FREE Fuel For Life,

Well Kind of!

Biodiesel Processor

the Good

With the current fuel prices being what they are, the alure of free fuel is tempting. Having been bit by the free fuel bug myself, I decided to tell the good, the bad and the ugly.

The benefits are endless and no matter your reason for making your own fuel, the results will be positive. First on the list, your pocketbook. If you drive a lot, you can save a substantial amount of money. Your fuel system will love you because Biodiesel has more lubricity than standard diesel and biodiesel is usually significantly cleaner. Most fuel stations don’t clean their tanks thoroughly and those who do, don’t do it often. It is expensive, time consuming and expensive. Every time a fuel delivery truck drops a load, all the sediment and water that is in the tank is stirred vigorously. It takes days for it to settle to the bottom so you can get clean fuel. The pumps have individual filters on each pump however, it is to protect the pump, not your vehicle. Some stations purchase 50micron filters for their pump to save time and money changing filters. 50 micron is a far cry from the 5-micron filter recommend by most modern diesel engines. By making your own fuel, you can let it settle before pumping it into your fuel tank. You can filter the fuel with large prefilters saving you time and money on OEM spin on filters. These are all HUGE benefits to your engine.

The Bad

Gon are the days that restaurants will pay you to remove their waste. At best, you can get it for free, however, most are now selling their used oil. It is a competitive market with these fuel prices, and it is expected to get worse. Start up costs can be high, and it will take you a while to recoup your investment. The average kit is over $5,000 to get started however, there are DIY options out there and you can get started for a few hundred dollars.

The first issue is building codes and local restrictions. Talk to your local fire department and local government before you spend the first cent. Many jurisdictions have a maximum amount of flammable liquid that can be stored on your property. This will include the used oil, diesel fuel and methanol; it might not be cost effective for you.

Second issue is finding a reliable oil source. To get started, you will often have to provide them a container to transfer their used oil into. Some of these locking outside containers cost hundreds or thousands depending on size. Ask your source how many gallons of oil they go thru a month, week or day. Most restaurants won’t want to store 5-gallon jugs inside the restaurant and wait on you. Developing a routine with one or two restaurants at first will be critical. Don’t get too many restaurants, if you can’t process all the oil, you will piss them off and lose a valuable resource. You must be consistent with pickups; they cannot afford to have you flake on them for a week and have nowhere to put the oil.

Next issue is transportation, does your local jurisdiction allow for the transport of flammable liquids? If they do, how much and in what types of containers? What kind of placards are required and the big question, will your insurance company cover you? If the answer is no and you get into an accident that spills the oil, you are on the hook for cleanup. This could cost thousands of dollars plus fines for transporting hazardous waste without a permit and proper insurance.

Dangers of Methanol, Ethanol and lye, Methanol and Lye are commonly used in the processing of Biodiesel. Ethanol and Methanol are extremely flammable and explosive in the right fuel to air ratios. They are used in gasoline and racing fuels, treat them as such. You should be extremely cautious with these fuels and have good ventilation. I installed an Upper Explosive Level (UEL) and a Lower Explosive Level (LEL) meter in the processing facility. It controls fans to keep the LEL and UEL in check and keep me safe. Make sure to use fans that are ignition protected, sometimes referred to as intrinsically safe. Most NON-intrinsically safe motors have small sparks inside the motor that could cause an explosion. A LEL/UEL meter/relay will make sure that if you are approaching an explosive atmosphere, the fans automatically vent fumes outside.

Saving money on fuel is not worth your life, don’t cheap out on your safety equipment. Not all DIY things from the big box stores are in your best interest, do your research! Remember that Methanol and Ethanol are similar products but have different LEL/UEL. If you change products, you need to change your meter settings to stay safe.

Lye is extremely caustic. If you decide to stop processing fuel, have a backup plan on how to dispose if it properly. It is strongly recommended to have the Poison Control Hotline readily available and to know how to treat lye on your skin before an accident occurs. Lye is also an inhalation hazard, make sure to wear a mask and COMPLETE eye covering when handling it. If you wore a mask during COVID for other people’s health, wear one for your health now. If lye is not stored properly and enough moisture can collect, lye can produce enough thermogenic reaction to ignite flammable sources.

Recommendations from the CDC

“Sodium hydroxide does not produce systemic toxicity, but is very CORROSIVE and can cause severe burns in all tissues that it comes in contact with. Sodium hydroxide poses a particular threat to the eyes, since it can hydrolyze protein, leading to severe eye damage”

Poison Control Hotline (at time of publishing) 1-800-222-1222

I’m not trying to scare you off the idea, please don’t get this perception. I want all my followers to be educated and informed before spending their money. You must decide if this is for you or not, everyone’s situation is different. If you have young children, PLEASE make sure that these substances are locked up and controlled like a nuclear power plant. You wouldn’t leave a loaded gun laying around, cheap diesel fuel is not worth this risk.

If you are blessed enough to get free oil for processing, fuel can be pretty darn cheap. I can produce Diesel for .65¢ per gallon but this is because I have a fulltime setup and have a ethanol recovery system. Methanol / Ethanol are used as racing fuels and are usually slightly more than premium fuel. Even with the recovery unit, I still lose some to evaporation. There is electricity costs for heating and pumps, water for washing, beads for drying, lye, Methanol, titration chemicals and normal maintenance.

The unforeseen costs

Your vehicle isn’t free to drive, calculate in 50¢ per mile for driving around town collecting the oil. You have wear and tear, tires, depreciation, increased insurance, and any other government fee that they might tack onto you just because. Don’t forget to count your time, if you get paid $20 per hour, you can afford 4 gallons of fuel for every hour or work you put into this venture. 1 hour to drive and collect 20 gallons, 1 hour to filter and transfer, 3 hours to process. Minimum you have 6 hours into this. 6 hours x $20 per hour, you could afford to buy 24 gallons of fuel at 5 gallons if you just went to work. Now the argument, well I must pay income tax on my salary… this is true however, you still have to pay a fuel road tax. This is the gotcha. Even if you produce your own diesel, you have to pay for tax stamps at your states rate. I know some people will not pay this thinking they will never get caught but it is tax evasion. If they ever catch you, my understanding it they will estimate how many miles you drove and its not going to be in your favor. And I’m sure they are going to give you a nice penalty to go along with that to make sure you never do it again!

In Conclusion

If you only use 20 gallons a week, work some overtime and piss and moan like everyone else. If you have a farm or any equipment that uses offroad diesel, your ears should be perked up by now. You can save a huge amount of money IF you do it in bulk. Currently I make 80 gallons per batch which takes 6 hours total. 80 gallons times $4.89 (Current Price) which is $391 worth of fuel. Since I don’t make $65 per hour, it works in my favor to make my farm fuel. To stay legal, I do not put Biodiesel into my truck. I fuel up just like everyone else because I don’t drive that many miles.  In the event of an audit, I don’t want to lose the farm. The risk is up to you, the IRS is no joke.

Stay safe and please let me know what you think of the article in the comments below.