Biodiesel plant producing fuel from used cooking oil cuts municipal transportation
and machinery costs
by David Bransby
After dabbling in several business ventures, including insurance, Bill Clark decided to go back to school as a "mature" student. He obtained a degree in Horticulture from Auburn University, following which he joined the Horticulture Department of the Eufaula Municipality. It was not long before Clark realized that an alternative to regular diesel would have many benefits for the community in Eufaula, including lower transportation and machinery costs, and less offensive emissions for students riding school buses. So he set about investigating ways to produce biodiesel.
In contrast to regular diesel fuel that is produced from crude oil, biodiesel is produced mostly from oil derived from oil seeds such as soybeans, peanuts and canola, but it can also be produced from animal fat. One option is to collect used cooking oil from local restaurants and use it to produce biodiesel. However, this sometimes results in a great deal of variability in oil quality.
In summary, the process for producing biodiesel from used cooking oil involves 1) filtering to remove food particles, 2) optional heating to remove water, 3) titration to determine the amount of sodium methoxide needed, 4) preparation of the sodium methoxide, 5) heating the oil while mixing in the sodium methoxide, 6) removal of glycerine, and 7) washing, drying and checking quality. More details regarding these steps can be obtained from the following website: http://www. journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_ mike.html.
The estimated cost of the equipment for producing the biodiesel in this plant was only about $5,000, and the estimated cost of the biodiesel is about $0.80 per gallon. Clark produces about 1,000 gallons a week, or about 50,000 gallons per year, and blends this 50:50 with regular diesel (commonly referred to as B50). This mixture is used to fuel all the municipal vehicles such as garbage trucks and equipment such as backhoes, for which the warran-ties have expired. The reason for this is that most manufacturers will not honor warrantees if more than 5% biodiesel is used in the blend. However, Clark says they have had absolutely no problems resulting from use of B50, and no engine modification is needed.
Clark’s ultimate goal is to use the biodiesel he produces in school buses, but he wants to make sure the quality of his product meets the highest standards before taking this final step. In the meantime he is saving the Eufaula Municipality a packet of money: 50,000 gallons a year x $1.70 (the difference between an assumed cost of regular diesel at $2.50/gal, and the cost of biodiesel at $0.80) = $85,000/year.