Making biodiesel may not have entered your mind before. You might on occasion have come across one of those buses, fuelled by soy power and wondered what it was all about, or you might just have had enough of those constant ups and downs at the gas station. Have you calculated the size of your carbon footprint yet? Each one of us is pausing to consider how we contribute in one way or the other to the threat of global warming and as we get increasingly more frustrated at the site of politicians bickering and taking no action, we must step in.
If you think that it is impossible to make biodiesel fuel safely, effectively and relatively cheaply, you are wrong. Many thousands of people do this and use the fuel that they manufacture to get back and forth to work each day and live their lives normally. It takes a little bit of application to understand the process until perfected and you do have to use some caution and common sense. However, all the materials that you need are readily available and you do not need a degree in chemistry to help you to get through it!
But beware of using over simplistic advice or a simply written ‘how to’ like this one that follows below:-
Making homemade biodiesel requires you to engage in a process called transesterification. You will be using a catalyst (lye) to remove glycerine from vegetable or animal oils or fats and you will effectively be extracting the oil that you can use in your diesel engine.
The catalyst you need is basically potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda and you also need methanol. Note that you will need to keep the lye and the methanol in water tight containers and you should be aiming to use as pure a product as you can.
Measure out 200 mL of methanol into a sturdy plastic container and then add the lye, or caustic soda. All containers, including the plastic bottle should be tightly closed. Shake the container a few times until everything is dissolved.
Preheat the soy or vegetable oil to about 130°F and pour it into a blender. Add your mixture, close tightly and blend for about 30 minutes. Pour the result into a sturdy, large bottle with a tight lid. You should let this settle for up to 24 hours and will note that the glycerine, a dark colour, settles at the bottom. When this is the case, extract the biodiesel, essentially the top layer into a clean jar, being careful not to get any of the glycerine layer mixed up.
Your results will need to be washed to get rid of imperfections and you basically need to add clean water to the mixture, leave to settle for three hours or more and then allow the water to drain off, ideally through a hole you have previously prepared in the bottom of your mixture container.
You may have to repeat the process, but when the product is clear, the water will have evaporated and you will have made your first batch of biodiesel fuel! . . . End.
What it does not tell you about, – maybe they don’t know?
The dangers of Methanol or wood alcohol, how it can kill off the nerves under your skin and a little later burn you. How Methanol and caustic soda (lye) can damage your lungs or can cause death especially when mixed together, into what is called methoxide!
Exact safe methods of mixing, heating, cooling, standing times, Ph testing, non emulsifying methods of washing, filtration, and waste disposal are just some of the necessary skills you’ll need, and there is much more to know if you wish to run your vehicle or heat your home, let alone start a business becoming a ‘Biodieseler’. Then you will definitely need to consistently produce your biodiesel product to the international standards required for your success and your family’s safety.
I could say a lot more about this, which of course I have in my books, ‘The Book on Biodiesel’ & ‘The Secrets of Biodiesel,’ but don’t be worried or put off as I have written careful and safe step-by-step processes so that ‘doing it right’ and avoiding the pit falls will be your way, and as natural as the other skills you have learnt through life!