What hazards do I need to be aware of when producing my own biodiesel?
Answer: Making biodiesel is relatively simple; some say it is easier than making beer. However, there are caustic, toxic, volatile, and flammable chemicals involved. The potential for personal injury and property damage is very real. Neither the author nor anyone else associated with this publication is responsible for potential mistakes, injuries and damage. Do not rely solely on this publication for information about making biodiesel; carefully study other publications and start small.
Wear an appropriate respirator when making biodiesel. The only approved respirators for methanol arerespirators with external air supplies. Other necessary equipment includes heavy rubbergloves, safety goggles, and clothing that will protect your skin from chemicals, especially methanol.Methanol can be absorbed through the skin and cause illness, blindness, and debilitation.
Heating the oil to remove the water and transferring the heated oil are two potentially dangerous stepsin the process of making biodiesel. When heating the used oil, be careful to keep it from spattering andmaking the floor slippery. Be cautious about using burners or electric heaters, just as if you werecooking. Hot oil will melt plastic buckets, creating a mess. Be careful to cool hot oil to below 120 degreesbefore pouring it into a plastic bucket.
Do not use anything that comes in contact with biodiesel or the chemicals used to make biodiesel forfood production. Making biodiesel requires a well-ventilated area to reduce the danger of fire andexplosion and exposure to methanol. Methanol can vaporize and, when mixed with the proper amountof oxygen and an ignition source, can ignite with an invisible flame. When making biodiesel in largerquantities, make it outside or in a place where there is no chance of a spark or flame coming in contactwith the methanol. Any wiring in indoor areas where methanol is used must be explosion-proof.
You can learn much more in the ATTRA publication Biodiesel: Do-It-Yourself Production. Thispublication provides an introduction to home biodiesel production, and includes lists of equipment andmaterials needed to make small batches. It describes biodiesel and includes cautionary notes andprocedures for making test batches and 5-gallon batches.