Alfa Romeo Forum banner

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Good day gents.
I've been making my own Biodiesel for about 8 years and have been fuelling various Vauxhall Astras, a ford king cab, an old Nissan Patrol Gr with a lovely 4.2 and the last one was a Vectra 2.0DTI. The Vectra went pop four months ago (and I know why) and I managed to purchase a GT with the wife watching! Still not sure how I managed that!! 53 plate 70k on the clock.
This was the first high pressure diesel I'd tried and Biodiesellers usually shy away from Commonrails due to the high pressures resulting in high temperature fuel which is mostly recirculated to the tank. If you haven't made good Bio you can cause yourself a whole load of grief. Four months on and 80k on the clock it's still going fine. I've had no fuel related problems at all. I took it onto Bio over 3 to 4 tank fulls and it's been on 100% ever since. I know people will have a load of questions so I'll try and break it down into a few areas:

Producing Biodiesl
Biodiesl is made from vegetable oil during a chemical reaction with Methanol. A catalyst is required to get these two elements to react, you can use Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide. Most people make Biodisel using waste veg oil. One problem with this route is that every time the oil is used to cook with it becomes slightly more acidic. Fortunately the catalysts are very strong alkilis. A little bit of chemistry on the bench tells you how much extra catalyst to put in to not only complete the reaction but to bring the pH back to neutral. The catalyst must be mixed with the Methanol to form either Sodium Methoxide or Potassium Methoxide. This reaction like all chemical reactions creates heat and can bubble a bit giving off noxious fumes. I'll skip most of the numbers because I feel that would be too much info at this point. Once you have warmed and mixed your oil (to no more that 60C because Methanol boils off above 60C) you add the Methoxide. Carry on mixing for a while and after 30mins the reaction will be complete.
This however is just the start. As we are making bonofide Bio this is a chemical reaction and not a "I've made Biodiesel by thinning out veg oil with turps" situation. You will be left with Biodiesl that looks like veg oil but is now as runny as water and Glycerine (liquid soap) settling at the bottom. Job number one is to get the glycerine out. Most will drain off but some will stay in suspension. A filter media is probably best but a lot of people gently spray water on the top. The water droplets collect the soap particles (and Methanol) and you end up with clean, but now wet biodiesel and soapy water at the bottom. A filter media will remove the glycerine but most will not remove any excess Methanol. Whichever system you use you will now need to heat your Bio to drive off the remaining Methanol and/or dry it. Don't forget to filter the oil prior to putting it in the car now!
There you have it, I kept it as short as possible and it still went on and on. Making Biodiesl is far more involved than pouring veg oil in the tank and letting it mix with normal diesel or thinning veg oil with turps, kerosine etc. Lots of people have told me they run on Bio but on closer examination many or not.

Pitfalls with Biodiesl
A common problem during production is also a reason why Biodiesellers don't like common rails. At the water washing stage described above a lot of people make what the call in Bio circles, an emulsion. They go at the washing too vigorously and mash the oil (bio) with the soap and the water. Just think if you had oil on your hands, quick squirt of soap, splash of water and rub together. All threee ingredients combine,,, emulsion.
Now then, if you haven't made particularly good quality bio it may still have some glycerine in it and it may also be a bit damp. All that recirculating at high pressure is sounding a bit risky all of a sudden. What I have proved to myself over the past four months is that a common rail runs fine on bio so long as it is good quality bio.

Why is there exccess Methanol in the biodiesel and why do we need to get it out?
Making bio is a chemical reaction. X parts of veg oil to Y parts of methanol gives Z parts of bio and V parts of glycerine. The thing is that depending on which type of veg oil you are using the amount of methanol required changes slightly. You would be surprised at how many types of veg oil there are. A carpet bombing approach to methanol quantities is used which means a guaranteed reaction but excess methanol. Methanol attacks alluminium, enough said.

pH level? Too acidic or too alkili and parts of your fuel system will slowly start to disappear. When I first started out, and so it transpired, I was using the wrong amount of catalyst and was making slightly acidic fuel. I was also just letting my water washed fuel stand to let the water drop out. This was far from adequate. The acidic fuel stripping the cadnium plating from my fuel pump components and the the water rusted the pump, nice.

With any diesel engine you will get fuel blowing by the rings and therfore you will get fuel in your engine oil. Bio and engine will over time and with the bio in high enough levels form a grease type compound. Not ideal for engine lubrication. This is what did for my Vectra. I'd been running it on bio for just over 100k miles and had stuck to Vauxhalls 20k per oil chamge schedule. Yes 20k, I won't be doing that again. 1k from the next servie the big end went causing the pistons to hit the valves etc, etc.

