Salt Lake Valley Health Department
Bureau of Water Quality and Hazardous Waste
788 East Woodoak Lane (5380 South)
Murray, Utah 84107
Making your own biodiesel from used vegetable oil can be a great way to save on fuel, but steps must be taken to prevent accidentally harming yourself or the environment.
How It Works
Waste vegetable oil (WVO) can be converted to biodiesel in a chemical reaction called transesterication. WVO is filtered, and then titrated with isopropyl alcohol and an indicator to determine how much sodium methoxide (made from methanol and lye) is needed. The chemical reaction breaks the transfatty acids in SVO into glycerine and ester chains. The congealed gylccerine can then be removed to yield biodiesel. Consult with an expert before attempting this process
Protecting the Water Supply
Oil and the chemicals used to make biodiesel are dangerous pollutants and could make the water supply unsafe for drinking and/or aquatic life. Never dispose of these materials in the gutter or storm drain!
You must be permitted by the Salt Lake Valley Health Department (SLVHD) in order to collect, haul, and transport your own oil. You will also need to obtain a permit as a processor to make your own biodiesel. This will ensure that everyone takes the proper precautions to prevent spillage and obtains the proper liability insurance. For more information, please call the SLVHD at 385-468-3862.
Work near a hose, ensure that your workspace is properly ventilated, and wear protective equipment like gloves, an apron, and eye protection.
Making biodiesel involves several dangerous chemicals. Always use protective equipment, store materials properly and prevent children from accidental exposure.
- Waste vegetable oil: Oil is flammable. Store it away from heat sources and in approved or original containers. If you will be storing more than five gallons of flammable liquids, you need to have a 2A10BC-rated fire extinguisher 10-50 feet from your storage area.
- Isopropyl alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol is flammable and harmful if it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with your skin. Exposure can cause dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headache, gastrointestinal pain, corneal burns, skin effects, unconsciousness, and death.
- Sodium methoxide: This is a powerful reducing agent and it is extremely corrosive. It will cause severe burns if fit comes into contact with the skin or eyes. Ingesting it will lead to burns in the mouth, throat, and stomach. Inhalation of sodium methoxide is very dangerous to the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract; lung edema is possible.
- Methanol: Methanol is highly flammable and a moderate skin and eye irritant. Inhalation of high concentrations of methanol will irritate the mucous membranes and potentially cause drowsiness, confusion, headaches, nausea, nervous system effects, and death. If ingested, even small amounts or low concentrations can cause blindness and death. Because methanol is a clear liquid that could be confused for water, be sure to label the container properly and store it away from children.
- Lye: Also called sodium hydroxide, lye is a corrosive strong base that is very harmful by skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion.