It is possible to run a vehicle on cooking oil. If you plan to make the switch, consider these ways to make cooking oil and process it into eco-friendly biodiesel.
|Ways to Make Cooking Oil As Car Fuel: Step By Step |
As awareness about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels increases, more people are looking for alternative energy sources that are kinder to our ecosystems. Some creative solutions have been found – solar power, methanol, and even liquid hydrogen, to name a few. But one of the most viable alternatives is vegetable oil, which can be processed into fuel powerful enough to operate heavy machinery.
Lots of vehicles are now electric, some can run on solar energy and some are even running liquid hydrogen! But while these options are becoming more cost-effective, they are not yet as cheap as diesel or petrol.
So what would work? One of the most viable alternative fuels, or biofuels, is vegetable oil! When recycled for use as biodiesel it can be used to power vehicles and even industrial machinery. How to make vegetable oil as car fuel? Scroll down!
What is biofuel?
According to the US Energy Information Administration, biofuels are fuels made of natural products like ethanol and biodiesel.
Plant starches and sugars like beet sugar are a source of ethanol.
Biodiesel comes from new and used vegetable oils and animal fats. It is biodegradable and is made by combining alcohol with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease.
These fuels are usually blended with petroleum fuels (gasoline and distillate/diesel fuel and heating oil) to improve the quality of the oil and its condition during storage.
Will my car run on cooking oil?
Some older diesel engines will run on cooking oil and even used oil that has been strained. However, the viscosity of cold oil can cause fuel injectors to clog. Modern diesel engines on the other hand require it to be enhanced and there are companies that specialise in turning used cooking oil into biofuel.
How Is Biodiesel Less Harmful Than Diesel?
Once you process used cooking oil into biodiesel, it becomes an effective and safe fuel that doesn’t damage your car’s engine. It also comes with a host of benefits over traditional petroleum. Not only is it more accessible, but it’s also better than petroleum in several other ways, including:
- It’s less toxic. This makes it safer for workers and drivers to use, and safe for the environment.
- It’s cleaner-burning. Biodiesel burns more cleanly than petroleum diesel. In fact, pure biodiesel produces up to 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and particulates.
- It needs less transportation. Biodiesel is being produced domestically, so less fuel is consumed – and less gas emitted – by transporting the feedstock or finished fuel.
- It reduces waste. Many feedstocks can be used, including used cooking oil from homes, restaurants, and cafeterias.
- It’s renewable. Unlike petroleum, which is a fossil fuel and a limited resource, biodiesel can be made from used cooking oil, which is renewable and reliable.
Can to make my own biofuel?
There are ‘recipes’ available on the internet for the domestic production of biodiesel. These usually involve mixing methanol with sodium hydroxide and pouring the resulting mixture into vegetable oil. Such home production raises serious health and safety concerns, as it involves hazardous chemicals and the risk of fire and explosion.
Making biodiesel is a potentially hazardous process that should only be carried out in controlled conditions by people with the proper training and experience. Quite apart from these risks, a poorly made biodiesel could seriously damage a vehicle engine.
How to Turn Waste Oil Into Fuel?
There is a process where used cooking oil can be easily turned into an efficient fuel. This is called transesterification and involves mixing the fuel with alcohol and sodium chloride. Following the transesterification, you’ll be left with methyl ester, or biodiesel, and an alcohol byproduct.
Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Please don’t try this at home; leave it to the experts.
The chemical compounds are difficult to get right and if mixed or processed incorrectly, creating a chemical reaction of any kind can be very dangerous!
The Chemistry of Making Biodiesel
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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.
Sodium hydroxide is a 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, 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.
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.
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.
How to Make Biodiesel From Vegetable Oil
Materials for Making Biodiesel
- 1 liter of new vegetable oil (e.g., canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil)
- 3.5 grams (0.12 ounces) sodium hydroxide (also known as lye). Sodium hydroxide is used for some drain cleaners. The label should state that the product contains sodium hydroxide (not calcium hypochlorite, which is found in many other drain cleaners).
- 200 milliliters (6.8 fluid ounces) of methanol (methyl alcohol). Heet fuel treatment is methanol. Be sure the label says the product contains methanol (Iso-Heet, for example, contains isopropyl alcohol and won't work).
- Blender with a low-speed option. The pitcher for the blender is to be used only for making biodiesel. You want to use one made from glass, not plastic because the methanol you will use can react with plastic.