Biodiesl dissolves natural rubber. Virtually all rubber components in cars are now Viton B rather than rubber. My "L" reg Patrol and "L" reg Astra were both fine so I think it has been standard across the board for quite some time. It really does destry rubber quickly so you'll know with hours not months. My GT is OK!!

Bio v Dino Diesel
Bio will make you r engine run noticably quieter.
Bio will clean out your fuel system of the microscopic crud that builds up while running on dino. This is why you take a higher mileage car onto bio slowly. Do it fast and you will block the fuel filter.
You should be able to make your bio for about 15p per litre but you may have to purchase the waste oil.
You are allowed to make 2500Lof bio for your own use each year before you need to pay road fuel duty.
Bio has roughly 5% less calorific value than dino. One early morning I managed to test my Vectra against an identical model. I did the blasting away from the lights thing at a motorway roundabout. Three sets of lights later and it was game on. We shot off down the slip road and by the time we got to 80mph his back bumper was level with my front bumper. At 15p per litre I can suffer that level of performance drop!!

So you see that even if you are attempting to make the real deal there are many things to consider and many things that can go wrong. I would never have started by putting my first batches into my Alfa. If you get it right though it is an endless source of intrigue from friends and neighbours. I now have a "Powered by Biodiesel" sticker on the back down by the exhaust. Oh and the exhaust fumes do smell of chips, indian, burgers, kfc.

Hope this has been helpful even if it went on and on and on.

I love my GT eventhough I have had to (most GT owners will nod knowingly all though this bit) replace a broken drivers door handle that came off in my hand, replace the squeaking front wishbones. I've put silscone oil on my door rubbers to stop the awful noise when you open the window. I've put uprated headlamp bulbs in due to the cronicly poor beams. I've got used to having 5 intermittent windscreen wiper settings with milliseconds of difference between eac setting. I've explained to the wife that you don't need a rear screen wiper,,,, you're not driving fast enough. I've explained to her that you don't need a handle to open the boot, actually that's a lie, why isn't there a handle or recess? I've got used to the indicators not turning off when I've left the roundabout. I've got used to the squeaking parcel shelf. I've fixed the high level brake light shining on the screen by taking it off, bending the anchor nut brackets and applying draught excluder. I've got used to my N/S headlight adjuster motor running when I put the lights on and most of the time it only goes off if I operate the wipers, explain that one?
Despite all of the above I love my GT. It is the first car in 14 years that I've owned which has a spirit, a carthat makes you want to, just go for a drive. It is the envy of many of my friends, not because it is the fastest car in the world or the newest, just because,,,, I'm not sure what it is but I know I never had strangers coming up to me and talking to me in the Spar shop about my Vectra.

Night all.
I'll pop in now and agin and try and answer any questions that may be posted.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,913 Posts
Fascinating! ..especially the 15p a mile bit!

can you show us some pics of what all the gear looks like? ...i know what a meth lab looks like from CSI miami. Any similarities?

