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Biodiesel Equipment

An increasing number of people are looking for alternatives to gas to fuel their cars and one popular alternative is homemade biodiesel. In order to produce it, the driver needs some biodiesel equipment to make waste oil usable (commercial biodiesel is produced through a process called transesterification and it converts oils and fats of natural origin into fatty acid methyl esters).

The waste vegetable needs to be filtered to remove particles that are larger than 10 microns. The vehicle then needs to be adapted with biodiesel equipment that consists of a second fuel system installed alongside the original diesel one. It costs about US$2,000 to carry out the modification and a good knowledge of car mechanics. Let’s take the example of one Dick Woudenberg, a high-school teacher and former BMW mechanic, from Pickering in Canada, who told his story to The Star newspaper. He adapted his 1997 Volkswagen Gold to run on straight vegetable oil. To make the adaptation, he used a steel drum that was cut down to hold 51 litres of oil and which was installed in the trunk. He also needed hoses and valves to control the fuel flow. Five heat exchangers placed at intervals between the tank and intake were installed to keep the oil at the right temperature. Finally, he installed a microprocessor to monitor the system to decides which fuel to burn, and when.

Biodiesel solidifies with low temperatures, even if it’s not freezing, so the car needs to start on diesel when it’s not hot. But in less than 10 minutes of driving it will warm up. In the case of Mr. Woundenberg, the microprocessor shuts the diesel and opens the vegetable oil system. He said that even at minus 25 the vehicle will work, although it will take longer to warm up the oil.

Of course, this is not practical for most people who would rather just go to the pump and get some ethanol. But it’s a fascinating exercise in independence and ingenuity that can save drivers who are up for the experiment some money and spare the environment of emissions.