Reducing Dependence on Non-Renewable Energy by Using Biodiesel Instead of Petrol-Diesel
This year I have been able to purchase many of the components necessary to begin processing our own biodiesel with part of my grant funds. I have purchased the raw materials, like methanol and sodium hydroxide, as well as the equipment needed to produce the biodiesel. Thus far, my time has been spent getting the equipment put together and organizing a place for my processing equipment in our garage. I have had to make some significant changes to our garage to accommodate the processing equipment. Our garage was not heated, and because some of the equipment and raw materials should not freeze, I had to make the necessary modifications to heat the garage. Unfortunately, this was not something I had planned on doing.
Another small obstacle I have encountered has to do with using hydrogenated cooking oil to make biodiesel. I have to make a device to melt the hydrogenated cooking oil so I can use it.
Along with this work, I have spent time doing research on-line and reading books and articles on making and using biodiesel. Part of my research has centered around additives to allow me to use biodiesel in cold weather (below freezing). I also developed spreadsheets to track actual costs vs. budgeted costs and the time I have spent on the project.
What I have learned so far:
1. It is best NOT to use hydrogenated cooking oil to make biodiesel because you have to heat it to liquify it. This must be done so the oil can be strained and then put in the biodiesel processor.
2. Using biodiesel in the cold weather presents problems. Biodiesel, without some kind of cold weather additive, will begin to “gel” around 40° F. My research to date has not yielded a good additive to combat this.
3. The process by which biodiesel is made is not complex, but care must be taken every step of the way to avoid contamination.
WORK PLAN FOR 2007/2008
My work in the coming year will focus on perfecting the process of making biodiesel. This coming winter, I will have more opportunities to devote time to making biodiesel and experimenting with different additives for cold weather use. I also want to work on securing a routine supplier of non-hydrogenated cooking oil. This will simplify the biodiesel making process because I will not have to liquify the hydrogenated oil like I am currently.
As the warmer months roll around, I will be able to use the biodiesel I have made during the cold months and obtain data on the actual cost of using biodiesel vs. petrol-diesel.
Toward the end of summer, we hope to be able to have our field day and present our findings to those interested. [Editor’s Note: The field day is scheduled for October 10, 2007.]
As stated earlier, we are hoping to have our field day toward the end of summer ‘07 to present our findings. I also plan to make my findings available on our website and to the local extension office.