In the past, buying a diesel powered vehicle guaranteed that a family could save on fuel costs for their vehicles because diesel fuel could be up to a dollar cheaper per gallon than gasoline. Then, between 2006 and 2010, due to federal regulations, low sulfur emitting diesel was phased into gas stations across the nation. Creating a low sulfur diesel is a more expensive process which translates to a higher price at the pump. As the price of diesel climbed higher and higher and the economy began to drop, people started to look into alternative ways to fuel their diesels.
Diesel Engines, the Perfect Experiment Platform
In basic terms, a diesel engine is like the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, where as a fuel injected car would be like Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet dancer. A diesel engine uses brute force to make a less flammable fuel, such as diesel, combust and create energy. Due to this method it is feasible to use alternative fuels in this type of engine, since the workings of them are less precise.
In the last few years, as gas prices have soared, more and more innovative companies have been researching other sources of fuel and turning away from expensive fossil fuels. One such alternative is vegetable oil; specifically used vegetable oil from restaurants. When strained and purified, used vegetable oil is an effective biodiesel. Depending on the percentage of vegetable oil to diesel mix, ten percent to ninety-nine percent, there may be some alterations needed for the vehicle.
Pay the Man
One such company taking advantage of this restaurant waste is White Mountain Biodiesel in New Hampshire. White Mountain has actually created a fleet of trucks that go to restaurants in the state and pick up the purchased used oil. That’s right, purchase used restaurant oil. White Mountain purchases used cooking oil from restaurants for a dollar a gallon. What restaurants used to have to pay to get rid of, has now become a viable commodity.
After purchasing the oil, it is brought back to the warehouse where it is processed. When the processing is complete the now biodiesel can be mixed with petroleum products and used in just about any diesel engine with little or no modifications. White Mountain Biodiesel has found enough success that they are expanding to surrounding states and even offer their services in helping other companies build biodiesel plants.
Greenlight Biofuels is another company experiencing great success with restaurant waste oil in Maryland. They have the largest biodiesel processing plant in the state. Greenlight Biofuels have been able to take advantage of a partnership with a major fuel distributor in Maryland and has a large filling station open for use. They describe using B30 (thirty percent mix of biodiesel) fuel in the company trucks with no complications. As trust is built with the use of these lower percentage biodiesels, Greenlight Biofuels plans to begin shipping a B99 (ninety-nine percent) biodiesel in 2011 in large quantities. Greenlight Biofuels’ biggest claim is that when buying in bulk, they can price their biofuel to be over thirty cents cheaper than diesel; a big savings when talking in bulk.
DIY to the Extreme
One of the most successful and innovative developers of biodiesel has to be the individual consumer. Across the nation, homegrown biodiesel brewing is picking up momentum and groups are forming with fans of this homemade fuel. With money being extremely tight, many are taking advantage of this stinky waste oil that most restaurants just want taking away. One such group is called Grease Works, and they give information on how a home brewing can get started with their own biodiesel set up at www.greaseworks.org/biodiesel .
The basic process starts with heating the collected oil to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, where it becomes loose enough to strain out the impurities; remember this is used cooking oil. Depending on the use for the diesel, multiple levels of strainers can be completed and then this filtered oil can be used in a vehicle with modifications. However, to create a biodiesel that can be put straight into a vehicle, additional chemicals need to be added to remove the glycerin. Glycerin can cause complications to a diesel engine. Generally, methanol and sodium hydroxide are used in this step. Then after sitting overnight, a purer form of biodiesel is ready to use.
Catch the Grease Train
Whether you choose to purchase a professionally prepared biodiesel, or homebrew it yourself, using biodiesel makes a tremendous statement to the fossil fuel companies that consumers are no longer willing to pay the high fuel costs and continue to pollute the environment. The cleaner biodiesel are here to stay, whether big oil companies like it or not. As more groups of fans for used waste oil fuels pop up over the nation the message is clear to move away from fossil fuels and make the environment better.