Explaining the Biodiesel Process
In today’s world where fuel costs just keep increasing and we keep digging
deeper into earth’s surface in quest of more fuel, biodiesel comes to our rescue. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel
produced from vegetables and plants. It burns just the same as diesel does and diesel engines don’t treat biodiesel
any different! In fact, biodiesel can be extracted from any oil or fat through transesterification, which is a
process which removes glycerin components by reacting oil with alcohol.
Biodiesel process is pretty simple and a lot of different crops like corn and sunflower can be
used to process biodiesel. To process biodiesel, a press, usually oil press is required. An oil press presses oil
out of the plants and/ or seeds. The seeds, usually rapeseed, corn or sunflowers are fed into a funnel on the top
of the hopper. The seeds are then heated at high temperatures and are pressed. This process extracts anything
between 90% – 95% of oil from the seeds. The extracted oil then is passed into a container and any remnants of the
seeds are siphoned off.
The resultant oil runs into a processing tank where methanol and potassium hydroxide are added
and mixed with the oil. This process, called transesterification transforms the extracted oil into biodiesel. It is
left to settle for a while and any glycerine impurities are siphoned off the bottom of the tank. Glycerine free oil
is then washed with water and the process is complete! The resultant product is biodiesel, ready to be used with
machines which burn regular diesel. This is what is involved in the biodiesel process.
This process doesn’t take long and anywhere between 100 – 1000 gallons or more of biodiesel can
be produced each day using this method. Again, it depends on the oil seed press used. A good quality oil seed press
produces large volumes of biodiesel with very less effort involved.
It is of utmost importance to make sure that the seeds should be dry while feeding them into the
funnel at the top of the hopper. Moist seeds clog the press and also start decomposing, which form mold spores and
it ruins the entire process. Improper cleaning of seeds or presence of small pebbles or stones in the seed often
clogs and damages the press. Presence of stones or small rocks in the seeds can rupture or cause an explosion too!
Cleaning of the press is a hard and costly affair and to save the effort, time and cost, proper governance during
feeding of oil seeds and cleaning them must be ensured.
The biodiesel process is a simple yet productive one and a lot of money is being spent on
research to make the process even better and a long lasting one. Soon, biodiesel will replace conventional diesel
as fuel which runs machines and automobiles running on diesel. It is a more eco- friendly process and there is
nothing that will be wasted. As a matter of fact, it is waste that is used to produce biodiesel!