Before we get into what biodiesel equipment is needed, it would be good to quickly explain how and why biodiesel is made. While diesel engines can run off of normal vegetable and highly filtered animal fats, this requires engine modification. More importantly the impurities in the oil damage the engine over time.
The process of converting cooking oil into biodiesel removes contaminants and chemically alters the oil so it will burn in any diesel engine without modifications or damage to the engine. To learn more about the advantages of biodiesel visit our How to make biodiesel FAQ page.
The first step in making biodiesel is called "esterification," or the acid stage. In this stage the oil is mixed with sulfuric acid and a small portion of methanol. The sulfuric acid modifies free fatty acid molecules so that the methanol can attach to them and create biodiesel. The three substances are mixed together vigorously to ensure the mix is successful.
The next step is "Transesterification," or the base stage. This involves a catalyst being added, usually Lye (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH) or Caustic Potash(Potassium Hydroxide, KOH.) The catalys breaks apart the molecules into glycerol and fatty acid chains. Once the Molecules are broken apart the Methanol attaches to the fatty acids. The glycerol will begin to drop out of the oil into a mixture called glycerin. While this is going on a motor is mixing everything together to ensure an optimal reaction.
Next is the "Settling Period," or glycerin drop out. The oil is allowed to settle for several hours and the glycerin settles to the bottom (it's heavier than the oil and separates nicely.) Using a valve on the bottom of the machine, the glycerin is drained out leaving only biodiesel inside.
Now the Biodiesel is "washed". There are two ways to go about this process. The first uses water that is run through the mixture and picks up contaminants which then settles to the bottom (like glycerine, water is heavier than oil and will separate nicely under the biodiesel.) An automated biodiesel processor such as the BioPro™ will manage the entire process automatically and drain out the water. It will also heat up the oil to evaporate any remaining water left after the process. The second way to wash the biodiesel is via a drywash system. Using a drywash system such as the SpringPro™ shortens the wash time from 24 hours to 2-5 hours. Instead of water, a resin is used to trap any remaining contaminants in the Biodiesel. In the SpringPro™ system, the fuel is run through 2 separate towers filled with different types of resin.
Now that the fuel has been run through all the necessary biodiesel equipment and steps, it's ready to be used. Simply pump it onto any diesel powered motor and it will work just like petroleum diesel, but with better lubrication leading to longer engine life.
The easiest way to make biodiesel is with the proper biodiesel equipment . Using an automated Biodiesel processor such as the BioPro™ will ensure that the fuel is made properly and meets ASTM fuel standards. The automation of biodiesel equipment also makes the process much easier, requires less labor and produces a higher quality biodiesel.