Biodiesel is a valid fuel alternative which anyone can make in their kitchen, with the results often being better fuel than what you can purchase from the pumps. In addition to this, biodiesel is better for the environment and your health, meaning you’re doing your part to save the environment. Biodiesel is made from used cooking oil, which means using it as an alternative fuel source will save you the trouble of recycling the product. If you’re interested in knowing the process of making your own biodiesel, read on.
If you’re new to making your own biodiesel, you should start with fresh oil. Waste vegetable oil, or WVO can be used, but this should be done later, once you’re more experienced with the process. The best way to begin is by making a small 1 gallon test batch using your fresh oil. A spare blender can be used for the process which is outlined below. Once you’ve mastered this process, you can move up to full production sized batches in order to produce top quality fuel.
For beginners, it’s recommended you use top-quality chemicals purchased from chemical supply stores. This is because you want to make sure you’re getting the process right and that none of the ingredients you’ll be using will mess your test batch up. When it comes to purchasing these chemicals, the prices may seem a little high, but you should remember you’ll only need a small bit for each batch you make. In the end, it will be cheaper than buying from the pump, if you’re able to master the technique.
You’ll need some type of alcohol in order to begin making biodiesel. Methanol is the recommended alcohol, which means methyl esters or ethyl esters is optimal. Methanol can be made from a natural source, such as wood, but current production of methanol is nearly 99% industrial and still relies on fossil fuels like natural gas. Ethanol can also be used and it is a plant based gas which you can make yourself. However, producing biodiesel with ethanol is much harder than producing it with methanol, which is why ethanol biodiesel is not recommended for beginners. When purchasing your methanol, be sure the product you’re getting is 99% pure. Generally speaking, the methanol you buy should not cost you more than $2-3 a gallon.
Lye is also used in the process, as it is the catalyst which fuels the reaction of oil into fuel. It’s important to secure either potassium hydroxide, or sodium hydroxide as your lye catalyst. Generally speaking, sodium hyroxide is cheaper to use, but it is not easiest. potassium hydroxide is also a better catalyst, but both can be used equally and to your preference.
When it comes to choosing which type of oil you should use, it’s recommended to go with rapeseed oil, canola oil, corn oil, soy oil, or sunflower oil. Other oils on the market such as peanut and palm oil are called summer fuels. This is because it can begin to crystallize around 60 degrees, which could cause problems in your engine, especially if you live in northern climates. Therefore, it’s best to stick with oils which won’t cause this problem.
In order to begin making your first batch of biodiesel, you’ll need a number of ingredients.
– 1 liter of fresh, unused vegetable oil (see above for recommendations)
– 200ml of methanol
– lye, either potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide
– metric scale for measuring small grams up to 0.01
– half liter plastic container with screw on cap
– 2 funnels which fit plastic container
– 2 liter soft drink bottle for settling
– 2 2 liter soft drink bottles for washing
– duct tape
Before you begin, you should make sure all of your equipment is clean and dry. The most important thing to keep in mind when measuring your lye is that you need to be quick with it. Lye rapidly absorbs water contained in the atmosphere and the water can interfere with its job as a catalyst in your bio-diesel. You should measure your lie out in a lightweight plastic bag using the scale. Make sure you’ve adjusted the scale for the weight of the bag, as you need to keep extremely precise measurements as you progress. If you are using sodium hydroxide, you need exactly 3.5 grams. If you are using potassium hydroxide, you need 5.3 grams.
Next, measure out 200 ml of your methanol and pour it into your plastic container using the funnel. Methanol also absorbs water, so it’s important to do this step quickly and replace the lid on the container. Make sure you work at room temperature so you are not exposed to the methanol fumes. Once the methanol is in your plastic container, add the lye using the second funnel. Replace the cap and screw it on tightly. Shaking the container a few times and making sure to swirl rather than shake up and down, the mixture will get hot form the reaction. You should swirl for roughly a minute so the lye will completely dissolve, which makes sodium methoxide, or potassium methoxide, depending on which type of lye you use. Before you move on to the next step, be sure every bit of the lye is dissolved. This may take longer, depending on the quality of lye you used.
The actual process begins in a blender. Using a spare blender, be sure the seals are in good order and the blender is dry. You should pre-heat your oil to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and put it in the blender. Next, add the prepared methoxide into the oil in the blender. Be sure the lid is tightly secured on your blender and switch it on, using lower speeds and mixing for around 20 to 30 minutes. Once this process is complete, pour the mixture from the blender into your 2-liter soft drink bottle to allow for settling. Be sure to screw the lid on tightly. As a side note, as the mixture cools, it will contract the plastic, meaning you need to keep an eye on it to let in air as necessary.
You should allow your mixture to settle for 12-24 hours, with 24 hours being recommended, as longer is better. You’ll notice a darker colored sediment at the bottom of your mixture, along with a paler liquid above. This pale liquid is your bio-diesel. The bio-diesel color will have many different shades according to which oil you’ve used, so there’s no accurate way to determine what it will look like. However, it is generally a pale yellowish color. As long as it is clear, then you’ve got a great starting product and you’ve completed the process correctly. Once the product has settled, you should ecant the top layer of bio-diesel into your second soft drink bottle, taking care not to get any of the sediment in the new layer. If you do, you’ll have to let it re-settle and try again.
The next step is washing your fuel, which uses your remaining soft drink bottles. You should puncture a hole into the bottom of the bottle and cover it up with duct tape for use later. Basically what you’ll do is add a half-liter of water to your oil and stir until the oil and water are well mixed. You’ll let it settle for three hours or more, letting the water drain from the bottom by removing the duct tape. Once the water is gone, pour the bio-diesel into your last soft drink bottle and let sit. When its clear, it means its dry and ready to use. This process can take a few days.
Once the product is dry, it’s ready to use. You’ve just made your first batch of biofuel!
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