Processor buyers guide

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Biodiesel processors are machines that react vegetable oil with methanol, breaking down the oil into fatty acid ethyl esters, also known as biodiesel.

Processors can be home built or commercially bought, although caution must be exercised as a great many commercial offerings are not suitable for purpose or are downright dangerous.

As a general rule:

  • "biodiesel processors" listed on popular auction sites are often not fit for purpose and should be avoided (even the nice-looking ones that cost £2500+).
  • processors should not expose the user to methanol fumes
  • processors should not allow methanol fumes to go near any equipment that may generate heat (immersion heater elements) or sparks (switches or motors)
  • processors built out of plastic conical vessels or plastic drums present a far greater fire risk than those made out of metal

Excellent advise on processors can be sought on the vegetableoildiesel forums. We would strongly encourage a prospective buyer to post there asking about a potential purchase before parting with their hard earned cash.

Things to check on your quest for a good bioDiesel machine.

  • Is the machine safe? An open topped drum used for making biodiesel is most definately not safe. It will generate methanol vapour fumes that are both highly tovic and explosively flammable like petrol!
  • Even if the machine has a lid, is it permanent and airtight? Methanol vapour will escape into your workspace if not.
Result of over heating where an immersion heater is mounted directly in a HDPE processor.
  • Is the processor vessel metal? This is important as heat is involved with making biodiesel which, combined with oil and the other indredients used, can soften and crack many plastics over time including HDPE, causing leaks at joints or worse complete splitting of the vessel.
  • How is the oil heated? Are there any failsafe devices to prevent the heater operating when the liquid level is low? The danger here is that the heater element will become exposed, overheat, start to glow and ignite oil or methanol vapour in the vessel. The result of this can be very dramatic. This has happened many times over the years with inferior designed plant!
  • Beware of any claims of an automated machine. Even so-called 'automated machines' need a lot of hands-on work.
  • How much 'hands-on' time is needed to make fuel?
  • Does the machine do the whole job of making the fuel? Most base model equipment does not without the addition of expensive add-on items. The making of the fuel is only half the job. Raw, just-made biodiesel will not be suitable for use in any vehicle or engine. The issues are, it will contain excess methanol and soaps. Both of which can cause serious issues if used in an engine.
  • What system of fuel purification is included with the machine?
  • What quality is the finished fuel? Has any testing been done on fuel made in that actual design?
  • Is there any after-sales training included in the price, and ongoing help from the suppliers?

And Finally, don't buy a machine from an internet auction site, as some of the items there are extremely hazardous and you will have no come-back if you have trouble

If you are going to buy a ready made machine, always buy it from a reputable supplier who has experience in the field, who will train you properly and give ongoing assistance.