DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (2022)

If you’re steering your household toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle, maybe you’d like to add do-it-yourself fuel to your list of goals. Biodiesel can be brewed from waste vegetable oil or animal fats, which you can collect free from restaurants, or you can grow soybeans or canola to press your own oil. Process the oil with a couple of chemicals to produce homemade fuel that can run any device powered by petroleum diesel — including pickups, cars, and home heating systems. Do it right, and DIY biodiesel can cost as little as $1 per gallon to manufacture. The scale is up to you: Brew enough to make your homestead fuel-independent, or join forces with neighbors to produce fuel for your collective households.

At minimum, the equipment you’ll need for home biodiesel production is a stainless steel reactor tank, a wash station to remove the coproducts, and containers for storing the resulting fuel. You can rig up an electric water heater as a biodiesel reactor for less than $1,000, or spend about the same amount on a kit. If you’d rather opt for a ready-made, automated system, expect to pay $10,000 or more.

Safely making high-quality fuel in your backyard will take planning and work, but the freedom and money-savings of driving down the road on fuel you’ve made yourself are hard to beat.

DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (1)

The Chemistry of Making Biodiesel

Biodiesel production is dependent on two chemical reactions. The first is commonly called the “methoxide reaction.” It happens when you mix methanol with a catalyst, which can be either potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.

The methoxide reaction is “exothermic,” meaning it gives off heat. Don’t use plastic vessels when creating methoxide. They don’t hold up well to heat and have a tendency to explode or dissolve because plastic can store a static electrical charge. Always opt for stainless steel equipment when making biodiesel.

(Video) THIS SELF SUFFICIENT FAMILY MAKES THEIR OWN FUEL FROM PLASTIC!

Sodium hydroxide is commercially produced lye; both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are available online from suppliers of soap-making equipment. Procure methanol at your local chemical distributor or race car shop (race car drivers often blend methanol into their fuel supplies). In North Carolina, where I live, you can carry 100 gallons of methanol on your pickup truck without special permits or licensing.

After you’ve achieved a successful methoxide reaction, the second required process is the biodiesel reaction. This occurs when you mix methoxide with oil and agitate the molecules. The product of the biodiesel reaction will be a mix of about 80 percent biodiesel and a 20 percent cocktail of coproducts. You can either drain the coproducts off the bottom of your tank, or decant the biodiesel from the top of the tank.

DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (2)

Planning a Home Biodiesel Plant

Step one: Find a reliable source of feedstock. Try sourcing used cooking oil from restaurants, makeup manufacturers or nutraceutical companies. If you’re planning to sell your biodiesel, begin by analyzing the available feedstock supply, and make plans to size your operation accordingly. The commercial biodiesel landscape is littered with the carcasses of producers who built to meet fuel demand only to find they couldn’t secure enough feedstock to make their biofuel plants work.

Most brewers who make biofuels for themselves (that is, not to sell) secure a source of used cooking oil from area restaurants as feedstock for their operations. While you can grow “virgin” feedstock (such as soybeans and sunflower seeds), waste vegetable oil works fine and is less expensive. You can easily make your own fuel for $1 per gallon by collecting free or cheap cooking oil after it’s served its useful life in a restaurant’s deep fryer. A gallon of oil will yield about a gallon of biodiesel.

(Video) Alcohol Fuel Production with Richard Freudenberger at Mother Earth News Fair WNC

Step two: Build your plant, sized to your feedstock supply. A small homebrewing operation can fit in the corner of a garage, within the footprint of a single parking space. Allow enough space for a water heater, a tank for storing your incoming feedstock, and a tank for washing your fuel. For starters, aim to line up enough feedstock to meet your family’s fuel requirements.

If you’re collecting used cooking oil from restaurants, expect that 20 percent of the material you gather will be water and bits of fried food. Water is not your friend when making biodiesel, so you’ll need to remove it by heating the oil and allowing the contaminants to settle to the bottom before you pour the oil off the top. You’ll have to devise a plan for disposing of the greasy wastewater. Pigs love it, and it improves their coats, so ask around to find a local farmer who will take it off your hands.

DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (3)

Ensuring Safe Biofuel Production

Home biodiesel production is not without risks. Making your own fuel will require great attention to detail and safety because you’ll be using chemicals that are flammable and caustic. This article outlines the basics of how to make biodiesel, but you’ll need to research carefully before you begin production. (See “Resources”)

Rules and Regulations for Biodiesel Plants

Be sure to check with your local zoning department, too, to see whether you may face restrictions related to fuel production. Note that farms are exempt from zoning approval in many areas. You should also get in touch with your area fire marshal or the local building inspection folks about fire-code compliance.

