Q: What chemicals do I need to make biodiesel and where do I get them?
A: Methanol (Wood Grain Alcohol) and Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) common name is Lye. The best bet is to get Methanol in bulk through a local chemical dealer found in the phone book. For Lye, try an on- line (Google) search. Lots of chemical companies in the US produce and ship NaOH in bulk, you should be looking for the "Pearl" form of NaOH not the powder or flake forms.
Q: Where do I get used vegetable oil?
A: Most people get a working relationship/agreement with a local restaurant. Most have to pay to get rid of their waste oil, so if you can work something out with the owner or manager to pick it up, you should be able to get it for free. It always helps to be a customer of the restaurant when asking for their oil.
Q: What are the benefits of the heating unit?
A: By heating the oil before processing, the oil molecules are thinned which prepares them to better mix with the sodium methoxide. Heating the oil helps achieve a better reaction which yields more biodiesel and less glycerin. Also, heating helps to speed the reaction time by 20%. Finally, the heater can also be used to help break an emulsion problem if one occurs after processing.
Q: Why wash your biodiesel?
A: Washing biodiesel stops transesterification and removes left over alcohol and catalyst from your fuel. Washing is not necessary, but in order to achieve ASTM D- 6751 (American Society for Testing and Materials) for biodiesel, it must be washed.
Q: Can I use Biodiesel in my vehicle?
A: Biodiesel can be used in any Diesel engine with no modification required, unless you have rubber fuel lines. If your vehicle was made from about 1995 on, you are pretty safe. Newer vehicles in the 2000s have synthetic fuel lines and are totally safe as far as I have read. The problems with older vehicles are that Biodiesel can attack rubber fuel lines over time cause leaking, etc. Another concern it that it can clean fuel lines and tanks so much that it can lead to clogging of fuel filters, etc. To be sure, CHECK YOUR FUEL LINES. If they are rubber, replace them with a synthetic line and you'll be fine. You should also check your owners' manual to be sure they don't recommend Not using Biodiesel. If in doubt, a blend of b20 (20% Biodiesel) is considered safe for most any vehicle.
Q: Has Biodiesel been thoroughly tested?
A: There has been a lot of research done on Biodiesel. Research includes studies performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stanadyne Automotive Corp. (the largest diesel fuel injection equipment manufacturer in the U.S.), Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and Southwest Research Institute along with many others. Biodiesel is the first and only alternative fuel to have completed the stringent Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Biodiesel has been proven to perform similarly to diesel in more 50 million successful road miles in just about all types of diesel engines, including many off-road miles and countless marine hours. Currently more than 300 major fleets use the fuel.
Biodiesel is a legally registered fuel and fuel additive with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Q: What are the benefits to Biodiesel?
A: Biodiesel is far superior to petro diesel in all ways except cold weather performance. (See next question). It is much safer, biodegrades faster if spilled, is non toxic, burns much cleaner, has higher lubricity, is Eco friendly, and is made from renewable resources instead of a dwindling supply of petro diesel.
Q: What are the drawbacks?
A: 1. Solvency - Biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on tank walls or pipes from previous diesel fuel storage and precautions should be taken when first switching over to Biodiesel. This rarely happens, and mostly happens to very high mileage vehicles with over about 80,000 miles. This solvency can lead to Filter plugging.
2. Filter Plugging - Biodiesel has some solvent properties and will act as a solvent in the fuel. Blends greater than B20 may have enough of a solvent effect to break down the varnish deposits on the walls of the existing fuel storage tanks or fuel systems. The break-down of these varnish deposits will contaminate the fuel with particulate, which can cause fuel filters to plug rapidly. Once the contaminant is removed from the fuel, subsequent fuel filter service intervals should return to normal. Biodiesel blends up to B20 should have minimal solvent effects on existing fuel systems and blends below B5 should have no solvent effect above that of regular diesel fuel meeting ASTM D 975 specification. Blends of B5 and below should also meet the ASTM D 975 specifications for diesel fuel. Filter plugging problems can be prevented by effectively cleaning storage tanks before introducing biodiesel. Filter plugging can also be minimized by using low blends of biodiesel and/or ensuring the biodiesel that you are using is from a quality source meeting the ASTM D 6751 specifications. BQ9000 is a quality certification that certifies biodiesel suppliers that provide quality biodiesel meeting the ASTM D 6751 specification
3. Cold weather - Biodiesel will generally start to gel at higher temperatures than #2 diesel fuel which can be a problem if you are running B100. But a simple fix is to run B50 or less. You can run B50 in some pretty cold climates without worry.
