Hello all, I just registered so I could post to this thread.
I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into biofuels and thought I’d share what I’ve found.
If you can get your waste oil for free, the cost to make a gallon of biodiesel is US$0.60/gal. BD burns cleaner than petrodiesel (often called “dinodiesel”), has a higher cetane (equivalent of octane) ratings, and contains no sulfur. It adds no carbon to the atmosphere, since all the CO2 produced by burning it was absorbed by the plant it came from.
I’m going to try making some of my own very soon now. My investment is going to be around US$200, mostly in lab equipment. I’m getting major portions of the system for free from people who are also interested. I live in a somewhat rural area, so there’s lots of farmers with tractors, etc, that would like to not pay US$1.90/gal for their fuel.
Enola Straight : I’d heard of doing this, but I’m worried about emissions from the used ATF - how much of it are you going to be using in the mix? Also, I thought WVO had a breakdown temp much lower than 300degF.
kennybath : Look for BD/electric hybrids to hit the roads sometime in 2008 (2006 in Europe).
Also, to answer your assertions: Currently most restaurants pay for disposal of their waste oil. That’s right, they make negative money on it. If more people start using BD, there will be a greater demand for WVO and the price will rise. Restaurants will be paid for their waste oil, up to about US$0.50/gal. If demand for BD rises further, there will be more virgin oil produced specifically for the purpose of making BD, at a lower cost than current vegetable oil prices. BD can be produced effectively from oils that are not useful for cooking.
Also, where did you get the .11 liters per square meter figure from? That’s about 118 USgal/acre, whereas numbers I’ve seen go from 18 gal/acre for corn, to 635 gal/acre for oil palm. The most common oil crops, soy and rapeseed (canola), are 48 and 127 respectively.
It is not necessary to raise “food” specifically for oil production - in other words, large-scale production of oil crops will not displace food crops. This is because after the oil is removed from the pant, it is still useful, mainly as cattle feed. The “cake” left over from pressing out the oil from corn is used as a highly nutritious, high-protein supplement for dairy cows.
Johnny L.A. : The conversion kits use a recirculating system instead of an electric heater because it’s more efficient - the engine heat has already been produced, so it’s better to use than than generate electricity and turn it into heat. Some people who run engines on SVO use electric preheaters in cold climates.
I don’t have hard numbers, but the cost of diesel is going up even more rapidly than the price of gasoline - the break-even point probably lies somewhere around $2.50/gal for oil produced specifically for BD production.
Animal fats are also useful for making BD - the process differs somewhat due to higher levels of Free Fatty Acids that have to be converted, but it’s still well within the capabilities of a single person at home.
In general, biodiesel from WVO is absolutely awesome when the waste oil is free, and better even when it is more expensive than petroleum products. I feel that it’s the best near-term biofuel we could possibly make. Ethanol fuel from biomass still has some problems, related to tariffs mainly, but it also has some technical shortcomings. Ethanol is a less dense fuel, so a larger volume is needed to obtain the same output from an engine. Also, the modifications to run a gasoline engine on ethanol are much more substantial than those required to run a diesel engine on biodiesel. Exotic solutions, like pure hydrogen or direct methanation fuel cells, aren’t here yet and will require much development and investment before they can replace gasoline. Biodiesel leverages existing engines and production lines, but replaces a dirty fuel with a clean one.
Incidentally, the first diesel engines built by Rudolf Diesel were run on pure peanut oil. Diesel designed his engines to run on renewable fuels, rather than petrochemicals. Somewhat prophetically, he said:
More info is here