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Using Biodiesel and Biofuels

Updated on June 9, 2014

Using Biodiesel and Biofuel – Cars, Cooking and Heating

I had an opportunity recently to meet the fantastic team at Blue Ridge Biofuels in Asheville, NC. What I learned really has me rethinking the way I do a lot of things with regard to my own petroleum use – in my car, cooking and how I heat my home.

Biodiesel, I predict, will one day soon be in such high demand, others will look to the programs that Blue Ridge Biofuels has implemented.

So far, they directly affect the local economy in positive ways and help to reduce our dependence on foreign or even domestic petroleum products.

Just imagine: we could drastically reduce our need for petroleum if more and more people began using biodiesel and other energy-conserving products!

Basically, Blue Ridge Biofuels (BRB) collects used cooking oil from multiple sources and converts it to biodiesel. It acts like regular diesel, but it's made from cooking oil. BRB is the only biodiesel company in the Asheville area.

© C. Calhoun 2012. All rights reserved.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
All that cooking oil will eventually become biodiesel.A holding tank.Collecting used cooking oil is done with these trucks.Biodiesel is clean-burning.  Can you guess whether these trucks use petroleum-based diesel or biodiesel?
All that cooking oil will eventually become biodiesel.
All that cooking oil will eventually become biodiesel. | Source
A holding tank.
A holding tank. | Source
Collecting used cooking oil is done with these trucks.
Collecting used cooking oil is done with these trucks. | Source
Biodiesel is clean-burning.  Can you guess whether these trucks use petroleum-based diesel or biodiesel?
Biodiesel is clean-burning. Can you guess whether these trucks use petroleum-based diesel or biodiesel? | Source
Blue Ridge Biofuels is located in the River Arts District in Asheville, NC.  They are in the hub of creativity - and it is truly a company of innovative thinkers.
Blue Ridge Biofuels is located in the River Arts District in Asheville, NC. They are in the hub of creativity - and it is truly a company of innovative thinkers. | Source

How to Make Biodiesel

The company collects oil in its trucks from over 500 local restaurants and businesses. They have also implemented a unique cooking oil recycling program, or COR.

Families and households can now drop off their used cooking oil into recycling bins specifically made to collect the cooking oil. The company has installed quite a few cooking oil recycling stations in and around the Asheville community, with more bin recycling stations in the works.

In addition to oil that the company buys from restaurants and businesses, they now collect about 400 gallons per month from the public oil recycling stations. BRB fully expects this figure to grow.

BRB sends out their trucks to collect all the oil from the various sites. They then put this oil into their cooking oil tank - it can hold up to 10,000 lbs. of cooking oil.

The next step is to react the used oil with methane and potassium hydroxide to make biodiesel.

From there, the company can make different blends of biodiesel fuel. The blends range from B-5 to B-100 (100 meaning pure biodiesel). A blend of B-5 means that diesel fuel has 5% biodiesel in it. Thus, each number after “B” indicates the percentage of biodiesel present in that blend.

Many companies around Asheville are beginning to use biodiesel in their fleets. For now, most of these companies use the B-5 blend because of warranty concerns – they don’t want to have a warranty voided because of their use of biodiesel.

The good news is that manufacturers now recognize that biodiesel is good for diesel motors and engines. More manufacturers allow for the use of biodiesel in their warranty agreements each year. In some cases, they allow a higher “B” blend for use in their vehicles.

Indeed, a growing number of businesses and individuals recognize the economic advantages of biodiesel.

This is very simplified and other factors and processes are at work, but basically, if you take cooking oil, react it with methane and potassium hydrochloride, you'll eventually end up with biodiesel.
This is very simplified and other factors and processes are at work, but basically, if you take cooking oil, react it with methane and potassium hydrochloride, you'll eventually end up with biodiesel. | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Biodiesel stations are located around Asheville.  Any car that uses petroleum-based diesel can fill up with biodiesel.  As you can see, prices are competitive.Fill up with biodiesel.  If your car takes diesel, it can also take biodiesel.You can see the biodiesel tanks at this filling station.Biodiesel is about the same price as regular diesel.
Biodiesel stations are located around Asheville.  Any car that uses petroleum-based diesel can fill up with biodiesel.  As you can see, prices are competitive.
Biodiesel stations are located around Asheville. Any car that uses petroleum-based diesel can fill up with biodiesel. As you can see, prices are competitive. | Source
Fill up with biodiesel.  If your car takes diesel, it can also take biodiesel.
Fill up with biodiesel. If your car takes diesel, it can also take biodiesel. | Source
You can see the biodiesel tanks at this filling station.
You can see the biodiesel tanks at this filling station. | Source
Biodiesel is about the same price as regular diesel.
Biodiesel is about the same price as regular diesel. | Source

Benefits of Biodiesel

The top benefits include using locally collected cooking oil that, in turn, directly helps the local economy.

