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How to Process Biodiesel

Aug 17, 2007
A biodiesel processor is a device used to produce biodiesel from vegetable oil. It's usually a combination of a reaction vessel and collection area. Biodiesel processors are available as industrial grade systems as well as for homebrew processes.

A biodiesel processor follows a certain procedure in converting vegetable oil into biodiesel. The first step is the preparation of the components such as vegetable oil to be used in processing biodiesel.

Utmost care must be taken in trying to check the amount of water and free fatty acids contained in the vegetable oil. If the free fatty acid level or water level is too high in the vegetable oil, it may cause problems such as soap formation and the separation of the glycerin by-product downstream.

After the right levels of fatty acids and water are reached, a catalyst is then dissolved in the alcohol using a standard agitator or mixer which is then introduced into a closed reaction vessel of the biodiesel processor. The vegetable or animal oil can then be added.

The loss of alcohol is prevented by making the system totally enclosed at this point as the reaction mix is being heated to convert the fat in the vegetable oil into esters. The heated reaction mix is kept just above the boiling point of the alcohol (around 70 degrees) in order to speed up the reaction. The length of reaction time can vary from 1 to 8 hours. Excess alcohol is sometimes added in order to ensure total conversion of the vegetable fat or oil to its esters. The mixture then comes to its glycerin phase.

With the glycerin phase in the works, glycerin from the oil separates from the unwashed biodiesel. The two can be separated by means of gravity with the glycerin simply drawn off from the bottom of the collecting vessel. An industrial centrifuge may also be used to separate the two materials faster and more efficiently.

Once the glycerin and the unwashed biodiesel have been successfully separated, the excess alcohol still remaining in each part is removed by flash evaporation or by distillation. The alcohol can be effectively recovered using good distillation equipment and can be re-used for processing other vegetable oil batches into biodiesel. It is important to ensure no water accumulates in the recovered alcohol stream during the whole process so as not to lose quality.

The unwashed biodiesel goes through the process of either mist or bubble wash in order to remove left over alcohol, glycerin and other impurities in the biodiesel. Then it's allowed to dry to remove the water from the biodiesel. The fuel is then filtered before it can finally be used as fuel.

There, that may seem a little complicated when just read all in one go, but that's the basics of how to process biodiesel.

There are a number of biodiesel processors to allow production of the alternative fuel in varying degrees. There are industrial grade processors available that allow commercial production of biodiesel. There are also several biodiesel processors available for homebrewers to produce the fuel for personal use.

Most processors can be set up in any available space in your home. There are also some models that are portable enough to fit into the back of vans and are so easily transportable. If you are interested in having your own biodiesel processor at home, you can always try checking out online forums as well as online shops that sell such devices.
About the Author
Matthew runs a site dedicated to the latest news and developments in biodiesel fuel, here you'll find more info about your biodiesel processor .
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