Rural Alternative Research Environmental (RAREL)

Biodiesel and Combined Heat and Power



The Future ~ Biodiesel

The Biodiesel Dilemma

high shear domestic socket After a promising start in the 1960's, biodiesel began to acquire a bad name in some circles. This is because vast areas of peat land and forest worldwide, were being turned over to the production of plant oils for fuel. This was bad for two reasons. Firstly it wiped out biodiversity and secondly it took edible and nutritious oils away from hungry populaces, in order to fuel the tractors and superwagons of the West. B5 (= 5% biodiesel in fossil diesel) is mandatory in some parts of Europe, because it prolongs the life of diesel engines. Demand for B5 is growing.

As a result of this ethically distasteful reality, an alternative business model was evolved by some gifted and inspirational people. One of the best known of these was Joshua Tickell, who wrote an influential book entitled, "From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank: The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel". The trick was to allow edible oils through the food chain BEFORE intercepting them for recycling into biodiesel for personal transportation. The most efficient way to intercept this used oil, turned out to be the collection of used oil from the deep fat fryers of chip shops, restaurants and hotels. This used oil was no longer acceptable for human consumption, because repeated heating had given it a bad taste and odour. Such used oil was commonly incinerated or used to heat certain types of factory.

Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Joshua Tickell, there is an alternative: individual householders and small enterprises can negotiate for the used oil from local restaurants and convert it into biodiesel for their cars. The business model has proved difficult to scale up. Many companies which hoped to scale up to a large commercial enterprise, have fallen by the wayside. It proved expensive for such companies to collect small quantities of oil from large numbers of restaurants. It furthermore proved technically troublesome and difficult to remove widely variant quantities of water and other contaminents from the waste oil, before chemically transforming the oil into biodiesel. Both of these stumbling blocks meant that for many, it was cheaper and more reliable to convert virgin oil to biodiesel, without first allowing the virgin oil to pass through the food chain.

The Current Focus of RAREL Biodiesel Research

RAREL is focussing on the needs of rural householders and small rural businesses, who want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and energy from multi-national oil and utility companies. The current research is investigating the role that might be played by high shear mixers and oil screw presses in vegetable oil production and its recovery from the food chain, with a view to the proliferation of small scale biodiesel units. It is also investigating the right way to position and build such units and diesel generators on very small sites.

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