Interestingly, the biodiesel that Blue Ridge Biofuels produces will work in any motor that uses petroleum-based diesel – no modifications necessary.

If you have any questions about the use of biodiesel in your vehicle's engine, you can contact the manufacturer and verifying with online sources.

Blue Ridge Biofuels has to pay local restaurants to collect their oil.

Before it was possible to recycle cooking oil, restaurants already had to comply with laws to dispense of their cooking oil responsibly.

An entire industry developed to help restaurants get rid of their oil. Various companies began trying to gain access to the used cooking oil by offering competitive prices for it. They then sent (and still do) the oil off to be used in animal feed, cosmetics or in certain plastics.

BRB has to pay restaurants, too, while striving to pay competitive prices.

Thus, the public can help keep the cost of biodiesel way down if the amount of recycling cooking oil goes up. In order to remain viable as a company and sustainable, BRB tries to find as much recycled cooking oil as it can. When it sells this oil, it pays for all its overhead as well as the ability to create more biofuel to sell to the community.

This is why the cooking oil recycling program is such an incredible innovation: BRB uses the oil that consumers would otherwise throw away – or down the drain – and the company benefits by getting oil for just the cost of the trucks running out to collect it and employee salaries.

The more people recycle their cooking oil, the more they can literally contribute to the air quality and local economy.

Interesting Biofuel Facts

Since 2005, BRB can boast that it has helped to keep over 1,000,000 gallons of oil out of pipes and landfills in western North Carolina alone.

It doesn’t stop there. A few years back, I had to outfit my home with a new furnace. Each year, I have been trying to use less and less heating oil to help reduce my carbon footprint.

I made sure – in my interest of being green – that the furnace was compatible with biodiesel. Until this year I hadn’t really entertained the option of using biodiesel: I thought it was much more expensive and/or difficult to come by – but it’s not! I can heat my house for just about the same cost as regular heating oil.

I have really tried to save money while being green. I have successfully reduced my winter heating oil bill from $600/year to $300/year. I’ve drastically reduced the amount of electricity I consume. Now, I can easily incorporate biodiesel into my repertoire of green living. This stuff is an environmentalist’s dream!

You can also make your own biodiesel if you have a diesel car. It a great way to save some money. But, if you have a great recycling program that will help you and the community, definitely give the recycling program a try.

Will You Find Ways To Use Biodiesel?

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Biodiesel in Cars

I own a small car. Upon leaving the BRB office, I noticed that some of the employees had small cars, some of which had diesel motors.

Instead of a hybrid car – which are notable inventions in their own right – as my next ride, I am now seriously considering a car that uses diesel. I can fill it up at the various gas stations around town that carry biodiesel.

Diesel cars typically get over 40 mpg and sometimes even to the 50 mpg range. I now know that biodiesel extends the life of a diesel engine, and reduces emissions by 78%.

If you own farm equipment, biodiesel will run in machinery that has a diesel motor. Job sites with machinery can witness better air quality.

Sustainability

If community members continue to recycle larger amounts of cooking oil, Blue Ridge Biofuels can then work to convert it to biodiesel and then sell it back to the community. Consumers get to use their cooking oil, keep it out of landfills and pipes, the company will be able to grow and provide more people with cutting-edge green jobs, and contributing in a positive way to the local community.

Indeed, local sustainable projects such as this help to change the face of communities. They become more self-sufficient, reduce their dependence on outside petroleum-based diesel, and revitalize local economies. It’s a win-win-win situation.

