Reducing Dependence on Non-Renewable Energy by Using Biodiesel Instead of Petrol-Diesel

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine, poultry


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added


    Our farm is situated in east central Ohio and is made up of approximately 180 acres. The farm has been certified organic since 2006. This farm has been in our family for 7 generations. We milk about 20 cows, which are raised on an all forage diet. We raise grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and pastured poultry. We incorporate managed intensive grazing and movable poultry shelters in our farming system. We are also using EQIP funding to establish cattle walkways, build fence, and develop water sources for our livestock. We have been practicing these sustainable techniques since 2006.

    Project goals:
    a. Reduce our farm’s dependency on non-renewable fuels
    b. Introduce fewer emissions into our environment
    c. Increase the economical and social sustainability of our farm

    Process: The most time-consuming step involved with this project was the research involved in learning the science behind making biodiesel. I spent a lot of time researching on the Internet about the different ways in which biodiesel can be made. I also spent an equal amount of time studying biodiesel equipment. After much research, I decided to purchase a biodiesel production machine, instead of making my own. The decision was based on two things: 1) I did not want to devote the time to make my own, and 2) I felt more comfortable buying a machine that had been proven to work.

    Once we had the biodiesel production machine and the raw materials to make the fuel, we had to collect the used cooking oil. This proved to be the worst part of the whole project. Used cooking oil is not pleasant to collect. We tried several methods to collect it from area restaurants, finally having to resort to using a small bucket to dip the oil out of the collection barrel. One important note – In Ohio, in order to collect used cooking oil and transport it from an establishment to your home, you must have a License to Collect Raw Rendering Material. This is issued by the state. I assume other states have similar requirements.

    After the cooking oil is collected, we filter the oil to remove any food partials. We use a 200-micron filter. After filtering, the oil is put in the biodiesel production machine and the oil is titrated. Titration is a process by which the acidity of the oil is found. The acidity of the oil determines how much NaOH (sodium hydroxide) to use. In our process, NaOH is mixed with about 8 gallons of methanol. This mixture is then blended with 40 gallons of used cooking oil that has been heated to about 100°F. The solution is mixed for about 2 hours, then left to sit overnight. The next day, the mixture will have separated into two distinct layers. The bottom layer is glycerin and the top layer is biodiesel. We usually have around 5 gallons of glycerin. The glycerin is drained off and discarded. The biodiesel is then “washed” by sprinkling water into the biodiesel. This will remove any unwanted reactants from the biodiesel. We add about 15% water to the biodiesel. Then the solution is left to separate. We leave it overnight. The next day the “soapy” liquid is drained off and the acidity of the liquid is checked. The “washing” process should be repeated until the waste liquid has a pH of 7.0 or until it is clear. Once the washing phase is done, we “dry” the biodiesel. Our biodiesel production machine heats the fuel to about 100°F and circulates it. This will allow any excess water to evaporate. This process takes between 6 and 8 hours. A sample of the fuel is then taken and the specific gravity is checked using a hydrometer. The fuel should test between .860 and .900. We simply pass the biodiesel through a normal 15-micron diesel fuel filter and a water filter before using it.

    To date we have only run a B20 mixture (20% biodiesel and 80% diesel) because of the cold weather.

    Mike Hogan – OSU Extension Service – Mike Hogan helped with our field day that was held on October 10, 2007. We had about 65 people in attendance. It was very nice to be able to share our experiences with so many interested people.

    We were able to produce biodiesel for about $1.60 per gallon, including labor and oil collection. This was slightly higher than we anticipated, due to extra time for filtering and oil collection. The biodiesel fuel has performed wonderfully in our tractor. We have a John Deere 2940 with the Bosch fuel pump. Since we began blending the fuel, the tractor has run quieter and started easier. We feel that the cost per gallon will go down as we make more fuel, because we can buy our reaction ingredients in larger quantities.

    For someone wanting to begin making biodiesel for their operation there are some thoughts to consider:
    1. How much fuel do I use per year? – In our operation, we do not use a large amount of fuel because of our grazing practices. We only use about 300 gallons per year. It takes about 5 days to make 40 gallons with our biodiesel production machine. For us, this works well. A farmer using more fuel per year would need to take this into consideration.
    2. Do I want to spend the money to buy a biodiesel production machine or make my own? – My personal opinion is that one should make their own biodiesel production machine. There are many references on how to make your own machine on the Internet and in books. If you have the time and the means, this is the way to go. The machine can be as simple or as advanced as you want it to be. You will save possibly thousands of dollars building your own machine.

    As stated earlier, we can produce biodiesel with our system for about $1.60 per gallon. In January 2008, off-road diesel fuel was priced at $2.92 per gallon, in our area. We use about 300 gallons per year currently, so by using our biodiesel we can save about $200 per year in fuel. The $200 per year assumes we still use half diesel and half biodiesel. If we use all biodiesel, that savings goes to about $400 per year.

    This amount of money might not seem like a lot, but you have to consider all of the other benefits of making your own fuel. First, making your own fuel increases your independence from foreign oil. As oil prices continue to rise, this is a win-win situation for the American farmer. Next, if you choose to produce biodiesel from used cooking oil, then that oil does not have to go into landfills.

    On October 10, 2007, we had a field day at our farm to tell people about our farm. The highlight of this event was our biodiesel production machine. We had about 65 people at our event. The event was coordinated by the Ohio State University Extension service, represented by Mike Hogan. The event was sponsored by OSU Extension, Farm Credit Services, and OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association). Our field day was advertised in local farm papers, flyers displayed at local businesses, and mailings to OSU Extension subscribers. People from all over Ohio and Pennsylvania attended the event. We continue to share the knowledge we have gained with our community.

    On-line article:

    The grant process itself is very simple and easy to use. It would be nice to be able to access more of the funds throughout the project. This kept us from being able to purchase everything as outlined in our proposed budget, because we did not have the cash on hand to pay up front.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.