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Publication Title | Making 3000 gal per year of biodiesel from waste vegetable oil

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Making 3000gal/year of biodiesel from waste vegetable oil
Richard Wiswall
Cate Farm
135 Cate Farm Road, Plainfield, VT 05667 catefarm@gmail.com
26 October 2007
My wife and I own and operate Cate Farm, producing certified organic vegetables, herbs, and bedding plants. We sell locally to area stores, restaurants, the Montpelier Farmers Market, and to stores in Boston and NY through Deep Root Organic Growers Co-op. We have 22 acres under cultivation and seven 96’ long greenhouses.
In January 2004, I attended a talk by Carl Benson who received a SARE grant to make biodiesel on his farm. Previous to that talk, I had heard of biodiesel, and had a vague notion of what it was, but during the talk, a light bulb went on in my head and I saw the important and immediate application for biodiesel on my farm. Up until five years ago, fuel oil was a cheap 73 cents a gallon. My wife and I had expanded our greenhouse operation during that period to our current seven greenhouses. My ethical concerns about fossil fuel energy went into temporary remission as we were expanding our business. We were trying to juggle too many balls to keep them all in the air.
The moral concerns of turning fossil fuels into food hit me squarely now that an environmentally friendly and socially responsible alternative presented itself. Here was a fuel that could easily replace home heating oil (HHO) and diesel fuel that was renewable, much less polluting, non toxic, and much less expensive. I dived in headfirst to the world of biodiesel (BD) and straight vegetable oil (SVO) and cut off cold turkey our fossil fuel heating oil and off road diesel purchases in all our greenhouses, house, shop, barn, and three season tractor use.
Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his diesel engine in Paris in 1900, running on peanut oil. He foresaw back then the possible need to replace fossil oil with plant based oils. Vegetable oils (canola, soybean, sunflower, etc.) can be used as a HHO or diesel fuel substitute in two ways. One way is to heat the oil to 170 degrees F so that the viscosity of the vegetable oil resembles fossil fuel HHO or diesel. (Both HHO and diesel are termed #2 fuel oil; kerosene is #1 fuel oil similar to jet fuel.) Heating the oil for use in diesel engines require a second tank that is heated. The engine is started on diesel (or biodiesel), warmed up and then the fuel source is switched to hot vegetable oil. For use in a furnace, vegetable oil is heated and atomized with pressurized air. Each diesel engine or furnace needs some type of retrofitting to burn SVO.
The second way vegetable oil is used as a fossil fuel substitute is to chemically change the vegetable oil (a triglyceride) to biodiesel (methyl esters in my case.) The resulting biodiesel performs very similarly to fossil diesel or HHO and in its application in diesel engines and heating equipment, thus avoiding retrofitting existing equipment.

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