Driving Impressions and Tech Talk

Don’t Throw Away That Used Cooking Grease!
How To Turn Cooking Grease Into Fuel
David Cipolloni
December 23, 2002

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It’s called Biodiesel, it’s made from most any vegetable oil, it contains no fossil fuel. You can use it as a source of fuel in any diesel engine. At first many folks think it’s a hoax, think there are drawbacks, think if it were for real everyone would be using it. Well, the truth is Biodiesel fuel outperforms standard diesel fuel in many ways.

What exactly is Biodiesel? Biodiesel is methanol-ester fuel made from vegetable oil or animal fat. Consider these facts:

• Will run in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine.
• Safe to handle, has higher flash point than diesel.
• Biodegradable
• Extends engine life.
• Can be mixed with diesel fuel.
• 75 – 90 % reduction in exhaust emissions.
• Exhaust has a pleasant smell of popcorn or French Fries.
• Ignition, power output and engine torque relatively unaffected.
• Used for over 20 years in Europe.
• Delivers the same fuel economy as diesel fuel.
• Refining process yields glycerin which has many uses, such as soap.
• Reduces cancer risk.
• Can reduce dependence on foreign oil.
• Can keep used cooking oil out of landfills (The EPA considers used cooking oil a toxic waste).
• Doesn’t produce explosive gases
• Low toxicity to animals and humans if ingested.

In February 1894 Rudolph Diesel ran his first diesel engine for one minute, a total of 88 revolutions. For the next two years Mr. Diesel worked on perfecting the engine. What fuel did Mr. Diesel use? Answer: peanut oil. In fact, any vegetable oil can be used to fuel Mr. Diesel’s engine.

Later, a cheaper, dirtier, readily available fuel became popular to power the diesel engine, it was the same grade oil used in heating furnaces, i.e. Grade 2 Oil. This fuel remains the most popular fuel for diesel engines today because of its availability and relatively low cost.

The major drawback to using grade 2 oil in diesel engines is the high level of exhaust emissions that are produced. Even though diesel fuel can be reformulated into different grades such as D1, D2, and D4 they all produce high levels of exhaust emissions.

Combusting diesel fuel releases carbon soot, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, aldehydes, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. So, let’s forget about burning that dirty, smelly diesel oil, let’s substitute Biodiesel and see what we get. The following table indicates the reduction in exhaust emissions using pure Biodiesel fuel (B100).

Hydrocarbons 93 % reduction
Carbon Monoxide  44 % reduction
Particulate Matter  40 % reduction
Sulfates  100 % reduction
Polycyclic Hydrocarbons  90 % reduction
Sulfer Oxides - 100 % reduction
Nitrogen Oxides + 6 % increase
(Can be eliminated)

A point to consider with the statistics listed above is the drastically reduced levels of Polycyclic Hydrocarbons. Polycyclic Hydrocarbons, both aromatic and nitrated, have been identified as cancer causing compounds.

Biodiesel has a higher Cetane number than diesel fuel (10 – 15 points), which results in improved combustibility and quieter operation. A gallon of Biodiesel fuel will produce approximately 150,000 BTU’s, while a gallon of gasoline will produce only 125,000 BTU’s. The extra heat generated by diesel and Biodiesel fuel is one of the major reasons diesel powered vehicles get better fuel mileage.

Diesel fuel is more “oily” than gasoline, so it contributes to the longevity of the engine, and adding just 2% Biodiesel to regular diesel will increase lubricity by 65%. A major concern by many consumers in America is the smell, noise, and air pollution generated by diesel engines, Biodiesel alleviates many of these concerns.

One of the greatest contributions from the Volkswagen Corporation is the use of their 1.9 Liter Turbo Diesel Engine (TDI). This engine powers the VW Jetta, Golf, and Beetle. These vehicles are known to produce 42 – 50 mpg on a regular basis. The new TDI is quiet and smooth compared to some of the old rattle traps of yesteryear. Some of the more savvy consumers will select this engine choice for their new VW purchase. This engine can easily have twice the lifespan of a gasoline engine while providing substantial savings in fuel. Since a diesel engine produces most of its torque at very low rpm levels, these cars can provide good acceleration and drivability. Gone are the days of belching smoke, poor power and jackhammer sounds.

So, how do we make the diesel driving experience even better? We take some used fryer oil, strain out the old French Fries and Calamari pieces, mix in a little methanol and lye, give it a good mixing, and sit back and watch. After about 8 hours the glycerin (fat) will settle to the bottom leaving a high grade fuel ready to be used in any diesel engine. Siphon off the Biodiesel, make some hand soap with the glycerin and you’re in business.

The Biodiesel fuel is up to 90% cleaner than regular diesel, produces a pleasant exhaust aroma, and lubricates better than regular diesel. Anyone interested in making their own Biodiesel fuel should go to www.veggievan.com and read about the process.

There are several methods for creating Biodiesel from used fryer grease, and doing a little research on the various methods would be advisable. Be warned, you must take certain precautions when switching to Biodiesel fuel. Some of the rubber and neoprene fuel line components in older cars could deteriorate in the presence of Biodiesel. Biodiesel is not only clean burning but it also cleans the fuel system. Older diesel powered vehicles typically have dirty fuel systems, due to an organism that grows in diesel fuel and appears as a black muck. Biodiesel will clean the fuel system and send all the muck straight to the fuel filter, effectively clogging it.

Biodiesel is well known in other parts of the world where fuel costs and availability are a major concern. There are only several refining plants in the US that are selling Biodiesel for public use, but there are many in South America, Europe and other areas of the world. A few minutes searching on the internet will yield the dealers nearest you.

Using Biodiesel has many implications, including, but not limited to, the positive impact on our environment and the reduced dependence on foreign oil. From a vehicle standpoint Biodiesel will greatly extend the life of any diesel engine while keeping the fuel system clean. Should you choose to formulate your own Biodiesel fuel, or use Biodiesel in any engine, be sure to do your homework, there are minor precautions you will need to take.

We are currently doing a Biodiesel project with one of our local high school science departments. We will contribute to the development of a diesel powered Volkswagen Golf for running in the annual Tour de Sol, coming to the Northeast in June 2003. Anyone interested in the Tour de Sol should go to www.nesea.org for more information.

Comments can be sent to the author at feedback@autoracing1.com.



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