What is the Difference Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

Biodiesel and renewable diesel are sustainable fuel alternatives. Although they share several environmental benefits, they are derived from different sources.

What is the difference between biodiesel and renewable diesel? Biodiesel is a fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), whereas renewable energy is a hydrocarbon fuel, chemically very similar to fossil diesel.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Biodiesel 
      – Definition, Features
2. What is Renewable Diesel
      – Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Biodiesel, Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME), Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Renewable Diesel

Difference Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel - Comparison Summary

What is Biodiesel

Biodiesel diesel is a fuel option derived from renewable sources. These renewable sources may be animal fat, vegetable oil even used cooking oil. It is a clean-burning fuel and is an alternative to the traditional diesel fuel. Transesterification is the production process that converts fats and oils into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). FAME is the technical term for biodiesel.


When compared to traditional fuel, biodiesel has many advantages over them. This fuel is biodegradable.  It releases less amount of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. It is also non-toxic. In terms of engine performance, biodiesel performs similarly to diesel fuel and can be used in most diesel engines, either in its pure form (B100) or blended with conventional diesel (like B20, a mix of 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel).

Though there are several benefits there are limitations in using this fuel. Fuel efficiency can be affected by using biodiesel as it has slightly less energy content than traditional diesel. Sometimes cold weather conditions also affect the nature of biodiesel. There is a potential for thickening and solidifying biodiesel in such weather conditions.

What is Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel is produced from sustainable sources like used cooking oil, animal fats, or even algae. It is also called hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). Through a process like hydrotreating, renewable diesel is refined to be chemically almost identical to petroleum diesel. This makes it a drop-in replacement, meaning it can be used in existing diesel engines without any modifications.

Renewable Diesel

There are many benefits of renewable diesel too. One benefit is that it emits very less amount of greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Additionally, renewable diesel offers better cold flow properties than biodiesel, eliminating the need for special winter additives.

However, there are some drawbacks to the use of this diesel. Renewable diesel is less widely available around the world as the production capacity is low. It is even more expensive than any other type of diesel due to its scarcity.

Similarities Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

  1. Both are sustainable fuel alternatives.
  2. Unlike fossil fuels, these two types of fuel emit very lesser amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Difference Between Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel


  • Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced from natural sources such as vegetable oils or animal fats through a chemical process called transesterification, whereas renewable diesel is a high-quality diesel fuel substitute made from renewable resources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, or waste oils through a process known as hydrotreating.


  • Biodiesel contains oxygen due to the transesterification process used in production. Renewable diesel is a hydrocarbon fuel that is very similar to fossil diesel.

Cloud Point

  • Biodiesel has a higher cloud point, meaning it starts to solidify at a warmer temperature compared to renewable diesel.


  • Due to the presence of oxygen, biodiesel can degrade over time. Renewable diesel is much more stable in storage due to the absence of oxygen.


Biodiesel, derived from fats and oils, contains oxygen and may solidify at higher temperatures, whereas renewable diesel, synthesized from sustainable sources, is chemically akin to petroleum diesel and remains stable in storage. Both fuels emit fewer greenhouse gases and have advantages such as biodegradability and compatibility with existing engines.

FAQ: Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

1. Is green diesel the same as biodiesel?

No. Green diesel is not the same as biodiesel. Biodiesel is a mixture of fatty acid alkyl esters, whereas green diesel is paraffinic and contains C12 − C18.

2. Is green diesel cheaper than biodiesel?

Biodiesel is generally cheaper than green diesel. This is due to many reasons, including biodiesel undergoing a simpler production process than green diesel.

3. Is biofuel more efficient than diesel?

No, biofuel is not more efficient than diesel. It contains 1% to 2% less energy per gallon than that in diesel. Hence, it is slightly less efficient than diesel.

4. What are the disadvantages of biodiesel?

 Disadvantages of biodiesel include emission of NOx which results in the formation of acid rains and smog which are environmentally harmful.

5. What are 2 advantages of biodiesel?

There are many advantages of biodiesel. Two advantages of biodiesel are:

  1. Biodiesel is produced from renewable resources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and waste oils, which makes it a sustainable alternative to conventional diesel derived from finite fossil fuels.
  2. Biodiesel typically produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum diesel. It helps to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions.

1. “Biodiesel – Overview.” Science Direct.
2. “Renewable Diesel.” Science Direct. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Biodiesel” By Shizhao拍摄 – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Renewable diesel. No color. No smell. Didn’t taste. #neste #oil #porvoo #refinery” By  (CC BY 2.0 DEED) via Flickr

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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