A Special Thank-You

When I entered the Blue Ridge Biofuels office in the River Arts District in Asheville, NC, I immediately got the impression that this company is going places. They started out small, and with steady growth, they’ve already had to expand their office. You can tell that it’s the sort of atmosphere that promotes creativity and a “thinking outside of the box” mentality.

Thank you to Kymber who took the time to answer all my questions and allowed me to share what I learned here.

About the Author

Cyndi is a freelance writer, photographer, artist and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge with others.

Did you know you can write for HubPages? It's fun, easy and you can even make some money doing so.

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Pinto2011 - thank you! I really can't wait until all this stuff catches on like wildfire. We all have the power to make it happen. :)

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi cclitgirl! It is very nice of you to spread this knowledge over this space. I am also reading about these things and waiting for the time when these things are really viable, available, and allowed by the traffic department in our country. At least, we can lessen the dependence.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Kelley - you know, I didn't know much about this either before I went down the the Blue Ridge Biofuels company and interviewed them. Thank you for stopping by. :) Have a great evening.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Thanks for this hub. I'm very ignorant in this need to know area. Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Victoria Lynn - hehe, you're too funny. You're amazingly smart, as well. Keep on rockin'. :D

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're so smart and impressive, cyber-sis! Great hub. Very informative!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Eagle Ford - BRB was definitely a great start-up. Thank you for your feedback and for coming by. Have a great evening! :)

    • Eagle Ford profile image

      Eagle Ford 5 years ago from Texas

      Great information on biofuels. I think there is much to be learned from small entrepreneurs such as the ones you met.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Christina - thank you so much for coming by and commenting. I haven't ever used biofuel in my furnace, but this coming autumn, I'm going to try it because before I interviewed these guys, I had no idea that it was so comparable in price AND so good to use. Thank you for the votes, kudos and shares. Hubhugs!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      I have friends who drive on biofuels but I haven't tried it myself. It seems like a major breakthrough on the way to decrease the use of oil! This is a great hub with lots of useful information and the video is fantastic since it show how it is actually done. Voted up, and I will press every suitable button and share this!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Cara - aw, thank you for stopping by. You know, I'd heard of this, too, but never really knew the ins and outs until I was able to meet the staff. I really hope programs like this catch on because it helps everyone. Hubhugs!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      This was really fascinating! I have heard of this but your hub really made it clear and I have a much better understanding of how it all works now. What an awesome opportunity to talk with the staff and tour the facility!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Pamela99 - Hi! Thanks for stopping by. :) I hope that towns across the country continue to create these kinds of programs. It's so neat!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This is really interesting and I didn't know that any towns had advanced this far with Biofuels or that it was so simple to make. Great information and interesting hub. Voted way up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Melovy - aw, shucks, thanks for stopping by. :) Thanks for the feedback on the video, too. :) I definitely can't get enough of this stuff - what BRB is doing is wonderful. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      TCC - hehe, thanks for the feedback on the video. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this. Thank you also for the votes. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Haha, alocsin. Perhaps one of these days I'll narrate AND show myself in video. :) I'm a little camera shy. Thanks for stopping by and voting - you are wonderful to come by so often and do this for me. :)

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      A very interesting and informative video and hub. It’s great that this is happening as it helps the environment in so many ways. Thanks for highlighting this heartening story.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      WOW! Great hub, and fun video. Lots of information, but presented in a non-scary way made this hub a lot of fun to read. Totally voted up and interesting!!!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent video though I'm disappointed that we don't get a glimpse of the narrator at all ;)

      Apparently, a handy person can convert an ordinary car relatively inexpensively to run on biodiesel. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      K9 - aw, thanks for the awesome comments. I hope this idea catches on - it's so cool how this company makes everything so sustainable. Thanks for the thumbs...hehe, it might get a little disturbing if you had more than two. Hehehe. :D (HUGS)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      CC, this is absolutely awesome! What a great service you provide for our environment by presenting this information. Two thumbs up....I would offer more thumbs if I had them. :)

      HubHugs~

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      OD - hey there! Apparently, it works just fine in freezing temperatures. I think in older vehicles the fuel lines could be a contributing problem in cold temps, but as far as I know, they've worked out all the issues with it. In any case, I'll have to check and if it's worth updating this hub, I'll do it for sure. :) Thanks for stopping by.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Steve- oh, just you wait. I've got something better than ONE link...hehe, I have TWO hubs that I will link yours too. I'll let you know which ones. Thanks for coming by and thanks for the links. :) Cheers!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      It looks like biodiesel could be part of the answer to our world's energy problem. I especially like that this particular business is locally based and not part of some giant oil conglomerate. I wonder how the biodiesel works in freezing temperatures. Well done!

