According to some sources biodiesel fuel involves a simple process and is easy to make, but other sources give a complicated process with a lot of precautions. This complicated process with all the precautions is probably the more correct process and should be the process used in order to remain safe while producing your biodiesel fuel. Once you have made the fuel, however you have a clean burning fuel that will not contaminate the environment.
The process for making biodiesel fuel is similar to the soap making process. In fact when it does separate you get glycerin, which can be made into soap. So you not only have your biodiesel fuel, but also glycerin.
In order to make biodiesel you can use any leftover oils and animal fats. These must first be filtered to remove any food particles. The oil is then heated and mixed with lye and alcohol. This mixture can be very dangerous and the ingredients by themselves are dangerous to an inexperienced person. You can’t breathe it or get it on your skin. If you are not experienced at using chemicals you should not try it.
Children and pets must be kept away from this process completely. Heating of the oil itself can be dangerous. After mixing, the glycerin will separate to the bottom and the biodiesel fuel will be on the top. One source talked about water-washing the fuel to enhance its purity. For a more detailed explanation for making your own biodiesel, please refer to articles below.
Biodiesel from algae
The energy crisis in the 1970’s prompted the U. S. government to establish the Aquatics Species Program in 1978 initiated by President Carter. Research continued for some 20 years without coming to viable conclusions and the program was then discontinued by President Clinton in 1996. The conclusion of the program produced a 328 page report that is sometimes referred to as the “Algae Bible.” It is all about producing biodiesel fuel from a little plant called Algae.
Researchers, scientists, and inventors around the world experiment with different techniques for producing biodiesel fuels.
One such person according to the Popular Science article entitled, The Greenest Green Fuel by Elizabeth Svoboda, is Jim Sears. He established a firm called Solix Biofuels in Boulder, Colorado in conjunction with the Colorado State University, where he started the process of making biodiesel fuel from Algae. Although the founder he has been voted out as Solix’s CEO, but the program continues.
Jim Sears process involves growing colonies of Botryococcus Braunii Algae, which is so far the algae that stores the most fat, in the desert in transparent plastic bags. There are thousands of species of algae, and scientists are continuing their search for better and better oil-producing algae.
Algae are simple organisms that photosynthesize and produce vegetable oil, which can be made into biodiesel fuel. To grow, algae only needs water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. Due to their small size they grow and multiply quickly and can be grown in a more confined space than soybeans, canola, corn and other seed oils.
The process used by Solix to make biodiesel fuel from algae is as follows: After the colonies of algae have matured, they are starved for nutrients which puts them into survival mode which causes them to produce more fats. Once they have produced the fats they are collected and broken apart and filtered. Solvents such as methanol are used to separate the fats from water-soluble proteins and sugars. The collected fats are purified and the solvents are evaporated. The final process is to put the fats into a chemical reactor that completes the process of producing biodiesel fuel from the vegetable oil of the algae plant.
Since algae needs a lot of CO2 or carbon dioxide to grow and mature, the Solix lab has added a Brewery to the operation – the New Belgium Brewery. Since breweries typically release a huge amount of their by-product, CO2, this makes for easy access to CO2 needed to nourish the algae.
Biodiesel fuel research
Other companies engaged in the active experimentation and research into biodiesel fuel are
* Green Fuel with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
* Aurora Biofuels
* Green Fuel Technologies Corp of Cambridge Massachusetts.
Green Fuels Technologies has been negotiating with a South African biodiesel producer to produce up to 6 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
Biodiesel is a global venture. In the U. S. alone 140 billion gallons of biodiesel is needed every year to replace petroleum transportation fuel. This is according to information supplied by Popular Science, July 2007. Also stated, is that it would take 3 billion acres of land to supply that amount of biodiesel and there are only 434 million acres in the U. S., but enough algae could be grown on 95 million acres. And since Algae grows in water, desert land, or any land could be used to house the reactor and processing plant to grow and produce the algae.
Producing fuel from algae is still in the R & D stage, being researchers are still working on extracting the oil from the algae, and still looking for the highest oil producing algae researchers and scientists involved in the process.
However, if scientists do succeed, the prospect of using carbon dioxide emissions to fuel the algae growth seems like a good way to stop polluting the environment and to offer better air quality.