Biodiesel 101

Background

April 2, 2013



Roadtrip to California, 2009



Introduction

In August, 2004, I had the pleasure of attending a grand opening celebration of Fourth Dimension Fuels in Oracle, Arizona. On that day that I was introduced to a vast grass-roots community of biodiesel homebrewers; essentially, backyard chemists who were converting waste vegetable oil to fuel for their modern vehicles. Two years later, I purchased an old 1982 Mercedes 240D diesel for $1800, and started homebrewing in my backyard. It worked beautifully.

Between 2007 and 2011, our family ran two old Benzes on biodiesel rendered entirely from waste restaurant oil. We did so successfully and with no damage to our vehicles, totally oblivious to the skyrocketing price of fuel.

Given the demands of my two growing boys and family life, I ceased making fuel in 2011 and today am focused on eco-friendly activities that are a little easier to engage with my two young children. As for transportation, my commute to work is along the Santa Cruz River bikepath, and I'm much healthier for it.

Are the Benzes still running today?

The 1982 Mercedes 240D was sold back to the original owner. To the best of my knowledge, she is still gracing our Arizona highways. The 1982 Mercedes 300D is running like a top at my mom’s home in Los Angeles, California with only a modest 200K+ on the odometer. Both cars are a testament to Mercedes diesels from the early 1980s and highly-recommended choices for running homebrew and/or straight vegetable oil.

How can this site help me get started?

I’ve prepared a free manual with answers to the most commonly asked questions- everything ranging from how to make and use biodiesel to legal challenges as I understand them. Although I no longer homebrew, I still maintain this site for those who might be interested. My manual is open source and costs nothing to download; it is written for "do-it-yourself" types and can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars compared to what you would pay for a commercial kit. Best of all, it’s written from the point of view of someone who started out knowing absolutely nothing about homebrewing, but managed to make it work for four years. All of my successes and embarrassments are documented, so you that you can learn from my mistakes.

Why not sell this information?

Three reasons: the first is a simple desire to empower people with one free alternative to get off the imported oil grid. Since much of our oil is imported from the Middle East, it’s my personal way to “support our troops” while saving our own domestic energy resources for future generations. Further details are available here.

Second, the U.S. consumes 25% of the world refined energy annually, and yet we make up only 4.5% of the world's population; we must do better, and this one very small thing I can do to help. Further details are available here.

Third, citizens interested in homebrewing should have access to a free resource that documents appropriate safety measures and risks typically omitted in commercial manuals and kits. I do my best to outline those safety considerations, and include material safety data sheets (MSDS) for the chemicals you will likely be using, including biodiesel.

Revisions

All the links in the latest version (1.15) are revised as needed, and I share some updates since the last revision (2011) where appropriate. There have been no updates to the section on homebrewing, nor do I envision any will be needed from this point forward since this is only an introduction. All my revisions are tracked here. Version 1.15 will be my last revision to this manual, although I am working on a separate manual focused on making quality soap from residual glycerin.

Karma

You’ll notice I don’t host any annoying advertising banners ; the site is a simple, 100% free open-source endeavor. If the information here has been helpful, please consider making a small donation by clicking on the PayPal link. Any amount- no matter how small- will help me cover my web-hosting fees which have been in the red since the site was first launched in 2007. If you do make a donation, you will have an opportunity to provide me with your name which I will add to my list of supporters on this website, where it will be registered forever.

Click on the "Donate" button for Good Karma!

Thanks for visiting!

Hans Huth


 

Last Updated on April 5, 2011