4. Nitrogen Emissions - NOx - Fueling with Biodiesel that is not additized does tend to increase emissions of oxides of nitrogen commonly known as NOx. This increase can be anywhere from 1% - 15% depending on the engine type and blend of Biodiesel used.
But, NOx emissions can be reduced using additives at a rate anywhere from 5% to 30% depending on the additive and feedstock used to produce the Biodiesel.
5. Bacteria - There is also a small chance that if you already have bacterial growth in your fuel tank that adding Biodiesel may cause this problem to accelerate. This is primarily a problem with fleet fuel storage due to the large tanks which when half empty have a lot of air in the tank. The air in the tank holds moisture which can be absorbed into the biodiesel. The moisture absorbed can cause bacterial growth to spread.
This is also easily remedied with inexpensive biocides which only need be added approximately once a month. The cost is minimal at about $30.00 for a bottle which will treat about 1000 gallons of fuel. For normal maintenance of the fuel, especially for small users, it really only needs to be added about once a month. We have this additive available on our website in the accessories section.
Q: Is Biodiesel the same thing as raw vegetable oil?
A: No raw vegetable is much thicker, and is totally different. Biodiesel has been put through the process of Transesterification that basically separates the thick parts of the oil out and leaves Biodiesel. Here's more information from the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboraties)
Raw or refined vegetable oil, or recycled greases that have not been processed into biodiesel, are not biodiesel and should be avoided. Research shows that vegetable oil or greases used in CI engines at levels as low as 10% to 20%, can cause long-term engine deposits, ring sticking, lube oil gelling, and other maintenance problems and can reduce engine life. These problems are caused mostly by the greater viscosity, or thickness, of the raw oils (around 40 mm2/s) compared to that of the diesel fuel for which the engines and injectors were designed (between 1.3 and 4.1 mm2/s). To avoid viscosity-related problems, vegetable oils and other feedstocks are converted into biodiesel. Through the process of converting vegetable oil or greases to biodiesel, we reduce viscosity of the fuel to values similar to conventional diesel fuel ( biodiesel values are typically between 4 and 5 mm2/s).
Q: Is Biodiesel safe?
A: If it's made right, and of high quality it's very safe for your engine, and it's much safer than petro diesel for the environment. Also, in the event of a crash, it's much safer due to the higher flash point. It's also much safer if you get it on you as it's considered a non-Toxic substance.
Q: What do I need to do to my vehicle to run biodiesel in it and will it void my warranty?
A: If your fuel lines are made from natural rubber (most models before 1993) they will need to be replace with newer synthetic ones. Biodiesel will break down natural rubber lines and seals over time. The warranty issue is resolved with the passing of the Magnusson - Moss Act that states that manufactures can not void warranty if you choose to run biodiesel in your vehicle. It's always important to directly contact your vehicle manufacture to get the details.Engine Warranties
All diesel engine companies warranty the product they make - engines. They warranty their engines for “materials and workmanship.” If there is a problem with an engine part or with engine operation due to an error in manufacturing or assembly within the prescribed warranty period, the problem will be covered by the engine company.
Typically, an engine company will define what fuel the engine was designed for and will recommend the use of that fuel to their customers in their owner's manuals.
Engine companies do not manufacture fuel or fuel components. Therefore, engine companies do not warranty fuel - whether that fuel is Biodiesel or petrodiesel fuel. Since engine manufacturers warranty the materials and workmanship of their engines, they do not warranty fuel of any kind. If there are engine problems caused by a fuel (again, whether that fuel is petrodiesel fuel or Biodiesel fuel) these problems are not related to the materials or workmanship of the engine, but are the responsibility of the fuel supplier and not the engine manufacturer. Any reputable fuel supplier (biodiesel, petrodiesel, or a blend of both) should stand behind its products and cover any fuel quality problems if they occur.
Therefore, the most important aspect regarding engine warranties and biodiesel is whether an engine manufacturer will void its parts and workmanship warranty when biodiesel is used, and whether the fuel producer or marketer will stand behind its fuels should problems occur.
Most major engine companies have stated formally that the use of blends up to B20 will not void their parts and workmanship warranties. This includes blends below 20% biodiesel, such as the 2% biodiesel blends that are becoming more common. Several statements from the engine companies are available on the NBB website. Some engine companies have already specified that the biodiesel must meet ASTM D-6751 as a condition, while others are still in the process of adopting D-6751 within their company or have their own set of guidelines for biodiesel use that were developed prior to the approval of D-6751. It is anticipated that the entire industry will incorporate the ASTM biodiesel standard into their owner's manuals over time.