Quality assurance essential

An issue which is not always well addressed in the small-scale production of biodiesel, is the need for very good process and quality assurance to be able to produce a fuel that is safe to use in the modern diesel engine. Even in the US, with its well-established industry, a recent study showed that a third of the factories were not supplying to specification. There is a very real need to analyse and treat the oils used properly, especially if lower-quality oils are used. The final product must be analysed to ensure that the acidity as well as the methanol, water and glycerol contents are low enough. There is a real risk of clogging, or damage to, engines. Especially if the biodiesel is to be sold, detailed analysis to ensure it meets the national specification is required. Even if full analyses, which cost more than $1,000 a sample, are not done it is still difficult to afford analytical services, especially when producing small batches where the saving of using on-farm biodiesel production would only be relatively modest.Generally, if the prospective producer of biodiesel has very good maintenance or has old diesel engines such as water pumps or cereal mills and can get value from the oilseed cake it produces on-farm, then small-scale biodiesel is definitely worth considering. However, to enter the commercial market significantly, more investigation is required and probably a much larger investment.