The Biodiesel Process: Making Fuel From Waste

April 15th, 2020 |  Blog
Cornfield With Biorefinery In The Background

The fat from your favorite restaurant’s deep fryer offers more than fries. When businesses recycle their used oil with SeQuential, they contribute to the production of clean, sustainable, and efficient biodiesel. Biodiesel is a valuable fuel source made from soybean oil, animal fats, and other kinds of recycled cooking oil. It’s renewable, clean-burning, reduces waste, and is surprisingly easy to make. All that’s necessary is a simple chemical reaction. Learn how biodiesel is made with SeQuential with an outline of the process used to transform kitchen grease into useable fuel.

It Starts with Used Cooking Oil

The first step of our biodiesel process is the collection of used cooking oil. A large amount of oil comes from commercial fryers at local restaurants, food processors, and any business that serves food, as well as home kitchens. All kinds of cooking oil can be used, including soy, vegetable, canola, and animal fats.

The collection process is simple. Home cooking oil can simply be stored in its original container and dropped off at one of many convenient locations. Restaurants and businesses, on the other hand, can sign up for our free service and set up a collection schedule. For those who partner with SeQuential, we provide a durable storage container for used cooking oil and will empty it regularly at no cost.

Purification and Refinement

After used cooking oil is collected, the next step is refinement. Used oil is usually full of impurities, such as meat scraps, water, crumbs of breading, and other leftovers. These contaminants must be filtered out, so they don’t interfere with the conversion process.

Used cooking oil also contains a high amount of free fatty acids (FFAs). When you use oil repeatedly, the high heat starts to break down the molecules. Fatty acid particles detach from the rest of the molecule and start to float freely. These FFAs can’t be converted into biodiesel directly. After filtering, used cooking oil is pre-treated to make the FFAs usable. Then, it’s ready to be turned into biofuel.

Understanding the Chemical Process

Used cooking oil is not a safe fuel by itself. In order to make it safe, cooking oil goes through a process called transesterification.

Transesterification is the chemical process that transforms waste oil into diesel fuel. It’s a long name for a relatively simple concept. During this process, we combine an ester with an alcohol. In the case of biodiesel, the “ester” is used cooking oil, which is combined with methyl alcohol, or methanol. A small amount of catalyst – usually sodium chloride – is added to the mix to kickstart a chemical reaction. The end results are methyl ester – the technical term for biodiesel fuel – and glycerin.

After transesterification is complete, the biodiesel is ready to use. The glycerin is separated out and can be used as an ingredient in cleaning products, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, the biodiesel is locally distributed for use in vehicles, machinery, farm equipment, and more.

Switch to Biodiesel Today

Only a simple chemical process is necessary to transform used cooking oil into sustainable fuel. Compared to traditional diesel fuel, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases, smog, unhealthy air pollution, and waste. Best of all, it’s renewable. To learn more about biodiesel or make the switch to our biodiesel, contact SeQuential today. We’re the West Coast’s leading producer of biodiesel with locations in Salem, OR and Bakersfield, CA and serve most metro areas on the West coast.