Appleseed Biodiesel Update

Processor and Settling Tank

Processor and Settling Tank

Super busy day running around gathering up parts for the processor, but significant progress was made.  With the exception of a 55 gallon steel drum (open top) for the drying tank and misc. iron pipe all the major components are on hand or en route!  The pic on right is the used 58 gallon electric water heater that I scored for $50 on Craigslist.  Not sure how much sediment is inside it, but the outside looks to be in decent shape.  That size will let me do 40 gallon batches which is sweet.  To its right is my major coup of the weekend.  It is an 80 gallon welded well tank.  The steel is significantly thicker than a steel drum so it will weld nicer and it is already plumbed with most of the threaded holes I need.  Best of all it has a drain in the coned bottom so it will drain 100% clean.  I will need to add a vent hole to the top and probably one to the side, but it is very close to done.  The well tank retailed for $280, but whoever special ordered it at Menard’s apparently backed out.  I have been eyeing it on the clearance rack for a month where it sat for $75.  Sunday I grabbed the plumbing manager and offered $50 to “take it off his hands”.  Sold!  It would make an incredible processor with its cone bottom (good for draining off glycerin), but until I figure out how to add heat cheaply it will be a settling tank for the WVO.  WVO left to sit for 3-4 weeks is significantly easier to process and dry as all the junk settles to the bottom.  The yellow can is me just being optimistic 😉



Yes, that is 3 drums in a Golf...

Yes, that is 3 drums in a Golf...

I have been scouring the region for plastic barrels and steel drums, and finally I was able to get my hands on 3 white (so you can see how full they are) plastic barrels for $20 each.  Best of all I was able to fit all 3 into the golf in one trip!!  The cubic feet available in that hatch is flipping unreal.  One drum will be a washing tank for the processed Biodiesel, one will be used to store finished BD, and the final one will be an additional storage tank for WVO as it ages.  This will give me the ability to have WVO on site that is “new” and another tank (likely the well tank) that is ready to go.  Nice.

Also in the pic is the 1″ “clear water” pump from Harbor Frieght.  These little pumps are almost legendary for their utility and bulletproof history.  While typically $40 -already a steal, my good luck continued as this was their display model and they had it 50% off!  This pump will be used to move fluids all around the system- from the settling tank to the processor, for mixing the WVO into BD, for transferring the BD into the wash tank where it will also do the washing, and then finally it should be able to pump the clean diesel into the storage tank.  To have one pump do all that, you need ALOT of valves.  I picked up 5 3/4″ brass valves at Farm and Fleet today for $5.50 each.  Very close to completing the gathering phase, soon it will be time to assemble!

Total outlay so far is $275 with around $100 to go -all this for a kit that can make 2500 gallons of fuel per year.  Unbelievable.  With another $100 invested for more washing and settling tanks the kit can do 12,000+ gallons per annum -a batch a day.  Sourcing feedstock for that would be a chore though.

Hopefully the 15 gallon carboys I found on eBay will get here soon so I can start gathering WVO -if so I will be on track for my 10/31 deadline!  



10 Responses

  1. Hey, We have a Golf TDI and love it. I wanted to let you know that the oil pan is aluminum and can be quite easily cracked….which is a pain to replace, especially when you live in rural USA. Be gentle with bumps and ice.
    Thanks for your great blog….we have been toying with conversion vs. making biodiesel and are waiting to see how it goes for you.
    Good luck!

  2. If you only have one vehicle, typically make longish trips, and have a ready source of fuel it is hard to go wrong with a (very well designed) veg conversion. I do think that there are legitimate concerns with valve coking on some kits, but the new ones from ELSBETT solve that with some really slick technology. Here in Madison they can be installed for about $2-3000 by Prairie Fire Biofuels -and then you are fueling for free! I have no reliability concerns with the ELSBETT line -fleets even use them as does the Field Museum of Chicago.

    I have some long term concerns about the availability of WVO (for free at least) as Big BioDiesel sucks up all the conversion materials, and we may also be purchasing a second diesel (especially if Subaru brings over their diesel Forester -37mpg!) and may like to form a small coop -all of which only works with a BD processor.

    Thanks for commenting and stay tuned!

  3. Hello Rob,

    I don’t remember exactly what you said about the byproducts of BD (aka glycerin) but are you gonna use it or market it to home made soap maker ?


  4. Xavier,

    I do not currently have a line on any soap makers though there are several organic goat milk types in the county. Once I am churining it out with some regularity I will see how that turns out. If push come to shove it apparently makes a fantastic compost accelerant. Seriously. I do not see myself using it very much, but who knows.

    I am going to watch a guy make some BD on 10/6 in Milwaukee on what sounds like a very similar system. That should produce a wealth of learnings!

  5. Hi Rob,

    I totally understand your point of view on the fact that your are not gonna use it a lot for yourself. I did not even know the purity of your future Glycerin, but it seems to resale at 22 $ a gallon for soap making (Glycerin, Liquid Vegetable USP 99.5%
    Use in making transparent soap and many other skin care products.16 ounces – $4.50 32 ounces 7.50 1 gallon – $22.00, if the quality of yours is good I will personally likely put an ad on craigslist each time to get ride of it and pay some of your methanol. know it may be risky too as you never know your purity exactly (at least I guess)

    Maybe your guy in Milwaukee will tell you what he does with his glycerin.

    On the other hand I am sure you know it but there is a big BD plant in DeForest running on animal fat.

  6. Huh.

    I will ask him. My gut says it is one thing to put an untested (or self tested) chemical in your car, it is entirely another to sell it to someone else to put on THEMSELVES. If I had a customer that was willing to do their won testing/etc I would be very interested.

    I had considered using it as a parts cleaner in the shop, but since every batch will make 10 gallons I need to figure something out.

    Oddly enough, the transterification process that now brings us biodiesel was first developed to produce soap. My how much simpler the 19th century was.


  7. […] it right back into the pile.  To accomplish this I need to get one of the pumps I bought for the Appleseed Biodiesel processor from Patrick’s house.  A quick call explaining what I am up to was more than enough […]

  8. Hi Rob,

    Did this string of biodiesel posts die, or did it go somewhere else? I want to hear more about your adventures in making biodiesel! Thanks for sharing your inspiring work 🙂

    • Die is perhaps a bit strong, but they are certainly in a coma. All the parts are still in a friends shed. Issue is location for processing – the methanol fumes preclude us doing it at home. I am currently reorganizing my projects – will likely be scaling down some of the market gardening in leu of finishing some of these loose ends. Still, next year at the earliest. If you would like to learn more – the forums on the appleseed sites are fantastic.

      Thanks for commenting!

  9. […] brewing and as the last local BD-100 station closed its pumps this year, I may finally assemble my Appleseed Processor.  The problem with home brew BD is the fuel stock.  Waste grease is already very difficult to […]

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