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Tests of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil Diesel Beginning in Tokyo

Earlier in February, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), Hino Motors, The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC) started a joint project aimed at commercializing what they are calling bio hydrofined diesel (BHD), a second-generation renewable diesel fuel produced by hydrogenating a vegetable oil feedstock. (Neste Oils’s NExBTL renewable diesel is another example of hydrogenating plant or animal oils to produce a diesel fuel. Earlier post.)

Nippon Oil and Toyota have worked jointly on the development of BHD technology since 2005. At the 16th Annual Catalysts in Petroleum Refining & Petrochemicals symposium in Saudi Arabia last November, Dr. Akira Koyama of Nippon Oil presented NOC’s findings on the reactivity, distillate yields, evaluation of the fuel (now called BHD) and its applicability as an automotive fuel.

The use of refinery-based hydrogenation processes to produce a synthetic, second-generation renewable diesel is driven by several issues, including some technical considerations over the properties and effects of first-generation fatty acid methyl ester biodiesel (storage, oxidation, possible effect on fuel handling systems).

In its studies, Nippon Oil explored reaction temperatures ranging from 240°C to 360°C, with reaction pressures of 6MPa and 10MPa, and used a common hydrodesulfurization catalyst.

The resulting fuel is aromatics- and sulfur-free, with a high cetane number (101). It also has a higher calorific value (MJ/kg) than biodiesel and conventional petroleum diesel.

The hydrogenated palm oil showed superior oxidation stability in accelerated oxidation testing. It has, however a slightly higher cloud point than palm biodiesel.

In preliminary vehicle testing with a 2.0-liter engine, the hydrogenated palm oil resulted in a 22% decrease in total hydrocarbons, a 15% reduction in CO, and an 11% decrease in PM, but an increase in NOx.

Nippon Oil also performed a lifecycle assessment of hydrogenated palm oil, comparing it to palm biodiesel and petroleum diesel.

Both hydrogenated palm oil and palm biodiesel carry a significantly higher well-to-tank CO2 burden, but since the tank-to-wheel component (using the fuel) is zeroed out for the biofuels, each of the palm oil-based products offers lower total CO2 than petroleum diesel.

In terms of energy efficiencies, Nippon Oil found that while both hydrogenated palm oil and palm oil biodiesel are lower than petroleum diesel, the energy efficiency of hydrogenated palm oil is slightly higher than that of biodiesel.

If this hydrogenated oil is to be used as automotive fuel in the future, we think further study is required regarding the following points. With its high oxidation stability, it should be possible to mix hydrogenated PO with diesel in much higher proportion than the 5% upper limit now observed with FAME, owing to its lower stability and other problems. But then it becomes necessary to address the issue of low-temperature performance. We are planning studies to improve cold flow property of Hydrogenated PO...we are also planning to conduct prolonged endurance tests and to evaluate the oil’s effects on car parts.

Palm oil and other vegetable oils (rapeseed, sunflower, soybean, corn, etc.) are used as cooking oils all over the world. if these oils are to be used for automotive fuels, it will probably not happen by getting people to use less for cooking. And if we simply increase cultivation, there is the risk of serious environmental destruction. We need to thoroughly consider how materials are to be secured, also looking at the use of non-edible vegetable oils such as Jatropha oil.

—Dr. Akira Koyama

Two to three buses will participate in the verification tests this year, using a blend of 10% BHD.

On 26 January, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established a committee to promote carbon reduction within the city of Tokyo, beginning with its 10 Year Project for Carbon Reduction in Tokyo, which seeks the help of private companies and citizens in greatly reducing CO2 emissions. This project is the first phase of a larger project that works together with companies in promoting measures to fight global warming.

At the same time that it is carrying out the project to commercialize BHD, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is introducing a B5 (5% biodiesel—fatty acid methyl ester) fuel in its city buses, starting in 2007.




The higher well-to-tank emissions seems be admitting without actually saying it that the hydrogen comes from steam reforming of fossil fuels like natural gas. Which raises the question; why not just use the fossil fuel? Possible answer; anything to do with hydrogen gets government handouts.

Hydrogenation of vegetable oil is already big business via margarine manufacture. Per pound (or gallon, litre, kilo) that costs several times what motorists may be willing to pay. The hydrogen needs to come from a renewable source and still be competitive.

Rafael Seidl

Somehow, I don't think they hydrogenate it to the point at which it becomes margarine.

Tokyo prefecture kicked up a big fuss in the 90s regarding particulate emissions from diesel engines, so I guess they're just looking for something that will burn more cleanly. Land prices in some parts of Japan are incredibly high, so e.g. supermarkets there are tiny and must be re-supplied several times a day. That means a lot of delivery trucks milling about, and those all feature diesel engines.