(Video) Making Bio Diesel

When designing your DIY biodiesel plant, be sure to devise a strategy for getting rid of coproducts before you begin production, because you don’t want to end up with totes of methanol-laced glycerin piled up behind the barn. The cocktail produced by the biodiesel reaction tends to be filled with methanol,
glycerin, free fatty acids and soaps. Because methanol is a microbial starter for digesters, some wastewater treatment plants will welcome it, as will some commercial-scale composters. Or, a friendly community biodiesel producer may accept it from you.

DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (4)

Designing a DIY Biodiesel Plant

Backyard biodiesel plants tend to be as diverse as the people who create them. Water heater tanks recycled into biodiesel reactors are common: Imagine an electric water heater, with a pipe plumbed to its outlet at the bottom, attached to a mixing pump that sends liquids to the top of the tank and back around again. Many small brewers cobble together their own vessels and pipes from scrap. Others order off-the-shelf parts or kits (see “Resources”).

Perhaps you’d prefer a biodiesel setup on the go. You and a group of neighbors can cooperate on a mobile biodiesel processor that can travel to the feedstock source. Mobile processors tend to be significantly more expensive than fixed units set up in a garage, but they can offer regulatory flexibility. In my experience, local building authorities tend to ignore mobile processors, because they prefer to inspect units that are stationary. Mobile processors also offer the possibility of sharing a capital resource with other fuel consumers.

You can build a small-scale biodiesel plant on the back of a pickup truck for a couple thousand dollars. Outfitted with an 80-gallon reactor, such a plant could make enough fuel to meet a handful of families’ biodiesel needs — assuming there’s enough used cooking oil to feed and operate it. With free feedstock, $1-per-gallon biodiesel could pay back the cost of the system quickly by providing enough fuel to keep everyone rolling. Find detailed instructions on making biodiesel in my book and in the other titles under “Resources.”

(Video) Bio diesel from sunflower oil

DIY Home Biodiesel Production: Make Your Own Fuel – Mother Earth News (5)

Resources

Books on Home Biodiesel Production

Backyard Biodiesel: How to Brew Your Own Fuel by Lyle Estill and Bob Armantrout
Run Your Diesel Vehicle on Biofuels: A Do-It-Yourself Manual by Jon Starbuck and Gavin Harper
Biodiesel Basics and Beyond by William Kemp

Suppliers of Biofuel Plant Equipment

Utah Biodiesel Supply
Springboard Biodiesel

(Video) Make your own Free Diesel from Waste Plastic! PART 1

Lyle Estill is the founder of Piedmont Biofuels, a community-scale biodiesel plant in Pittsboro, N.C. He hasn’t filled up at a local gas station since January 2002.

FAQs

How do you make biodiesel step by step? ›

The process is relatively simple combined a certain amount of alcohol. And catalyst mixture with

How do you make a biodiesel experiment? ›

Add our thermometer. And heat it up to about 130 degrees carefully add the hot oil to a two liter

What is the best oil for making biodiesel? ›

Better Biodiesel

At 7 percent saturated fat, canola has the lowest saturated fat level of all major vegetable oils. The low saturated fat content of canola oil means improved cold weather performance of the biodiesel.

How do you make diesel fuel out of used oil at home? ›

First, to pump dirty motor oil into oil distillation plant. Second, we need to heat dirty motor oil and keep it in a best temperature for best diesel quality. Fuel oil will be converted to diesel oil gas when get heating. Then our cooling system will cool diesel oil gas into diesel.

Can you make your own biodiesel? ›

All you do is heat the oil up, mix the catalyst & methanol together, add it to the heated oil, then shake it up and let it settle! Within a few hours the glycerin will settle out and you'll have Biodiesel!

Which plant is called biodiesel plant? ›

Jatropha curcas

How long does it take to make biodiesel? ›

How long does it take to make a batch? 48 hours in the standard models, 23 hours in the EX models, and 11.5 to 13 hrs when combined with a SpringPro T76 dry wash system.

