An Introduction to Biodiesel
In addition to residential wind power, energy-efficient off-grid homes are incorporating the production and use of biodiesel. The clean-burning fuel is often manufactured from cast-off cooking oil that might otherwise wind up in landfills and sewers. Depending on the method of production and the purity of the resulting product, biodiesel can be used in a variety of ways:- Powering generators and motors, including the one in your car.- As a heating fuel.- In lanterns for lighting and stoves for cooking.(Note: Before using bio-diesel in any of these ways, you should verify that the equipment or device can safely operate with bio-diesel and is suitable for the intended application.)
The Basics of Bio-diesel Production
Bio-diesel is made via a process called trans-esterification. Although there are many "recipes," the three basic ingredients required, and the proportions in which they are used are:- 75% vegetable oil or animal fat- 22% methanol- 3% lye or soda caustic
(Any time you are working with bio-diesel distillation, wear protective gloves and goggles.)
After the ingredients are mixed, a chemical reaction causes the glycerin (or fat) in the vegetable oil to sink to the bottom, with the lighter bio-diesel rising to the top.
Equipment Required to Make Bio-diesel
Many "how-to" articles online suggest that you can whip up a batch of bio-diesel with a kitchen mixer. In theory, that's true, but chances are good you will want and need more than a bowl full. You will also have to be able to effectively separate the bio-diesel from the glycerin to achieve a pure, useful batch of fuel.
Given these considerations, you might do well to consider purchasing a commercial bio-diesel processor. Many units are capable of making as much as 100 gallons per batch. Numerous kits are available online in a range of $500 to $3,000 depending on size and capacity. (Really large units can go as high as $5,000.) These machines have the advantage of high-quality components, including brass and stainless steel valves and PVC tubing for ease of cleaning and fewer issues with clogging.
Depending on the equipment and recipe used, production time for a batch of bio-diesel runs 50-90 minutes. Production costs are approximately 70 cents to $1 per gallon.
If your goal is find new methods on how to save electricity or if you are looking for an alternative fuel for your diesel powered engine, bio-diesel is a technology worth investigating. As energy prices continue to rise each year, more consumers are turning to bio-diesel to supplement their energy needs.
Did you like the biodiesel article? view more articles in my clean energy interviews and articles page
click to view my home energy Home Page