Dangerous Chemicals Used in Biodiesel Production – Pffft!

I keep reading and hearing about how Biodiesel is such a dangerous product because it’s a fuel, and because it requires such dangerous chemicals used to make it. This seems to be to be a clear case of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), and spread by people who are knee-jerking or simply just spreading mis-information because they won’t take the time to actually do their own homework.

So, just to spell it out in black and white, I’ll explain a little about the production process and chemicals used in making biodiesel. Biodiesel is made from essentially three ingredients:

  • Vegetable Oil or Animal Fats
  • A simple alcohol such as Methanol or Ethanol
  • A catalyst, such as Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide
  1. Vegetable Oil – While flammable, it has a flash point of around 400 degrees Farenheit. You can’t light it with a match. It’s used in almost every restaurant and fryer line in the world, not to mention being used for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, industrial, or electrical uses; and is stored, shipped, and used in large quantities (thousands of gallons) worldwide on a daily basis.
  2. Methanol/Ethanol – Again, flammable, much more so than vegetable oil but not as much as gasoline, and is used in many businesses on a daily basis, and stored and used in large quantities. As a general rule, most medium size biodiesel plants store and use less alcohol on a monthly basis than the amount of gasoline stored on any one day at a typical gas station.
  3. Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) – A caustic chemical, it is used to “force” the reaction for biodiesel to strip the triglycerides in the oil to simple mono-alkyl esters (commonly called biodiesel). KOH is commonly used in making alkaline batteries, and it’s used commercially to wash fruits and vegetables, thicken ice cream, soften olives, and to make foods such as hominy and cocoa.

When these chemicals are combined, the resultant mixture forms a fairly stable liquid that is mixed and ultimately separates into biodiesel and glycerol. For more information, see the TBI website or Wikipedia (“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel“).
In short, these “dangerous” chemicals are used EVERYDAY, EVERYWHERE in modern commercial industry. Yet somehow, because biodiesel is new and has little regulation around it, it scares people into creating artificial issues with it that are unfounded and totally unnecessary.

Posted in Biodiesel.