My Daughter wants a Diesel Automobile simply because she wants to run her car on used cooking oil....I admire her desire to do something good for the environment and to tap into a source of almost free fuel.....I let her know that I will assist her when she gets to that age.....
With the price of Regular Fuel, it could be a way to fight the rising prices as the restaurants need to get rid of the stuff and many will give it to you for free as they have to pay to dispose of it....
As the guys on TOP GEAR say all the time, " How hard can it be ???"
Here's how you do it.....
How to run a car on cooking oil
As petrol prices reach a record high, Christopher Middleton discovers the hazardous art of converting used oil from breakfast fry-ups into biodiesel.
Christopher Middleton 22 Mar 2011
From the outside, James Morfee’s headquarters are hardly a match for those of BP, Shell or any of the other global energy giants. Instead of operating from a 40-storey glass tower in the capital, he works in an oily, little outhouse at his parents’ home in rural Somerset. Instead of a massive petrochemical complex, he has a couple of metal drums and a collection of polythene containers.
The big difference, though, is that whereas the big, international companies charge £1.40 per litre for what they produce, Morfee makes his own biodiesel for just 18p per litre. What is more, he is happy to pass on the recipe to anyone who is interested in cutting the cost of driving.
These days, this applies to almost everyone, given that oil prices have, in the past year, risen from US$85 to US$115, and show no inclination to stop. The price of petrol is expected to reach an average of 133.17p per litre in Britain by the end of this week. Even those of us with the smoothest-running financial engines will have spluttered and choked at the size of the sums being demanded at the nation’s petrol pumps.
So, given the level of savings offered by the Morfee method, I filled up my car and headed for the West Country, viewing the cost of doing so (£84, as against £69 before Christmas) more as an investment than an expense.
On arrival, my first impression was that I had arrived at the premises of a catering supplies company. Stacked in the back of Morfee’s car are half a dozen large containers of cooking oil. Used cooking oil, too, with little pieces of frazzled bacon floating in it. “Technical term for those is BCBs,” he informs me. “Burnt, crispy bits.”
My first step in the fuel-production process is to strain the oil through a plastic sieve, in order to achieve a 100 per cent pure, BCB-free liquid. It doesn’t smell very pure, mind you. But that is because Morfee’s raw material comes not gushing straight from the geological substrata of the Arabian Desert, but in plastic tubs, from local restaurants.
“Two of my best suppliers are the Parrot Cafe in Langport, and the Unicorn Hotel in Somerton,” he says. “I pay them 10p a litre and take as much oil as they can give me.”
But does the oil have to be pre-used? Given that the chicken-dipper and fish-finger fragments don’t actually contribute anything to the petro-brew, why not just buy cooking oil straight from the shelves?
“You could, no problem,” comes the reply. “The oil would work just as well. The trouble is, the price of fresh cooking oil is around £1.10 per litre, so you’re not much better off. Time was, supermarkets would treat cooking oil as a loss leader, and charge 30p to 40p a litre, but they’ve stopped doing that now. So used oil is the only viable alternative.”
Now 26, Morfee began making biodiesel in earnest a year ago, driven both by the rising costs of running his own car, and by a lifelong interest in oily engines (“as a child, I was irresistibly drawn to fuel-powered lawnmowers”).
He learnt the basics of DIY diesel-making from a specialist website (of which there are many). These demonstrate that, while the process starts off quite simply, things soon get seriously scientific. Removing bits of fried breakfast is one thing; titration, it emerges, is another.
This is the process whereby one can determine the acid content of each batch of cooking oil (an essential prerequisite for successful bio-brewing). It involves some nifty pipette work, as well as measuring the precise amount of pre-mixed indicator solution it takes to turn the oil slightly pink (a sign of pH neutrality). There then follows a spot of arithmetical calculation on Morfee’s dog-eared notepad, which results in the conclusion that, for us, instead of mixing the standard 550 grams of sodium hydroxide with each 100 litres of de-BCB’d oil, we need to use 610 grams.
“It’s now,” he warns, “that this all starts to get a bit dangerous.”
I have been warned about this in advance, having mugged up on the Biofuels and Other Fuel Substitutes Regulations 2004, which read: “Making biodiesel is a potentially hazardous process that should only be carried out in controlled conditions by people with the proper training and experience.” And you can see what they mean.
“What we’ve got in this first barrel is methanol,” announces Morfee, who at this point reveals his degree was in mechanical engineering, not chemistry. “This stuff is more flammable than petrol, and lethal to swallow; drink 25 millilitres of it, and it’ll kill you.
“Meanwhile, what we’ve got in this second barrel is sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as caustic soda. Get it on your skin, it will burn you; get it in your eyes, and it will corrode your eyeballs.
“These materials are volatile, they’re hazardous, and we’re going to mix them together.”
Not a job for the apprentice, then. Although Morfee says the worst biodiesel-related injury he has ever suffered was when he was stung by an insect trapped inside one of his rubber gloves, I step well back as he pours the gloopy, clear methanol on to the flaky, salt-like sodium hydroxide, and begins shaking the mixture together. “The process generates quite a lot of heat,” he says, in the sort of way that TV chefs talk to camera. “Feel how warm the barrel’s getting.”
It is true. Even half an hour later, as we sit on the plastic container and pose for pictures, there is an unnervingly warm glow still emanating from the liquid below.
This, it transpires, is because it still has work to do. Once the mixture (known as sodium methoxide) has been added to the cooking oil, and heated up, the process of “transesterification” begins. This involves the sodium methoxide not only achieving the required reduction in viscosity (cooking oil is much thicker than diesel), but also altering the oil’s chemical make-up, splitting it into, on the one hand, a carbon-neutral biodiesel that will fuel a car, and, on the other, a mass of soap-like, solid brown glycerol (which Morfee uses as fuel for his outhouse stove).
The process is by no means immediate, though. After a few hours of simmering, the brew then needs at least a seven-day calming-down period in the settling tank, before it can be used.
This is one of the reasons why Morfee has not become a bulk producer; during the week he works in Southampton as a marine engineer, and cannot always get home to his parents’ place at weekends.
The other reason is financial; under current H M Customs and Revenue regulations, you don’t have to pay any duty on privately produced biofuel, provided you don’t make more than 2,500 litres per year.
“I brew about 150 litres a month, just for myself, and that’s all I need to keep my car on the road,” says Morfee, filling up his Volvo with some biodiesel he made earlier. “I get about 45-50 miles per gallon out of my stuff, as opposed to 55mpg from the diesel you buy at the pumps.
“The big difference is, that once I’ve paid the 10p per litre for the used cooking oil, it only costs me 7p per litre to make the fuel.
“Though, actually, you’d better make that 8p. My parents pay for the electricity.”
For more details of James Morfee’s operation, visit www.staroil.com. The website has links to 18 other small firms and individuals across the UK who collect cooking oil to make biodiesel