not been a single accident in Europe for the Biofuel industry with over 65 operating plants as of 2006.
Thus, the argument could be made that the energy from Biofuel is safe but the production processes is totally unsafe.

Kelvin Osaro's picture

With all-time rise in fuel prices and fewer alternative fuel sources for transportation, several countries are now rapidly supporting the production of liquid biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) [1]. However, the production and use of biofuels has given rise to a number of concern and wide debate in the economic, environmental, social and technical impacts relating to biofuels. These takes account of: carbon emissions, effects of moderating oil prices, impact of water resources, debate on food verse fuel, poverty reduction potential, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and soil erosion, and energy balance and efficiency. All these factors can be of advantage or disadvantage in the production and use of biofuels. But, with the development of new biofuel crops and second generation biofuels it hopes to reduce some of the issues discussed above [2]. Hence, developing new biofuel crops that uses less land and fewer resources such as water, for biofuel crop like algae. As a renewable source, it could help to reduce climate change and the over dependence on oil in the transport sector. They can also stimulate rural growth and farm income through large agricultural production [1].




Kelvin Osaro's picture

There are several aspects of biodiesel production that requires a proper safety measures and environmentally good practice. These include:

• Taking proper precautions in storage, process safety, handling, ventilation and use of hazardous chemical which could cause harm or serious risk to operators or on the environment.
• Using approved practises to ensure environmental safety through the disposal of glycerol by-product and waste water generated from biodiesel production.
• Operators should ensure proper storage and production of biodiesel to circumvent costly engine problems or excessive emissions during use.

With these safety measures, it is however, important to ensure a best management practices in order to protect the health and safety of the producer and the environment and to reduce the risk of vehicle/machinery problems [1]. More so, the production process can be dangerous as methanol can turn plants to be vulnerable to fire and explosion if not properly engineered and operated [2]. So, proper safety precautions should be taking into consideration to avoid this from occurring.



victor.adukwu's picture

Growing crops to make biofuels results in vast amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and does nothing to stop climate change or global warming, according to the first thorough scientific audit of a biofuel's carbon budget.
Scientists have produced damning evidence to suggest that biofuels could be one of the biggest environmental con-tricks because they actually make global warming worse by adding to the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide that they are supposed to curb. Two separate studies published in the journal Science show that a range of biofuel crops now being grown to produce "green" alternatives to oil-based fossil fuels release far more carbon dioxide into the air than can be absorbed by the growing plants. [2]
The scientists found that, in the case of some crops, it would take several centuries of growing them to pay off the carbon debt caused by their initial cultivation. Those environmental costs do not take into account any extra destruction to the environment, for instance the loss of biodiversity caused by clearing tracts of pristine rainforest. All the biofuels we use now cause habitat destruction, either directly or indirectly. Global agriculture is already producing food for six billion people. Producing food-based biofuel, too, will require that still more land be converted to agriculture. [2]
In conclusion, the safety procedure in biofuel should be revisited and addendum to existing regulations and standards.

Oghenekevwe Ovbije's picture

Bio-fuel is a form of alternative fuel that can be generated from plant materials like maize, vegetable oil, organic solid waste called biomass, natural gas and a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. It has low carbon emissions compared to conventional fuel (oil, gas or coal). The production of bio-fuels requires various activities that pose certain forms of risk to humans and the environment. Such problems are (1):

•Deforestation – Land conversion for the growth of bio-fuels crops leads to loss of habitat, depletion of the soil content and result in a decrease in the biodiversity of our ecosystem.
•Agricultural risk (food shortage) – farmers now focus on the production of plants used for bio-fuels, this has resulted in shortage of certain crops like maize, wheat etc, and an increase in the price of crops that serve as supplements
•Water pollution – the use of chemical for agricultural purposes can pollute water lines and kill aquatic animals
•Air pollution - when bio-fuels are used for cooking, it gives rise to indoor air pollution that poses danger to our health because the emissions from bio-fuel contains carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide etc. In a place like India, it has been a major cause of respiratory diseases, lung cancer, morbidity and mortality. (2).

From study, a degree of carbon emission can be generated if fossil fuels are used for the transportation and refining of crops. This can be avoided if a renewable form of energy with low carbon foot print is used.

[1] Advantages and Disadvantages of Biofuels Available at: Accessed 10/4/2012, 2012.

[2] JSTOR: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 38, No. 26 (Jun. 28 - Jul. 4, 2003), pp. 2681-2692 Available at: Accessed 10/4/2012, 2012.