do you just buy the veg oil or get used stuff from somewhere?
do you know other people who have done it with a common-rail?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
That's 15p per litre not per mile.
All used oil that I coarse filter ie take out the fag butts. Quite a few people fine filter the used oil which leaves them with cans of goo to get rid of. It all goes into my processor bar the water that settles at the bottom.
I knew somebody that tried to use bio in an X5 and the thing kept going into limp home mode. Too many electrical gadgets looking at pressures, temperatures etc.
Pictures? I'll have a go, never tried it before, may make a complete fist of it. I'll take some snaps this week.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
One year and 23k miles on 100% biodiesel and I can report that everything is still absolutely fine.
I did have one problem after a couple of months and that was that one of the small fuel delivery hoses that run across the top of the engine dissolved. It was the one that runs from rear to front, it then T's off to go to each cylinder. These pipes are usually black and shrouded in a sort of cotton fabric. The one that dissolved was light blue and plasticy so I think it may have been replaced it the past with "whatever happens to be in the garage at the time". Could be a one off but something to check and change if you are going to go over to Bio'.
The car is a pig to start on Bio but once she's going she flies. Typical starting procedure is 3, 4 goes on the glow plugs, wind over for a coiple of seconds, one more go on the plugs and flick the key. The big white cloud of unburnt fuel makes you look a bit like Cruella Deville but who cares.
Another point of note and it's not Alfa specific is that the gell point of bio is higher than dino diesel and I found that point on a particularly cold morning this winter, it's -12C. I could not start the Alfa or my Patrol that day. That's the only time in 8 years of running on Bio that it has got too cold to start so not a big problem.
I've given up trying to attach pictures to this thread, I'm better with chemicals than I am computers! More updates in the future but take it from me that if you make your Bio properly the JTDM is absolutely fine regardless of what your local garage grease monkeys might say. They know about cars that run on Dino and hear the odd chinese whisper about something they have no first had knowledge of, I on the other hand knows the facts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
623 Posts
One year and 23k miles on 100% biodiesel and I can report that everything is still absolutely fine.
I did have one problem after a couple of months and that was that one of the small fuel delivery hoses that run across the top of the engine dissolved. It was the one that runs from rear to front, it then T's off to go to each cylinder. These pipes are usually black and shrouded in a sort of cotton fabric. The one that dissolved was light blue and plasticy so I think it may have been replaced it the past with "whatever happens to be in the garage at the time". Could be a one off but something to check and change if you are going to go over to Bio'.
The car is a pig to start on Bio but once she's going she flies. Typical starting procedure is 3, 4 goes on the glow plugs, wind over for a coiple of seconds, one more go on the plugs and flick the key. The big white cloud of unburnt fuel makes you look a bit like Cruella Deville but who cares.
Another point of note and it's not Alfa specific is that the gell point of bio is higher than dino diesel and I found that point on a particularly cold morning this winter, it's -12C. I could not start the Alfa or my Patrol that day. That's the only time in 8 years of running on Bio that it has got too cold to start so not a big problem.
I've given up trying to attach pictures to this thread, I'm better with chemicals than I am computers! More updates in the future but take it from me that if you make your Bio properly the JTDM is absolutely fine regardless of what your local garage grease monkeys might say. They know about cars that run on Dino and hear the odd chinese whisper about something they have no first had knowledge of, I on the other hand knows the facts.
This is fascinating, I have thought about this for a while but the thought has always been too daunting.

How much do you reckon it would cost starting from scratch for all of the kit?

Do you buy your oil from the chippy or brand new?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Nick I had a look at that Ebay link and that is a bad advert for Biodiesel. It's just an oil drum with a pump on the top and a heater in the side. The list of things that is wrong is huge but here are the most important ones.
1. You use methanol when making biodiesel. Methanol has all the flamable properties of petrol but you can't see the flame. Do you really want to put an electric pump over the top of you liquid, that you are heating? Fumes, Kaboom.
2. There is no mention of filtering, demething, holding tanks.
3. Sodium Hydroxide is for beginners, more experienced Biodiesellers use Potasssium Hydroxide as the waste product stays as a liquid and it is a salable product.

Almo a Biodiesel set up that produces 150L per batch (based on 250L drums as per the Ebay link but with safety in mind and you need five not one) should cost around £1000 to build yourself. After that you should be able to produce good quality Bio for around 25/30p per litre. The price of the chemicals is pretty static but getting hold of waste oil is the main issue. If you are lucky you can pick it up for free but you will see some for sale on Ebay for up to 50p which is too dear if you ask me. There is absolutely no point in buying any gear to make Biodiesel if you cannot secure a supply of waste oil. I would sugest that you try local pubs, hotels and restaurants and see what you can get hold of. If you decide not to go ahead after a while but do end up with an oil collection round then just sell it on Ebay. If you do go ahead and need the chemicals, want to see a working set up and get some face to face advice then you can get all that from me. I'm a few miles north of Stansted airport and I have an advert for methanol on Ebay. Just search for "Methanol 70p".

Off to Cornwall on Friday in the family car, an old Nissan Patrol. 110k miles on Biodiesel so far!!! and yes I will be taking enough fuel with me in cans to do the round trip of 700 miles without going to the pumps, lovely.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
822 Posts
Fascinating stuff and you clearly know your stuff. However, I'm a chemist and the thought of Joe Public playing with sodium/potassium hydroxide and methanol at home fills me with horror. If you get sodium hydroxide in your eye it turns your cornea to a soapy goo that doesn't wash out.

As you indicate, it seems the main problem with Biodiesel is the variation in how well different people make it.

I've been trying to persuade the missus to let me get an old Lister CS diesel stationary engine. Those old engines are slow enough to run directly on old engine oil. That would make the basis of a cheap CHP system.

