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Biodiesel

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Upside of Biodiesel
Downside Biodiesel    

... Can I run a generator using biodiesel fuel?

Can you do so?  Yes.

Would I do so?  Yes. 

First, Biodiesel can be manufactured from vegetable oil it is NOT vegetable oil.  The following applies to properly manufactured biodiesel only.

I would do so for a generator running prime power or one that has longer duty cycle.  If you are considering biodiesel be sure to also consider cogeneration.  At best a diesel generator converts 35% of available BTU to electricity and the remainder are emitted as heat. This heat can be harnessed and used profitably. 

Because long term storage is an issue for biodiesel I would avoid biodiesel for a generator that is rarely used.

Some manufacturers of diesel generator engines may void their warranty or may not cover specific components such as seals, injectors and other components.  You may be wise to wait until your warranty coverage has expired.

There are many issues involved.  Please read on and follow the links at the left of this page for both  pros and cons of powering with biodiesel.

Biodiesel -a more formal definition

Biodiesel fuels are methyl or ethyl esters derived from a broad variety of renewable sources such as vegetable cooking oil and animal fat. Esters are oxygenated organic compounds that can be used in compression ignition (diesel) engines because some of their key properties are comparable to those of diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is produced through a process in which organically derived oils are combined with alcohol (ethanol or methanol) in the presence of a catalyst to form ethyl or methyl ester. Biodiesel can be made from soybean or Canola oils, animal fats, waste vegetable oils or micro algae oils.  

Do not confuse biodiesel with biofuels.  Biofuels are made from cellulose biomass resources. Biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel and methanol.

A more down-to-earth definition for most of us:

Biodiesel is made from fresh or waste vegetable oils (triglycerides) that are a renewable energy source. Biodiesel is an environmentally safe, low polluting fuel which can be used in most diesel internal combustion and turbine engines. Biodiesel can be mixed with petroleum diesel fuel and stored anywhere petroleum is stored. Biodiesel is relatively safe and easy to process when conscientiously approached. Benefits are substantially reduced engine emissions, even with a blend of 20% Biodiesel with 80% petroleum diesel.

 

When I change to Biodiesel, what else should I keep in mind when I switch over?

Over time Biodiesel may soften and degrade certain types of rubber-like and natural rubber compounds used in fuel hoses and system seals in older engines.   Most engines made after 1994-5 will have synthetic fuel lines and seals and will not suffer from this problem. When using high percent biodiesel blends be sure that the existing fuel system of  your older engine does not contain rubber or natural rubber compounds incompatible with Biodiesel.  In general, engine manufacturers recommend that natural or butyl rubbers not be allowed to come in contact with neat Biodiesel, or they will deteriorate.  An indication of deterioration is that your hoses and seals  deteriorate are sticky to the touch and soft.


Biodiesel will clean your injectors and fuel lines extremely well as it is an excellent solvent. If you have an old diesel engine, there is a chance that your first tank or two of Biodiesel will free up much of the accumulated crud that lines your fuel lines. For first time fuelling you need to be aware that Biodiesel has a solvent effect which may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous fuel storage. The release of deposits may clog filters initially.  Be aware of a loss of power as the fuel filters clog and have spares on hand as a precaution.

Biodiesel has a higher gel point. 100% Biodiesel, referred to as B100, gets slushy at OC (32F). A blend of 20% Biodiesel, 80% regular diesel, B20, has a gel point of -14C (7F). Like regular diesel, the gel point can be lowered further with additives such as kerosene, which are blended into winter diesel fuel in cold-weather areas.

The shelf life of biodiesel most commonly quoted is six months, after which time the fuel should be re-tested.  If you are keeping biodiesel in translucent containers for long periods, it is a good idea to put a tarpaulin over the container/s to keep the light out.

How is Biodiesel made?

Biodiesel fuels are produced by a process called transesterification, in which various oils (triglycerides) are converted into methyl esters through a chemical reaction with methanol in the presence of a catalyst, such as sodium or potassium hydroxide. The by-products of this chemical reaction are glycerols and water, both of which are undesirable and need to be removed from the fuel along with traces of the methanol, unreacted triglycerides and catalyst.   Biodiesel fuels naturally contain oxygen, which must be stabilized to avoid storage problems.

There are many recipes and techniques published on the web describing how to make biodiesel.  Essentially the process is one of removing the glycerine from the vegetable oil and replacing it with alcohol.

Biodiesel LINKS

 Making Biodiesel

http://www.biodiesel.org/

 http://www.biodieselcommunity.org/

http://www.partsgeek.com/parts/biodiesel_resource_page.html

http://www.webconx.com/making_biodiesel.htm

http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_make.html

 http://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/biodiesel.pdf

General Biodiesel information:

http://www.me.iastate.edu/biodiesel/pages/biodiesel1.html

www.boulderbiodiesel.com/biodiesel/index.jsp

http://www.biodieselcommunity.org/bubblewashingbiodiesel/

www.enginemanufacturers.org/ admin/library/upload/297.pdf

Other resources and discussion groups :

http://www.topica.com/lists/straightcookingoilforfuel/

http://www.egroups.com/group/Biodiesel

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided as a service for your general information to enable you to ask the pertinent questions of your fuel distributor.  We at Enviroharvest, Power to Go Generators are not fuel experts familiar with various fuel types and compositions.  We recommend that you discuss your plans with your local Home Heating Oil / Fuel Oil distributor.  You must make your decisions based solely upon information given to you by them. We recommend using ONLY standard or agricultural grade or off-road Diesel #2 within your generator set.  We assume NO responsibility or liability resulting from any decision you might make to use any fuel other than grade Diesel #2 within your diesel generator.

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Last modified: April 17, 2010