- Digital scale to accurately measure 3.5 grams, which equals 0.12 ounces
- Glass container marked for 200 milliliters (6.8 fluid ounces). If you don't have a beaker, measure the volume using a measuring cup, pour it into a glass jar, then mark the fill-line on the outside of the jar.
- Glass or plastic container that is marked for 1 liter (1.1 quarts)
- Widemouthed glass or plastic container that will hold at least 1.5 liters (2-quart pitcher works well)
- Safety glasses, gloves, and an (optional) apron
You do not want to get sodium hydroxide or methanol on your skin, nor do you want to breathe the vapors from either chemical. Both are toxic. Please read the warning labels on the containers for these products. Methanol is readily absorbed through your skin, so do not get it on your hands. Sodium hydroxide is caustic and will give you a chemical burn. Prepare your biodiesel in a well-ventilated area. If you spill either chemical on your skin, rinse it off immediately with water.
How to Make Biodiesel: Step by step
- You want to prepare the biodiesel in a room that is at least 70 degrees F because the chemical reaction will not proceed to completion if the temperature is too low.
- If you haven't already, label all your containers as "Toxic—Only Use for Making Biodiesel." You don't want anyone drinking your supplies, and you don't want to use the glassware for food again.
- Pour 200 milliliters methanol (Heet) into the glass blender pitcher.
- Turn the blender on its lowest setting and slowly add 3.5 grams sodium hydroxide (lye). This reaction produces sodium methoxide, which must be used right away or else it loses its effectiveness. (Like sodium hydroxide, it can be stored away from air/moisture, but that might not be practical for a home setup.)
- Mix the methanol and sodium hydroxide until the sodium hydroxide has completely dissolved (about 2 minutes), then add 1 liter of vegetable oil to this mixture.
- Continue blending this mixture (on low speed) for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a widemouthed jar. You will see the liquid start to separate out into layers. The bottom layer will be glycerin. The top layer is biodiesel.
- Allow at least a couple of hours for the mixture to fully separate. You want to keep the top layer as your biodiesel fuel. If you like, you can keep the glycerin for other projects. You can either carefully pour off the biodiesel or use a pump or baster to pull the biodiesel off of the glycerin.
Recycling Your Cooking Oil
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Switching to biodiesel is one way to help the environment. Another way is to recycle your used cooking oil. If you run a commercial kitchen, you’ll likely produce a lot of waste oil. Contacting a company, such as Cater Oils, to collect your waste cooking oil will ensure it is recycled, and not wasted.
How to Use Biodiesel
Normally, you can use pure biodiesel or a mixture of biodiesel and petroleum diesel as a fuel in any unmodified diesel engine. There are two situations in which you definitely should mix biodiesel with petroleum-based diesel:
- If you are going to be running the engine at a temperature lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees C), you should mix biodiesel with petroleum diesel. A 50:50 mixture will work in cold weather. Pure biodiesel will thicken and cloud at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which could clog your fuel line and stop your engine. Pure petroleum diesel, in contrast, has a cloud point of -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 degrees C). The colder your conditions, the higher the percentage of petroleum diesel you will want to use. Above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you can use pure biodiesel without any problem. Both types of diesel return to normal as soon as the temperature warms above their cloud point.
- You will want to use a mixture of 20% biodiesel with 80% petroleum diesel (called B20) if your engine has natural rubber seals or hoses. Pure biodiesel can degrade natural rubber, though B20 tends not to cause problems. If you have an older engine (which is where natural rubber parts are found), you could replace the rubber with polymer parts and run pure biodiesel.
The Key Difference With Vegetable Oil
As far as in diesel engines, the biggest difference between vegetable oil (we really mean either vegetable oil or animal fat, but in order to keep us from having to repeat those phrases over and over, we’ll just refer to it all as vegetable oil) and conventional diesel fuel is the viscosity. Vegetable oil is thicker and has a higher viscosity than diesel fuel does. This difference will do some things in your diesel engine.
Since the vegetable oil is thicker than diesel fuel, it’s going to change the way the fuel injectors spray the fuel into the combustion chamber. Fuel injectors are designed to atomize diesel fuel so that it burns in the best way possible. They’re not designed to achieve the same effect with a thicker, more viscous fuel. So what will happen is the injectors will spray the vegetable oil into the cylinder, but the spray won’t be as fine. That means you’ll get a lot more unburned or partially burned fuel, which means lower mileage and higher emissions. You’ll also get significant deposit buildup in all areas of the engine that are associated with combustion – the fuel injectors, combustion chamber, etc. And since it is thicker, you may also expect to wear out your injectors and fuel pump from having to work harder to pump and spray the thicker fuel.
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