Keith
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
623 Posts
Nick I had a look at that Ebay link and that is a bad advert for Biodiesel. It's just an oil drum with a pump on the top and a heater in the side. The list of things that is wrong is huge but here are the most important ones.
1. You use methanol when making biodiesel. Methanol has all the flamable properties of petrol but you can't see the flame. Do you really want to put an electric pump over the top of you liquid, that you are heating? Fumes, Kaboom.
2. There is no mention of filtering, demething, holding tanks.
3. Sodium Hydroxide is for beginners, more experienced Biodiesellers use Potasssium Hydroxide as the waste product stays as a liquid and it is a salable product.

Almo a Biodiesel set up that produces 150L per batch (based on 250L drums as per the Ebay link but with safety in mind and you need five not one) should cost around £1000 to build yourself. After that you should be able to produce good quality Bio for around 25/30p per litre. The price of the chemicals is pretty static but getting hold of waste oil is the main issue. If you are lucky you can pick it up for free but you will see some for sale on Ebay for up to 50p which is too dear if you ask me. There is absolutely no point in buying any gear to make Biodiesel if you cannot secure a supply of waste oil. I would sugest that you try local pubs, hotels and restaurants and see what you can get hold of. If you decide not to go ahead after a while but do end up with an oil collection round then just sell it on Ebay. If you do go ahead and need the chemicals, want to see a working set up and get some face to face advice then you can get all that from me. I'm a few miles north of Stansted airport and I have an advert for methanol on Ebay. Just search for "Methanol 70p".

Off to Cornwall on Friday in the family car, an old Nissan Patrol. 110k miles on Biodiesel so far!!! and yes I will be taking enough fuel with me in cans to do the round trip of 700 miles without going to the pumps, lovely.
Where abouts in cornwall did you go? Timed it incredibly with the weather.

Would you mind if i sent you a private msg about this?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Almo we went to Perrenporth. 770miles all in for the week and yes we got the weather spot on (complete chance of course). Absolutely no hitches with the fuel (as expected) apart from accidentily locking my keys in the car when refuelling. Many thanks to Cox's garage in Perrenporth for lending a complete stranger their "breaking into cars kit".
Sure send my a personal message,,, I'll try and work out how to open it/reply.

Gammakieth, good points, yes you are right about the chemicals and by coincidence i DID get NaOH in my eye about 5 years ago, just one grain flicked up as I brushed a surface down. By ****** did it hurt! I ran to the house, threw handful after handful of water into my eye, poured vinegar over my face to try and neutralise it but was still pulling what was left of my conjuctiva out with toilet tissue a few minutes later. The pain was indescribable. Long story short, the eye specialists at Addenbrooks Hospital said that there was a fine line with eye between total loss and full recovery and I was just the right side of the line. Evidently if I had walked rather than ran the 50yds I'd probably be blind in one eye now, oh and they also said that adding another contaminent isn't a good idea!
I'm always very careful that people understand the risks of the individual chemicals and the risks associated with the combining of the chemicals and have refused to sell to people who clearly don't have a clue or do not appreciate the dangers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
41 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
33k miles now on Biodiesel and still no problems apart from the starting routine , 4 goes on the glow plugs, half a dozen winds, two more goes on the glow plugs, a couple of winds and she's away. Recently read up on Biodiesel additives and have now started to add 1.5ml of Acetone per litre of Biodiesel which is supposed to make it flow and spray through the injectors a bit more like normal diesel. Guys report that it can improve starting, power and mpg while helping to clean the injectors. Fingers crossed and I will report back after a few tank fulls.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,913 Posts
wow, still going strong. Good luck with it.

I imagine the starting routine would put off most folk. I just don't have the patience!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
172 Posts
Great write up!

I drive my 159 2.4 on B100. Have been doing so since January. No problems at all, as long as you produce good quality, full conversion, soap & water free bio.

I have three tanks all plumbed together with copper pipe.
1. 120l filtering drum (oil in)
2. Cone bottom 205ltr clip top Steel drum (reactor) - pump, heater etc.
After its all reacted, washed, dried (via a fan on top). It gets filtered through dry wash tower then 1 micon filter.
3. Final tank is a 120Ltr Drum for storing the bio.
I then pump it straight into the car through a final filter (goldenrod water block 10 micron).

Its true that Bio is a little harder to ignite when the engine is cold i.e. from sitting all night.
One other thing to point out is that bio all but eliminates any black smoke under heavy foot load. Bio produces almost no particulate matter. But it does produce more NOX.
The starting issues described above happen on a lot of diesel alfa's wither they run on bio or not. I had the same issues on normal pump diesel. My problem was resolved by tweeking the engine map and fitting the correct glow plugs. My car starts 1st time every time on B100 and I get the smallest puff of white smoke (unburnt diesel) when its very cold.
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top