ROHIT NAIR's picture

Biofuel has many advantages over conventional fossil fuels like
being cheaper than conventional fossil fuels and also being a renewable form of
energy. But it also has some disadvantages like:

The energy output from bio fuel
is much lower than that of the conventional fossil fuels. So greater quantity
of bio-fuel has to be consumed for the same energy output compared to fossil

Biofuel burns cleaner than
conventional fossil fuel but the amount of carbon emission but the process to
produce the fuel results in carbon emission.

With increase in demand for
fossil fuel, the prices of the food products used for producing biofuel will
also increase.

Hence it is important to access both the pros and cons for biofuels to
be established as a replacement for fossil fuels.

Rohit C Nair
Subsea Engineering
Student id- 51231896

Ahmed_Abdelkhalek's picture

I have to say that I am very much sceptical about Bio-fuels. Except for bio fuels that are produced from waste materials and algae, I believe that bio fuel requires people to trade in their water and food to get energy.  Some people debate that if bio fuels are not produced from crops we should not care. I however disagree, with the famines that human beings are facing in certain parts of the world; it is definitely more valuable to plant crops for food instead of planting non-crop plants for bio-fuels.

I am however more open to accept the use of algae to develop the bio fuel. However several concerns pertain to the production of bio fuel from algae and they are as follows:

•It consumes a lot of water (about 3.15 to 3.65 litres of water to produce 1 litre of bio fuel).

•It consumes a lot of Nitrogen and phosphorus based fertilizers which can in excess pollute natural waterways.


Biodiesel is a common type of bio fuel and to date; its production has the highest accident rate relative to the production of other bio fuels. Reading through various articles, this is the case failure of manufacturers and operators to adhere to good manufacturing practices. The most common problems with biodiesel production have been identified as follows:
 Methanol - methanol and the catalyst used for production pose the largest safety hazards. Methanol being a highly flammable substance with explosive vapours over a wide range of concentrations. Furthermore, because it is heavier than air, it has the tendency to accumulate in low areas of the plant. To mitigate risks posed by methanol, it is important that indoor production units are properly ventilated. In addition, it is paramount no spark generating electrical or mechanical components are allowed in the area. Equipment selection and installations should also ensure that materials used are of the highest reliabilities in order to mitigate the risk of mechanical failure.
 Failures in pump seal, hose, and even lack of proper instrumentation connections has resulted in methanol leaks to the operating area. In addition to ensuring high reliabilities of components, personnel should be properly trained to make regular checks for such mechanical incompetencies.
 Spill containment is also a potential problem in operating biodiesel plants. In addition to following legislative guidelines, it is important to frequently check that hazardous materials are not leaking and accumulating. Hose connections tend to be bypassed during routine checks however, it is important they are also checked ensuring no spillage is occurring.

Kuma Mede

Incident Cause and impact
American Bio fuels incident in 2006: Small methanol spillage resulting in Huge fire through an entire building
Sun Break Bio fuels, 2006: A major fire resulted when a small fire melted plastic biodiesel storage tanks
Blue Sky Biodiesel, 2006: Fire started during installation of vent tube in an existing tank
Agri Biofuels Dayton, 2007: A fire occurred due to methanol spillage
Better Biodiesel Spanish, 2007 Fire occurring due to mechanical malfunction of a methanol transfer line
Farmers & Truckers Biodiesel, 2007 A welder installing a flow line on a tank died following an explosion
Foothills Biodiesel Lenoir, 2007 Feedstock tanks destroyed by fire two days after they were shut down.

American Ag Fuels Defiance, 2008 An explosion occurred when workers left a manhole cover off a glycerin storage tank.
Green Light Biofuels Princess, 2008 An explosion occurred when a methane line was being added to the plant. Killed one and severely injured another
Biofuels of Tennessee Decaturville, 2008 A fire occurred in a plant four months after abandonment. No cause has been discovered till date

All American Biodiesel York, 2008 An entire processing building destroyed by fire.
GreenHunter Biofuels Houston, 2009 Mechanical seal failure which resulted in a fire
Minnesota Soy Bean Processors Brewster, 2009 Fire resulting in explosions destroying numerous tanks

Midwest Biorenewables Toledo, 2009 Safety valve failure which resulted in a fire destroying two production lines
Columbus Foods Company Chicago, 2009 Two works critically injured whilst handling chemicals
New Eden Energy, 2009 Multiple explosions arising from chemical vessels destroying an entire building and numerous equipment

Xenerga Biodiesel, 2009 Explosion in a storage reactor severely injuring one worker.
Imperium Renewables, 2009 Explosion occurred in a glycerine tank destroying the equipment.

