Processing Biodiesel 101 – Turning Oil Into Biodiesel


You’ll be dealing with Methanol (a poisonous alcohol), a strong base of either Sodium Hydroxide (commonly called Lye) or Potassium Hydroxide (commonly called Caustic Potash), both of which can burn you if they get on your skin, oil (which can be downright messy), and heat and electricity. YOU WILL NEED TO BE CAREFUL! YOU CAN GET HURT!

(you must agree to this before proceeding)
By reading the rest of this article, you hereby absolve (‘hold harmless’) Utah Biodiesel Supply, MGBJ Enterprises, and any of it’s employees or staff from any and all responsibility for any potential harm to person(s) or property that may result from the use or misuse (accidental or intentional) of this information.

You understand that Methanol (Methyl-Alcohol), Sodium Hydroxide (Lye, NaOH), Potassium Hydroxide (Caustic Potash, KOH), and Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4) are highly corrosive chemical substances and may be dangerous or harmful if misused.

You hereby accept full and sole responsibility for any potential harm to person(s) or property that may result from the use or misuse (accidental or intentional) of this information.

If you don’t agree with the above, discontinue reading this article and proceed no further.

Still reading? Great! Now that we’ve got that out of the way we can proceed. While Biodiesel can be done in a safe manner, it’s extremely important that you practice good safety techniques and watch what you’re doing. You’re dealing with some pretty dangerous chemicals and if you don’t watch it you really can get hurt. Respect it for what it is, treat it safely, be cautious and prudent and things will probably go well.

Below are two MUST READ guides on Biodiesel Safety.
Biodiesel Safety Article from the Collaborative Biodiesel Tutorial
Biodiesel Best Practices Excellent guide from Penn State on producing Biodiesel safely.

Here are some additional precautions we also recommend following:

1- You’ll be dealing with some fairly caustic chemicals, an alcohol called Methanol, fair amounts of heat, and the transferring of flammable fluids from one container to container so it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher around that is capable of putting out an oil based fire.

2- Biodiesel should always be made in a well-ventilated area away from children and pets with the proper safety equipment utilized.

3- Before making large batches of Biodiesel, check with your local municipality and fire marshall to ensure that any chemicals, alcohol, or other substances you will use are being stored and used within the proper laws and ordinances for your area. Some areas refer back to state and federal fire codes. It’s always a good idea to check before you get started.
Click Here for some helpful tips on working with your local municipality & fire department

4- Using home made Biodiesel in a diesel engine vehicle may void your manufacturer’s warranty. Although the steps outlined to make it are fairly bullet proof and have been tested in several thousands of vehicles all over the world, there’s no guarantee your engine manufacturer will honor your warranty.

5- Biodiesel is considered a fuel so if you plan to use it in a vehicle for on-road use, it may be subject to taxes. Check with your state and federal taxing agencies if in question.

6- Biodiesel itself, when properly made, is actually quite safe. It’s less toxic than table salt and degrades faster than sugar. It has a higher flash point (point at which it ignites) than regular petrodiesel and if spilled isn’t considered toxic.

OK, with that out of the way, let’s start discussing how to process organic oils into Biodiesel.

Below is the basic theory of what you’ll be doing to produce it.

In really simple terms here’s what happens:
1- Put your pre-treated oil in a processor
2- Heat the oil up to about 130-140 deg F
(make sure your processor can handle the heat!)
3- Figure out how much catalyst (lye or caustic potash) you’ll need (Titration)
4- Add the strong base (lye or caustic potash) to the methanol to make methoxide
5- Add the methoxide to the oil & mix it all up
6- Let it separate & pull off the glycerin
7- Wash it & dry it
8- Add it to the tank & drive on down the road!

Here’s the basic recipe
1- Start with a known amount of oil.
2- Oil Amount X 0.20 = Methanol required
3- Titrate Oil = Strong Base such as NaOH or KOH is required
4- Mix Methanol & Strong Base together until fully dissolved
5- Heat oil to 130-135 ° F
6- Kill heat source & add methoxide to oil
7- Mix for 2 hours
8- Allow to sit for 18-24 hours
9- Drain off glycerin
10- Wash out excess contaminants
11- Remove any water by drying the Biodiesel
12- Add final product to diesel tank
13- Drive away!

1- Add 100 liters of oil to processor & turn on the heat
2- Measure out 20 liters of Methanol
3- Titrate oil using KOH as strong base
4- Assume a Titration of 3.
5- 3 + 7 = 10 grams per liter. 10 X 100 = 1,000 grams
4- Add 1,000 grams of KOH to the methanol
5- Allow the KOH to fully dissolve
6- Once the oil hits 130 deg F, kill the heat
7- Slowly add the KOH/Methanol mixture to the processor
8- Mix everything in the processor for at least 2 hours
9- After 2 hours, allow it to sit for 18-24 hours
10- After it’s sat, drain off the glycerin
11- Transfer it to a wash tank
12- Wash and dry the Biodiesel
13- Once dry, add it to the fuel tank & drive away!

Helpful References:
1 Gallon = 3.785 Liters
1 Gram = .0022 Pounds
1 Gram = .035 Ounces

Watch These Great Demonstrations!
Making A Small Batch Of Biodiesel From Waste Vegetable Oil

Basic Explanation Of The Chemistry Of Biodiesel

The Chemistry Of Biodiesel Explained – Part 1

The Chemistry Of Biodiesel Explained – Part 2

Detailed Presentation On The Chemistry Of Biodiesel Production

Link to video
Download Presentation File Shown In Video

Watch all of our Biodiesel instructional tutorial videos here!

For a great analogy of what is going on chemically during the reaction, Click Here!

Additional Resources:
For more detailed information on making Biodiesel, visit the links below:

Make Biodiesel Website A great tutorial page on making biodiesel complete with plans for building biodiesel processing equipment.
Kitchen Biodiesel Explains the basisc of making a small batch.
Wikipedia Biodiesel Recipe Well written recipe for making a small batch of Biodiesel. I believe it’s based off of Mike Pelly’s recipe.
World Famous Dr. Pepper Method – Part 1 Part I of a recipe for making a small batch of Biodiesel in a Dr. Pepper bottle. Followed by many the first time they make biodiesel.
Dangerous Laboratories Great instructions for making a batch of Biodiesel for the first time. Complete with pictures and detailed instructions.
Infopop Biodiesel Forum Great place to post questions and learn about making Biodiesel.
Appleseed Biodiesel Instructions Instructions for making Biodiesel in a hot water heater.

About Utah Biodiesel Supply

Utah Biodiesel Supply is an industry leader in offering innovative ways to empower our customers to produce Biodiesel. From free online instructional videos on how to get started making this great renewable fuel to promotional items to help our customers proclaim their energy independence, Utah Biodiesel Supply has it covered. With the widest selection available of Biodiesel equipment, supplies, and promotional items, you're sure to learn something new about Biodiesel every time you visit.

2 comments on “Processing Biodiesel 101 – Turning Oil Into Biodiesel

  1. Pingback: How To Make Biodiesel With Sulfuric Acid | Utah Biodiesel Supply Blog

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