How do you make biodiesel from wood? ›

How to turn wood into biojet fuel - YouTube

How do you convert oil to biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel for diesel engines that is produced by chemically reacting a vegetable oil or animal fat with an alcohol such as methanol or ethanol. In words, the reaction is: Oil + alcohol → biodiesel + glycerin. The photo shows a bottle of biodiesel and glycerin (also called glycerol).

How do you make biodiesel from plants? ›

HOW WE MAKE BIODIESEL - YouTube

What is needed for biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils, yellow grease, used cooking oils, or animal fats. The fuel is produced by transesterification—a process that converts fats and oils into biodiesel and glycerin (a coproduct).

Can I mix vegetable oil with diesel? ›

If you put veggie oil in the tank of a modern diesel car you'll wreck the engine within seconds and cause hundreds if not thousands of pounds of damage, because the engines run at much higher pressure to give smoother performance, and need all the lubrication found in modern diesel fuels.

Can a diesel engine run on cooking oil? ›

Firstly, you can only use vegetable oil in a diesel engine, not a petrol one. It's important to note though that oil should not be poured directly from the bottle into a car. Due to the oil being so thick and sticky, it won't flow properly through the engine, and it will not burn efficiently.

Can you mix biodiesel and diesel? ›

Yes, you can use biodiesel and diesel fuel interchangeably, as well as blended. Will I need to change my fuel filters more often when using biodiesel? Biodiesel is a solvent. It will clear many diesel deposits that have accumulated in your fuel tank.

Can you make biodiesel without methanol? ›

Of Course Yes, Biodiesel can be produced by the reaction of vegetable oil with any alkyl source such as methanol, ethanol, dimethyl carbonate, methyl acetate, ethyl acetate.... etc.

Which is better biodiesel or diesel? ›

Superior performance: Biodiesel offers superior performance over petrodiesel since it has a higher cetane rating and added lubricity. Biodiesel's superior cetane rating means an easier engine startup. Higher lubricity means less wear and tear on your engine over time.

Can you use old engine oil as fuel? ›

A sizable amount of that old oil is simply discarded or burned. Pyrolysis is one promising way of reusing old oil. The oil is heated in the absence of oxygen and breaks down into a mix of gases, liquids and a small amount of solids. The gases and liquids can be chemically converted into gasoline or diesel fuel.

How much does it cost to make biodiesel? ›

As mentioned previously, the cost to produce biodiesel is $5.53-$6.38 per gallon. This is higher than the current price of regular diesel. If one takes into account the value of the seed meal produced ($3.03 per gallon), the cost to generate biodiesel becomes much lower, about $2.50-$3.35 per gallon.

How do you make synthetic diesel fuel? ›

In a first stage, hydrogen is produced from water. Carbon is added to this to produce a liquid fuel. This carbon can be recycled from industrial processes or even captured from the air using filters. Combining CO₂ and H₂ then results in the synthetic fuel, which can be gasoline, diesel, gas, or even kerosene.

Can you make biodiesel from animal fat? ›

Animal fat feedstocks can be made into high-quality biodiesel that meets the ASTM specifications for biodiesel.

What are the benefits of biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel is a domestically produced, clean-burning, renewable substitute for petroleum diesel. Using biodiesel as a vehicle fuel increases energy security, improves air quality and the environment, and provides safety benefits.

Where Is biodiesel used? ›

Biodiesel blended in various proportions with petroleum-based diesel is used mostly as a transportation fuel to power different vehicle engines. Other applications for renewable biodiesel fuel include: Fuel filters. Heating oils.

Which part of plant is used for extracting biodiesel? ›

Jatropha oil is produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, a plant that can grow in wastelands across India, and the oil is considered to be an excellent source of bio-diesel.

How Much Is biodiesel a gallon? ›

Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Fuel Options

The Alternative Fuels Data Center reports that the national average price of B-20 biodiesel blends in July 2021 was $3.05 per gallon compared to $3.26 per gallon for diesel fuel.

How much does biodiesel weight per gallon? ›

Soy ester weighs about 7.7 pounds per gallon. Number 2 diesel fuel weighs about 7.1 pounds per gallon.

What is the cost of biodiesel per Litre? ›

Biodiesel is priced at Rs. 77/ltr.

Which tree is used to make biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel is commonly derived from palm oil; in certain parts of the world, the use of oil palm plantations has been associated with deforestation, where many trees are cleared from forest land in order to plant the trees.

