Some Hints and Considerations
• Use pure catalyst. Regardless of which catalyst is used, it must be of sufficient purity to react correctly. We purchase our lye and methanol from a bulk industrial chemical supply outlet. Because making biodiesel is similar to making soap, you also can check out soap makers’ supplies. We use lye (NaOH) for our catalyst, because it’s more readily available than high-grade KOH in our area.
• Inform your suppliers that you’re not making drugs in the backwoods! Illegal drug manufacturers seeking to make crystal meth may buy methanol in large quantities. It’s a good idea to be forthright about why you want a large amount of methanol.
• Be prepared to change fuel filters in your vehicle a couple of times. Because biodiesel is more acidic than petro-diesel, it will clean the gunk out of your gas tank and fuel lines, speaking of which, biodiesel eats rubber (including rubber coating on wires in the engine bay). Replace rubber fuel line with synthetics.
• Avoid using too much lye in your mix. Just as lye breaks down the glycerol bond with the fatty acid chain, it can break down the methanol bond with the fatty acid chain, resulting in sub-par fuel full of free fatty acids.
• Biodiesel gels sooner than petro-diesel. This means that in weather below freezing, your fuel will slowly turn to slush, and then lard. One possible solution to cold-weather fuel gelling is to look into acquiring a heated fuel tank. Because biodiesel’s flashpoint is well over the boiling temperature of water, a heated tank is not the fire hazard it might sound like.
• Biodiesel costs us about $1.00/U.S. gallon compared to $3.60 at the pump. Enjoy your newfound financial freedom! We do.
www.biodiesel.org.au/biodieselfacts.htm—basic biodiesel fact sheet
www.JourneyToForever.org—everything you ever wanted to know about biofuels, including how to make bio-D in a 5-gallon pail. Also, check out their kids’ activities under “School and Youth Projects.”
www.biodieselcommunity.org/appleseedprocessor/—plan for a biodiesel processor
www.journeytoforever.org/biofuel_supply.html#Oilpress—information about oilseed crushers for producing your own raw oil www.utterpower.com/—alternative energy page with information about listeroid engines for stand-alone power generators
http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_svovsbd.html—straight vegetable oil as fuel, bio-D and hazardous chemical designations
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/wohdp/diesel.asp—weekly retail diesel prices in the USA—an interesting study topic
Copyright 2008, all rights reserved by author.
Originally appeared in the Spring
2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine®,