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Making biodiesel at home: How to make a small test batch

Making biodiesel at home is relatively easy. Producing hundreds of liters uses exactly the same principles that are used here to make a single liter.

When making biodiesel you will need three ingredients: Methanol, Vegetable Oil and Caustic Soda (lye).

Disclaimer: Some of the ingredients that you will use below are toxic and should be treated with respect. Do not follow this procedure if you have young children around. You must wear rubber gloves, goggles and a dust mask. You must also be in a well ventilated area, not your kitchen! Remember that methanol is poisonous and ingesting even small amounts can be fatal or cause permanent blindness. You follow this process at entirely your own risk. Please read our biodiesel safety section.

 

These are the steps that you need to follow to make a small test batch of home-made biodiesel.

  1. Go to your local supermarket and buy 1 liter of vegetable oil. This can be any vegetable oil, but I suggest you stick to the cheap varieties. Using olive oil would be a total waste. Sunflower, Safflower, palm, canola etc are all fine.
  2. In the same supermarkets, buy a small container of Sodium Hydroxide. You will usually find this in the drain cleaner section. Make sure that the sodium hydroxide is pure and contains no other strange ingredients. This is easy to determine by looking at the list of ingredients on the container and the purity of the sodium hydroxide.
  3. You will also need two hundred milliliters of methanol. You can find this at your local chemical supply company or lab supply company. In some countries you can find methanol in automotive spare shops. In the USA it is sold as HEET® Gas- Line Antifreeze in a yellow bottle. You can also buy Methanol from Duda Biodiesel who will be happy to ship it to you.
  4. Find an old two liter PET soda bottle (like a coke bottle), wash this out and let it dry.
  5. Find a small glass jar that has a screw top.
  6. In an outside area, measure out 200 milliliters of methanol into the glass jar.
  7. Weigh out 5 g of the sodium hydroxide and add it to the methanol. Close the jar and let the sodium hydroxide dissolve. This reaction will give off heat and the methanol will become hot. Take care when opening the jar and please make sure that you mix the ingredients together in a safe environment.
  8. Heat the vegetable oil to 55°C.
  9. Pour the vegetable oil into the soda bottle using a funnel.
  10. Now we will be making the biodiesel:Add the methanol/sodium hydroxide mixture into the oil using the funnel. You will see the oil immediately change color as the reaction starts.
  11. Put the top on the soda bottle and vigorously shake the mixture for two minutes.
  12. Put the bottle in a safe environment and let it settle for an hour or so.
  13. If you look carefully into the bottle, you will see biodiesel floating on top and a layer of glycerin underneath it.

All that now remains is for the biodiesel to be washed gently with water and dried. Have a look at our washing section for some ideas on how to wash the biodiesel.

 

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