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 5 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Great idea for a hub cclitgirl. Like you say, great minds think alike. The bio fuel you talk about here can be made at home under controlled conditions.It can be made in your back yard for about 60cents ltr. Recycle and clean your own cooking oil. All you need to buy is the lye and methanol. Admittedly can be dangerous in the wrong hands but well worth the effort.......OR you can make it my way without the chemical reaction and it WORKS GREAT in your diesel engine.

      https://hubpages.com/autos/Making-your-own-Bio-die...

      BTW have added your link to my hub. Hope yocan do the same for me.

      vote up/interesting

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Teresa - YES! I love it!! Golly, it would be SO COOL if entrepreneurs the world over started businesses like this or using other green concepts. Yes, I've heard that about corn: the corn used for fuel production is in danger of displacing corn for food production. I thought that had been a great idea until I had read about it competing with food production and the amount of energy (in terms of petroleum) it takes. Which is also why I love the idea of recycling cooking oil - it's so cool that something that would seem to just go in the trash can be used to make something so valuable. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      SidKemp - hello there; thank you for stopping by. When I heard a presentation from BRB, I just knew I had to investigate this further. It's a wonderful company and concept and I hope the idea catches on around the country. :) Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Vellur - thanks for the thumbs up!! I think that with biodiesel and other sustainable practices, we can do a lot for sustainability. Thanks for stopping by, Vellur. It's always wonderful to see you. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      GC - Hi there, thanks for stopping by. :) I love this about Asheville: it's a city that has many citizens looking for ways to help the local economy while being sustainable at the same time. I DO hope this concept spreads. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      rajan - Hey there, friend! Thanks for stopping by. :) Aw, shucks, you write dream hubs, too - that chocolate one was sooo YUMMY! :) I am definitely trying to spread the word about the environment and that it can be easy to lead a sustainable lifestyle. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      tammy - hello, friend! It's SO COOL that you have a hybrid!! I have a little car, but it's starting to show its age. When I'm in the market for a new car, it's going to be a difficult choice: hybrid vs. diesel. :) (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Billy - haha, apparently biodiesel is becoming popular. :) Thanks for stopping by, friend. I cherish your comments and insights. (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      rasta1 - Hey there, thanks for coming by. :) I enjoyed your hub on hemp fuel, too. It's going to take all kinds of ways to be sustainable, isn't it? (HUGS)

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a great business opportunity for anyone looking for an innovative yet green company. Our area has gotten into biofuels but using corn grown specifically for the production of fuel. Although its a green initiative it is backfiring in terms of food production and cost of animal feed which are rising steadily. Using a waste product to produce a valued one that replaces or reduces the use of no green options is so much more in tune with true green practices. Fantastic hub Cyndii. I enjoyed the read very much. Voted up and shared.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      It's great to see a genuine local green effort improving the economy. Thanks for the news. Votes up and interesting.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      A very useful and informative hub. Bio-diesel is the way to go for a Green Planet Earth. Vote up and double thumbs up.

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Very nice! I hope more communities implement this program of recycling cooking oil. I'm happy to hear that it's being done in Asheville and I hope it spreads!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Recycling cooking oil! This is a dream hub. Very interesting and very useful. Great for the environment.

      Voted up all the way, Cyndi.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! This is really interesting. I haven't tried this yet, I have a hybrid car. The thought of recycling things like cooking oil is really interesting and great for the planet. Very creative and well done.. as always!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is the third hub I've read today on this subject. Of course, yours is the best...by far! Shhh, don't tell anyone. Love the video.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 5 years ago from Jamaica

      That's an amazing business. This is a classic example of renewable energy from everyday waste products.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      teaches - HI! :) Thanks so much for stopping by. I am with you about watching over this biodiesel stuff - I think it's going to get big. :) It's just such a cool way to power things. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is something to keep in mind and to watch over the next few years. I haven't kept up with lastest on new energy, so I thank you for the update. Good information to know.