Tired of spending all your money on fuel? Making bio diesel yourself is an alternative that can save you big money.
Increasing fuel prices spurred on by peak oil have sparked a surge in commercial biodiesal production, as well as a lot of buzz around home made bio diesel.
And why not?
It’s very satisfying to make your own bio diesel and fill up your tank with something that cost you peanuts to produce (typically around 70c a gallon or 15c a liter depending largely on what you pay for the waste oil).
How to Make Bio Diesel
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Both methanol and lye can be bought at large hardware stores or shopping centers. Methanol, a fuel used in most model aircraft, is available in small quantities as fuel line antifreeze. Lye or caustic soda (NaOH) is an common drain cleaner.
These substances are potentially hazardous, and must be kept out of reach of children and used with care!
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil that is liquid at room temperature (rather than shortening or animal fat).
Though it is possible to run diesel vehicles on straight vegetable oil, they need to be modified first.
Biodiesal, on the other hand, is the same vegetable oil chemically changed so that it will run any standard diesel engine without any modification of the vehicle necessary.
However, in cold climates biodiesel will solidify in which circumstances it is recommended to use a biodiesel/petroleum diesel blend.
Where to make you own biodiesel
Your biodiesel making equipment can be set up anywhere…with a few provisos.
If it isn’t a closed system (these type of kits are more expensive) it will give off fumes so put it where there’s good ventilation, like in a sheltered spot outside. Be aware of the neighbours too! They may not appreciate your fumes!
If you live in a built up area, invest in a closed system biodiesel processor.
How long does it take to make your own bio diesel?
Naturally, making bio diesel will take you longer when you are just learning. Expect to get quicker as you go.
Then there’s the different processing methods which vary in the time they take.
As a general guide, it could take about a day to collect your oil and get the process started, and about 15 minutes a day over 3 or more days to finish off a batch of home made biodiesel.
What sort of biodiesel making equipment will I need?
There’s quite a range of biodiesel stills out there.
What you go for will depend on the amount of home made biodiesel you wish to make, the quality you are after (all steel tanks and fittings cost more than plastic versions) and your neighbours.
If your choices are limited to a closed system because you need to avoid the production of odorous fumes, then expect to pay more.
If an open system would suit you fine, you can even make you own biodiesel processor from a purchased kit or from scratch.
The ingredients used in home made bio diesel
Ingredients for the biodiesel recipe are easy to find and comprise alcohol (usually methanol), lye (which is also known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide), and vegetable oil (new or used).
The usual oils used for making bio diesel re those that are liquids at room temperature.
So home made bio diesel can be achieved with such oils as soy, canola, peanut and palm.
However, algae biodiesel wins hands down when it comes to productivity, and is shaping up to become the future of biodiesel.
Back to the now…
Most biodiesel making equipment and recipes can’t cope with the oils that are solid at room temperature, such as animal fats or hydrogenated oils (shortening).
Since many restaurants prefer oil over shortening for their frying, it is not that hard to find the two or three small restaurants willing to sell you their used oil cheaply that you will need to become independent of gas stations forever.
The Process for Making Bio Diesel
Biodiesel is most commonly made by chemically altering an organic oil through the use of a catalyst (such as lye which is also known as caustic soda or NaOH) and an alcohol, typically Methanol.
These chemicals react to break down the oil molecules and replace their glycerine portion with an alcohol. The glycerine falls to the bottom and is drained off leaving biodiesel.
Methanol is a poison which can cause blindness or death if inhaled, absorbed through your skin, or ingested.
Cartridge respirators will not prevent you breathing it in, so use in a well ventilated area.
Methanol is also highly flammable.
Lye (caustic soda, NaOH, lye) is highly caustic. It can cause severe burns if it touches your skin, and death if ingested.
Precautions when making bio diesel:
- Wear appropriate clothing – long-sleeved shirt, full shoes and trousers, chemical proof gloves, apron, and face shield or eye protection.
- Take care to avoid inhaling any vapors given off by the home made biodiesel process.
- Have running water at hand to rinse off any splashes.
- Keep kids, visitors and pets away from ingredients and processing equipment.
How to Make Bio Diesel
Note: It is important to keep water out of the process at all stages until instructed to add at the washing stage!!!!
- Heat your waste oil to 248°F (120°C) to remove any water. If water is present it will spit, perhaps violently, so take care! Once it stops spitting, then the water has been removed. Allow it to cool.
- Filter your waste vegetable oil. Let it settle first so the worst impurities drop to the bottom.
- Pour waste vegetable oil into the “processor”. You can use a storage hot water system or even an old washing machine that has a heating element for this!
- Heat the oil to between 130 and 135°F (54 and 57°C).
- Do a test titration to see how much lye (caustic soda i.e. NaOH) and methanol you’ll need for the batch.
This is because each batch of waste oil will be different in its concentration of free fatty acids (FFA), and it is all important to have the correct amount of ingredients to ensure your home made bio diesel works out properly. Titration involves reacting a small sample of waste oil with a measured amount of lye. The pH shows when the FFA is all used up.
- Mix the correct amount of lye and methanol in a separate container. It will give off methoxide, a poisonous gas so TAKE CARE not to breath in the vapours!!!!
- First ensure the oil is below 140°F (60°C) as methanol boils at around 150°F (65°C). Then add the lye/methanol mix to the oil in the “processor” and mix thoroughly for 20 minutes to encourage the chemical reaction.
- Allow time (about 8 hours) for the resulting biodiesel and glycerin to separate.
- Drain off glycerin layer. This biodiesal byproduct can be used to make soap!
- Use water to gently wash the biodiesel layer to remove any remaining glycerin and impurities. Take care not to agitate roughly or you’ll end up with mayonnaise!
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12. Drain off the water layer.
13. Drain off the biodiesel into a storage container.
14. Washed biodiesel is cloudy. All it needs now is a day or so to dry and settle and it will become clear.
15. Put the biodiesel into your diesel vehicle’s fuel tank and drive away!
That’s all there is to making bio diesel. Hey, it’s not rocket science!
But if you ever do strike problems, there are a heap of biodiesel groups and forums with knowledgable people who can help you solve them.