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Biodiesel Fuel Without You?

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You may be surprised at the simplicity of making biodiesel fuel, and how inexpensively it can be done! You can even piece together your own processor if you have the time and resources!

If you're new, start with this 1-liter batch recipe.

making biodiesel fuel at a work benchIs it Safe?

Biodiesel is a safe substance. It is 10 times less toxic than table salt, and has a flashpoint greater than 266°F.
However, when making biodiesel there are a few safety measures to be aware of. You will be handling a caustic chemical and methanol, a highly flammable fuel.
Photograph courtesy of Justin Ruckman

Is it Cost Effective?

When using waste vegetable oil (WVO), biodiesel can be made quite inexpensively. Many home brewers are making biodiesel fuel for less than $1 a gallon. WVO can often be collected for free from restaurants.

How About the Chemistry?

When making biodiesel fuel the oil goes through a process called transesterification. In this process the oil is mixed with methanol and a catalyst. The triglycerides' bonds are broken and the the fatty acids are chemically modified resulting in biodiesel and a crude glycerine byproduct.

How to Make Biodiesel Fuel:

Here is a very brief overview of how biodiesel is made from waste vegetable oil:

Collect used oil

Filter the oil

Remove any water present

• Begin heating the oil.

Perform a titration test to figure out how much catalyst is needed.

• Add the catalyst to the methanol and mix until the catalyst is dissolved.

• Add the methanol and catalyst mixture to the heated oil and mix.

• Let the mixture stand until it is separated.

• The biodiesel will float to the top; glycerin will settle on the bottom.

• Drain the glycerin off the bottom and recover the methanol if desired.

• Wash the biodiesel to get rid of the remaining contaminants (soap, catalyst, methanol and free glycerin). Biodiesel can be drywashed using drywash resins. There are also several methods of water washing.

• Dispose of any waste /by-products.

Test the quality of the finished biofuel.

• To legally sell biodiesel a sample must be sent in for astm testing .

• Fill ‘er up!

What are the Processor Options?

When making biodiesel fuel of any reasonable amount, you will need some sort of processor. Biodiesel processors may be bought pre-assembled or as a kit. They can also be made from objects found around the farm, junkyards, and home-improvement warehouses.

Make a Test Batch with New Oil:

Once educated on what is happening to the oil chemically, and observing the process a few times first hand, you will realize how simple it really is. If you are brand new to the process, I recommend you start by using some simple directions on how to make biodiesel fuel with a non-committing 1-liter batch.

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