Biodiesel Basics: Facts and Myths on Making Biodiesel
What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is an exciting and very fast growing fuel alternative that can be purchased or made yourself. To break biodiesel down into two different approaches we have the following information regarding the question; What is biodiesel?
From a Technical standpoint:
Biodiesel is a diesel cycle fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, recycled grease, and/or animal fats. The general chemical designation for biodiesel is ‘Fatty Acid Alkyl Esters.’ Biodiesel and biodiesel blends can be used in CI engines. In diesel-powered cars, trucks, tractors, boats, shipping equipment, irrigation systems, mining equipment, electrical generators, and most applications where diesel is typically used.
From a Practical standpoint:
Biodiesel works in all diesel engines. It's made from natural oils rather than petroleum. Biodiesel performs similarly to diesel fuel, and can be used with no modifications to the diesel engine or the vehicle.
To get a better understanding of what biodiesel is, here are a few links relating to terms associated with the basics of biodiesel.
- Titration is a common laboratory method of quantitative/chemical analysis that can be used to determine the concentration of a known reactant. -Wikipedia Titration Titration is an indirect test for free fatty acids (FFA) in waste vegetable oil. With typical restaurant waste oil (less than 5% FFA), there's no need to perform titration with the BioPro's.
Free Fatty Acid (FFA)
- Fatty acids can be bound or attached to other molecules, such as triglycerides or phospholipids. When they're not attached to other molecules, they're known as "free" fatty acids. -Wikipedia Free Fatty Acid Typically FFA are detrimental to the biodiesel making process. For most other reactors, if the FFA level in an oil exceeds 2-3%, then it is nearly impossible to convert into biodiesel. In the BioPro™ 190, the maximum recommended level is 5%.
Waste Vegetable oil
- Many vegetable oils have similar fuel properties to diesel fuel, except for higher viscosity and lower oxidative stability. If these differences can be overcome, vegetable oil may substitute for #2 Diesel fuel, most significantly as engine fuel or home heating oil. -Wikipedia Waste Vegetable oil
- Makers of biodiesel occasionally encounter emulsions when they are washing their fuel with water. Due to emulsifying contaminants in raw fuel as well as cold weather and other factors, the water can form a dispersed phase in the continuous biodiesel phase.
An 'emulsion' [IPA]: ) is a mixture of two immiscible (unblendable) liquids. One liquid (the dispersed phase) is dispersed in the other (the continuous phase). Many emulsions are oil/water emulsions, with dietary fats being one common type of oil encountered in everyday life. Examples of emulsions include butter and margarine, milk and cream, and vinaigrettes; the photo-sensitive side of photographic film, magmas and cutting fluid for metal working. -Wikipedia Emulsions
Biodiesel Facts And Myths
- Biodiesel is recognized by every industry and government entity, including the EPA and the US Department of Transportation.
- Biodiesel is made by modifying the chemical structure of natural vegetable and animal oils.
- Biodiesel burns significantly cleaner then diesel fuel and is nearly carbon neutral and biodiesel is non-toxic
- Biodiesel has much higher lubricity than diesel fuel resulting in longer engine life and cleaner fuel injection components.
- "Biodiesel is recycled fryer oil." - MYTH - Biodiesel can be made from any vegetable or animal oil but it has been chemically processed into a motor fuel.
- "Biodiesel requires a conversion." MYTH -This confusion is a result of the old practice of burning straight vegetable oil in older diesel engines, which does require a vehicle conversion. Biodiesel does not require a conversion and can be mixed in any proportion with petroleum diesel fuel.
- "Biodiesel is expensive." MYTH -Buying biodiesel at a fuel station costs approximately $4.95 per gallon (July 25, 2012) - roughly the same as the price of petroleum diesel fuel. But biodiesel can be produced by an individual using a BioPro processor, usually for less than $1.00 per gallon! (Camp Blanding, a National Gaurd unit in Florida makes their biodiesel in a BioPro for $0.68 cents per gallon)
- "Biodiesel will void my warranty." MYTH -Many companies warrant their diesel engines for use with biodiesel only to a point, such as a 20% blend. But they are prohibited by the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act from voiding a warranty because a customer exceeds their stipulations, unless the higher blend of biodiesel were to directly cause the failure. By the same logic they can also void a warranty if a bad tank of petroleum diesel fuel directly causes a failure.
- "Biodiesel is a perfect fuel."- MYTH -Biodiesel offers huge advantages but, like any fuel, has some limitations. it is affected by cold weather to a greater extent than diesel fuel #2, and it typically delivers 2-3% lower fuel milage.