Thursday 15 December 2011

What is Biodiesel?

With fuel prices rising and the environmental effects of motoring in the news almost every day, more and more people are taking charge of the situation and producing their own biofuels at home. This is the first in a series of posts aimed at helping you to understand what biodiesel is, and the processes involved in making it.

Biodiesel is defined as diesel fuel with a base of vegetable oil or tallow (animal fat). Generally it is produced using the process of transesterification (the separation of methyl esters from glycerol), by creating a chemical reaction between the chosen oil/fat and methanol using a catalyst. The most popular catalysts used in the production of biodiesel are Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide.
It can be used as a pure fuel, or alternatively mixed with petroleum diesel, and there should be no problem using it in a normal, unmodified diesel powered engine.
The result is a renewable fuel with a low environmental impact. Biodiesel can reduce CO2 emissions by around 78% compared to petroleum diesel.

Please ensure you have read and understood the guidelines provided by HMRC if you intend to produce biodiesel, or if you intend to sell it.
Producing biodiesel involves working with potentially dangerous chemicals. Please see the Health and Safety guidelines from HSE.

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