I agree that the hydrogonation process works against what biodiesel provides (CO2 nuetral) in regards to its positive environmental aspects. If environmental factors such as farming competition are considered the major obsticle, then companies are simply not considering all available options. What about verticle farming, green roof tops, farming un-used govermental subsidized land? It is so easy to just say we can't.

Rafael Seidl

Jeff -

biodiesel can have a lower well-to-wheels footprint than petrodiesel, but it is in fact not CO2 neutral. You need fertilizers and fuel for the agriculture plus methanol for the transesterification. I've seen estimates of ~1.8 units of fuel energy output for each unit of fossil fuel input.

Of course, you could argue that if farmers didn't grow energy crops, they'd be growing something else - perhaps something we don't really need but subsidize nevertheless. In that line of thinking, the fossil energy used to grow the energy crops is roughly equal to the amount not used to grow other crops so it shouldn't be counted. To my mind, that's a bit of sophistry but then again regular economics have long since ceased to apply in the farming sector (at least in the EU).

As for your ideas on green roofs and vertical farming, the extra CO2 associated with the construction of suitable buildings probably outweighs the CO2 saved by the first 20 or 30 harvests. Operations overheads would be staggering. A better approach might be to leverage the sunshine incident on the oceans in tropical latitudes to grow oil algae.


Methanol and hydrogenation are two CO2 intensive problems neatly avoided with SVO.

Either way, if we must use terrestrial crops to produce plant oil, the fertilizer really should come from the ash or pulp of the previous harvested crop, and not from petrochemicals.


Perhaps this is a bit of a quibble, but is it really a second generation fuel? People have come to think of 2nd generation as referring to a fuel that is cellulosic or from other waste material, not food. This seems more like a generation 1+.

Robert Schwartz

Won't the "Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil" conatin trans fats that will cause the car to have a heart attack?

Paul Dietz

Somehow, I don't think they hydrogenate it to the point at which it becomes margarine.

They likely hydrogenate it past that point, so the carboxyl groups on the fatty acids are reduced to methyl groups.

Paul Dietz

Ah, reading the paper, I see that the carboxyl groups are reduced by elimination of a CO2 molecule, not by conversion to a methyl group.


They are clearing rainforest to plant more palm plantations so there is an increase in fertilizer usage. Though they probably don't add the CO2 produced during the clearing process to the bill for producing biodiesel.


This is japan we are talking about they likely can generate h2 cheaper then they can create the ethanol otherwise needed to convert palm oil they import into a usable fuel. See they dont have the land to grow an ethalon crop so they would need to import it.


Gasify waste biomass, and use the resultant Syngas to create same/similar liquid fuels.


Anybody think its odd that Hydrogenated Oils are being taken out of resteraunt fryers / foods, and being proposed as fuels nearly simultaneously? Maybe somebody has a bunch of processing hardware looking for a new purpose ?



I found that while it was a ratio of around 1.5 units of energy output per unit of energy input for ethanol it was closer to around 6.5 units of energy output per 1 unit of liquid energy input (gasoline/diesel input). I would imagine that biodiesel should be similar.


On an indutrial scale hydrogenated oil is rather cheap thats why its used. Now this stuff likely requires more hydrogenation then food oil but still its not likely to be massively expensive. Also its very likely to have a much longer shelf life then biofuels that often go bad in weeks.

Rafael Seidl

Patrick -

not sure if I understand you right. Are you saying you need to invest 1 unit of fossil fuel plus 6.5/1.5 - 1 = 3.33 units of energy to produce the fertilizer, pesticides etc. needed to produce 6.5 units of energy in the form of ethanol? That would be a lousy ratio for those chemicals.

Cheryl Ho

There are some DME developments in China today:

We see great potential for DME as a clean alternative fuel . The present diesel oil is a major source of air pollution from diesel engine of trucks and busses in large city like Tokyo. The potential market of diesel oil substitute is larger than LPG. DME is one of ideal fuel for diesel engine. DME vehicles were demonstratively manufactured in Japan, China and Korea and their driving test already started. Practical durability fleet test of a DME truck is under going in Japan.

We are pleased to organise a conference on China taking the lead in the DME market in production from coal and Japan and Korea activities.

If you would like to know more on COAL to Syngas to DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information: www.iceorganiser.com

Tom Parker

American Energy Conversion Co. Inc. has a product as od Aug. 2007 that converts drinking water into hydrogen and oxygen onboard a vehicle and apparently these gasses cause a hydrogenation as well as an oxygenation of the hydrocarbon fuels. The energy content of the hydrogen alone does not explain 30% to 50% fuel economy and the 15% power gain.
E85 was tested with this system and showed a mileage improvment to the original condition of the vehicle.

Tom Parker

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