Although, this brief history records of incidents till 2009 only, it is clear to see that bio fuel plants require extreme care even when they are not in operation.
Kuma Mede



Connie Shellcock's picture

As previous posts such as Abiaziem Davidson’s post have
highlighted transport poses a problem for biofuels. Distributing and dispensing
the biofuels is expensive and risky due to the chemical properties of
individual fuels. Many of the fuels have to be distributed in gaseous form and
this is expensive and can only be done on a large scale if it is to be cost
effective. Another worrying safety factor was in a case study where the effects
of biofuel smoke exposure was found to be associated with anemia in children.
As more and more developing countries are relying on biofuels, this calls for
further investigations into how biofuel inhalation can be reduced.
Georgiades et al. 2010, Hamelinck, Faaij 2006)

HAMELINCK, C.N. and FAAIJ, A.P.C., 2006. Outlook for advanced biofuels. Energy
34(17), pp. 3268-3283.

KYU, H.H., GEORGIADES, K. and BOYLE, M.H., 2010. Biofuel Smoke and Child
Anemia in 29 Developing Countries: A Multilevel Analysis. Annals of
20(11), pp. 811-817.


Mehran Vakil's picture

By virtue of my previous report prepared for the course of Energy Technology, I have become aware that Biofuel are divided into three main methods.
1)    Bioethanol
2)    Biogas
3)    Biodiesel
Biodiesel is supplied through transesterification process (Cerce, 2005). Combination of vegetable and also animal oil between alcohol in presence of catalyst cause making pure biodiesel. In order to be more efficient and also being utilized for commercial usage, biodiesel might be mixed with petroleum. Biodiesel is illustrated like B - - for industrial format. The blanks are filled with numbers represented the percentage of petroleum blended with biodiesel. For instance, B50 explains that fifty percent of biodiesel is contained petroleum (Casady and Schumacher, 1991). Thus, it will be harmful for humanity and also it has environmental impact. Skin disorder, respiratory cancer, leukemia, global warming and depleting ozone layer are prominent contributing factors as undesired consequences of petroleum based biodiesel. Albeit, it has less damage in comparison between fossil fuels, it should be considered (Sheehan et al, 1998).
I believe in, it would be pity to destroy our planet in order to fit our organization in a business market. So, Dear energy organizations, could you please stop ruining the Earth and its atmosphere.

1)CASADY, W. & SCHUMACHER, L. 1991. Biodiesel Blends for Fueling Diesel Engines [Online]. Available: [Accessed 25/11 2012].
2)CERCE, T., PETER, S. & WEIDNER, E. 2005. Biodiesel-Transesterification of Biological Oils with LiquidCatalysts: Thermodynamic Properties of Oil-Methanol-AmineMixtures [Online]. Available: [Accessed 25/11 2012].
3)SHEEHAN, J., CAMOBRECO, V., DUFFIELD, J., GRABOSKI, M. & SHAPOURI, H. 1998. An Overview of Biodiesel andPetroleum Diesel Life Cycles [Online]. Available: [Accessed 25/11 2012].

Andy Reid's picture

The biggest safety issue concerning biofuels is the fact that they are not commercially available and require users to synthesise their own. While a governed, controlled processing plant would be able to take care to ensure worker safety is kept at a paramount, "bathtub brewers" risk cutting corners, falling victim to misinformation or otherwise introducing errors and hazards into the production process.

Allowing small to medium scale processing of waste fluids into biofuels would allow for the process to be controlled and regulated while still allowing users to benefit financially from its use.

Another safety concern with biofuel is its tendency to turn to gel at low temperatures which may cause it to be unreliable and unsafe in colder climates like Norway or Canada[1].


Andy Reid



Omololu Oyebola's picture

Increasing emerging
economies has resulted in an increase in energy demand, and thus a look into
the Biofuel. Factors such as oil prices, global warming, and explorative access
issues has spurred the development of biofuels.

Biofuels are carbon
neutralizers but issues and challenges such as Fuel vs. Food debate,
life-cycle-environmental impact of biofuels [1] raises question marks over its
development and sustainability to substitute fossil fuels.

Feedstocks for biofuel
production are mainly food crops and their utilization will lead to high demand
and scarcity, thus leading to inflation. The vast land also required to
cultivate this crop is also an issue of concern, this destroys the rain forest,
exposes land to erosion, air pollution due to increased application of
fertilizer which releases greenhouse gas N
2O, pest
control. All of these possess safety concern to human lives and the environment




[1] Society of Petroleum
Engineers Biofuels (SPE 140626): Green energy for the century? 

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