Biodiesel is made using a simple chemical process called transesterification, which converts waste vegetable oil and methanol into fuel. The reaction can be carried out with any fat or oil, which are all very similar at a molecular level, consisting of a a glyceride backbone and three fatty acid tails. In the presence of a catalyst (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) the starting oil is chemically cut in half to give one part glycerol and three parts biodiesel (a methyl ester). The resulting glycerol can be used for any number of purposes, including the manufacture of soap.

A schematic illustration of the reaction used to make biodiesel.

     Within the area of alternative fuels, the source of biofuels has become a hotly debated topic recently. Many people contend that growing crops for the sole purpose of creating fuel is too inefficient to reap any benefits. Bulldog Biodiesel is able to circumvent this argument because all of our input vegetable oil is collected from restaurants’ fryers and would have otherwise been discarded in a landfill.

     We make use of a BioPro 190 processor to carry out our reactions automatically. The processor, which was purchased in January 2008 with the generous assistance of the Agriculture Science Development Fund, allows us to make and clean approximately 50 gallons of biodiesel every 48 hours. The glycerol we produce is currently being used by the Truman State University Compost Project, and our biodiesel is currently being burned in tractors and trucks at the University Farm.

Adding methanol to the BioPro 190 processor.

     Commercially available biodiesel is often sold as a blend with conventional diesel fuel. We are proud to supply the University Farm with B100 — pure, unblended biodiesel.