Can you make diesel fuel from wood? ›

Using high temperatures and pressure, Statkraft's “hydro thermal liquefaction” process turns wood and organic waste into diesel, producing what it says is a second-generation biofuel that is carbon neutral. It emits the same amount of carbon when burned that was originally absorbed by the organic feedstock.

How do you make fuel from trees? ›

Making Biofuels and Biochemicals from Poplar Trees - YouTube

What alcohol is used in biodiesel? ›

Methanol and ethanol are the most often used alcohols in biodiesel production. Methanol is particularly preferred because of its physical and chemical advantages.

Can you produce biodiesel from waste products? ›

Biodiesel is produced from triglycerides in the presence of alcohol with catalyst through transesterification reaction. The biodiesel production from waste cooking oil with methanol in the presence of nano-sized calcium oxide nano-catalyst was done at a laboratory scale.

How much biodiesel is produced from vegetable oil? ›

More than 80 percent of biodiesel is made from vegetable oil (the rest is mostly animal fats).

What plants are used for fuel? ›

Crops including wheat, maize and sugar cane can be used as biofuels (see Figure 3). The sugar, starch, or vegetable oil obtained from the crops is converted into biodiesel or ethanol. These are known as first generation biofuels, as their use is based on plant species we have long harvested for food.

What are the 5 types of biofuel? ›

This article seeks to discover the various types of biofuels and their respective benefits.
  • Wood.
  • Biogas.
  • Biodiesel.
  • Ethanol.
  • Methanol.
  • Butanol.

How long can biodiesel be stored? ›

Use It or Lose It: Biodiesel has a shelf life of about six months; sealed opaque containers with minimal head space (to prevent water condensation) are best for storage.

Can a diesel engine run on peanut oil? ›

Turns out, diesel engines' simple design allows for virtually anything oil-based to be used as fuel. The inventor of the motor, Rudolph Diesel, used peanut oil in his original design.

How do you water wash biodiesel? ›

Bubble washing is done by putting a bubbler in a layer of water beneath the biodiesel. The rising bubbles are coated with water, which picks up impurities as the water travels up and then back down through the biodiesel. After the biodiesel is washed, it should be dried until it is crystal clear.

Is biodiesel good for the environment? ›

Using biodiesel lowers particulate matter by 47%, reduces hydrocarbon emissions by up to 67%, and reduces smog. It's environmental benefits don't stop there. The production of biodiesel, in lieu of petroleum diesel, reduces wastewater by 79% and hazardous waste by 96%.

Can a diesel engine run on olive oil? ›

According to Knothe and Dunn,20 saturated hydrocarbon chains, as they are found in fatty compounds, are especially suitable for conventional diesel fuel, thus indicating that olive oil methyl ester presents a more suitable value to be considered as a diesel-fuel alternative.

What is Red diesel? ›

“Red diesel” is the term used for gas oil that is intended for use other than as fuel in road vehicles. Gas oil intended for use in diesel engine road vehicles ( DERV ) has a duty rate of 57.95 pence per litre ( ppl ).

Can a diesel engine run on hydrogen? ›

Hydrogen cannot be used directly in a diesel engine due to its auto ignition temperature higher than that of diesel fuel.

Can you burn kerosene in a diesel engine? ›

Kerosene will burn in a diesel engine without causing serious damage, but it is not efficient. It depends on your engine. Kerosene will burns fine in most diesel engines without harming them. In fact, many newer diesel engines list kerosene as an approved fuel.

What happens if you put vegetable oil in your engine? ›

In short, this means that it's thicker and stickier than diesel, so it doesn't flow as cleanly and will give the engine a hard time burning it all effectively. Pure vegetable oil can then build up in the engine, interfering with the flow of fuel and leading to stalling or burnout.

What happens if you put vegetable oil in your gas tank? ›

However, vegetable oil has very high viscosity. It's so thick that the engine has a hard time atomizing the fuel completely when it is sprayed into the combustion chamber. The result is unburned fuel that clogs the engine.

Can you use 100% biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel can be blended and used in many different concentrations. The most common are B5 (up to 5% biodiesel) and B20 (6% to 20% biodiesel). B100 (pure biodiesel) is typically used as a blendstock to produce lower blends and is rarely used as a transportation fuel.

What is B5 biodiesel? ›

B5 biodiesel is a low-level biofuel blend consisting of ≤5 percent pure biodiesel and ≥95 percent petroleum diesel fuel. B5 has been approved for use by most diesel automobile and truck manufacturers.

What is B10 biodiesel? ›

B10 or B20 are biodiesel blends that are 10 or 20 percent biodiesel mixed with petrodiesel. There is also B100, or the “biodiesel” most often discussed in environmental circles, is made of 100 percent vegetable or biological sources.

Can you run biodiesel in a regular diesel engine? ›

Biodiesel and conventional diesel vehicles are one and the same. Although light-, medium-, and heavy-duty diesel vehicles are not technically alternative fuel vehicles, almost all are capable of running on biodiesel blends.

Is biodiesel cheaper than regular diesel? ›

Biodiesel is most commonly sold in blends with normal diesel; B5, which is 5 percent biodiesel and 95-percent petroleum diesel, and B20, or 20 percent bio diesel. B20 sells for about 20 cents a gallon more than petroleum diesel according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Can I mix vegetable oil with diesel? ›

If you put veggie oil in the tank of a modern diesel car you'll wreck the engine within seconds and cause hundreds if not thousands of pounds of damage, because the engines run at much higher pressure to give smoother performance, and need all the lubrication found in modern diesel fuels.

What is the cost of biodiesel per gallon? ›

As mentioned previously, the cost to produce biodiesel is $5.53-$6.38 per gallon. This is higher than the current price of regular diesel.

Can you use 100% biodiesel? ›

Biodiesel can be blended and used in many different concentrations. The most common are B5 (up to 5% biodiesel) and B20 (6% to 20% biodiesel). B100 (pure biodiesel) is typically used as a blendstock to produce lower blends and is rarely used as a transportation fuel.

How long can biodiesel be stored? ›

Use It or Lose It: Biodiesel has a shelf life of about six months; sealed opaque containers with minimal head space (to prevent water condensation) are best for storage.

How much does it cost to convert to biodiesel? ›

Real Costs

It is estimated that making biodiesel is a great investment as it will typically cost about 70 cents per gallon to make. This means that if you are currently paying $2.50 per gallon for regular gas, the savings are $1.80 per gallon of biodiesel that you make.

Why is pure biodiesel not used in cars? ›

Faced with engine durability issues and instances of DPF clogging, most manufacturers disallowed the use of neat biodiesel and higher level biodiesel blends in Euro 3 and later diesel passenger cars equipped with active DPF systems.

Why biodiesel is not widely used? ›

"The feedstock inputs you need for biodiesel are more expensive than petroleum is," Jones Prather said. "On top of that, the processes for producing the fuel aren't yet efficient enough so that you can produce it very cheaply."

What is the cost of biodiesel per Litre? ›

Biodiesel is priced at Rs. 77/ltr.

Can a diesel engine run on peanut oil? ›

Turns out, diesel engines' simple design allows for virtually anything oil-based to be used as fuel. The inventor of the motor, Rudolph Diesel, used peanut oil in his original design.

Can I add cooking oil to diesel? ›

Assuming you have a diesel engine, you could use vegetable oil with no other modifications. However, vegetable oil has very high viscosity. It's so thick that the engine has a hard time atomizing the fuel completely when it is sprayed into the combustion chamber. The result is unburned fuel that clogs the engine.

Can I legally run my car on vegetable oil? ›

Firstly, you can only use vegetable oil in a diesel engine, not a petrol one. It's important to note though that oil should not be poured directly from the bottle into a car. Due to the oil being so thick and sticky, it won't flow properly through the engine, and it will not burn efficiently.

How long does it take to build a biodiesel plant? ›

Yes, 1 year.

How much does a gallon of biodiesel weigh? ›

Soy ester weighs about 7.7 pounds per gallon. Number 2 diesel fuel weighs about 7.1 pounds per gallon.

What is B100 biodiesel? ›

B100 biodiesel (100% biodiesel) is an EPA -registered fuel and fuel additive designed as a blendstock for use in blending with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel has been shown to reduce the emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate when used alone or as a blend (B5, B20).

Videos

1. Pump Water Up Hill Without Power! Build Your Own Ram Pump for your to your garden homestead or farm
(VergePermaculture)
2. how to produce biodiesel from corn oil (english subtitle)
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3. How Biofuel Is Made and Used - Episode 150
(Unprofessional Engineering)
4. Oil Press Making Straight Vegetable Oil for Biodiesel
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5. Converting algae into fuel
(WXYZ-TV Detroit | Channel 7)
6. Making Diesel Fuel With Plant Fungus | Video
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