The BioBot is the latest biodiesel processor to hit the market. We’ve talked about these things before, and they’re definitely interesting in a ‘will they/won’t they’ kind of way. Succeed that is. What makes this one different is the fact that the developers have clearly thought about the whole process and built in some clever and simple technology to make the whole diesel production thing much easier to do. Here’s a very clear video of the process.
Instead of a confusing selection of knobs, valves and containers, the BioBot incorporates everything you need in one unit and sports a single multi-function lever which you use to click through 4 stages of production as if it was a washing machine. The unit can produce up to 75 litres of biodiesel in a single cycle which will take between 10 and 24 hours depending on whether you leave it running overnight. The kit costs £2500.00 plus bits, which means that you need gas prices to be pretty high if you’re going to enjoy a short payback period.
Alongside the machine at the European Bio Energy show I visited last week was a neat little AquaSolaer seed press machine which was priced at £1,700.00 all in. Looking at the two machines got me thinking to what you’d have to do to set up your own small scale fuel processing company. I guess it would go something like this:
- Find 5 acres of spare land near you and plant rapeseed or Jatropha plants. One acre of crop produces a maximum of 500 litres (or 110 imperial gallons) of oil for processing per year. Hopefully 550 gallons of biodiesel should be enough for family use in a year.
- Harvest your seeds and run them through a suitable press.
- This small press delivers 72 litres of oil from raw seeds every 12 hours. You can buy bigger machines which will do much more/faster, but this should be enough.
- Here we see the machine processing rapeseed. The middle bucket catches the oil, the other buckets contain the residue, which is a pelleted substance rich in nutrients and oil residues which can be used for biomass burner/boilers or for animal feed.
- Once you’ve extracted your oil, chuck it into the BioBot and process overnight, and bingo, small scale biodiesel production from earth to burn.
OK, so you’re going to need to invest time and energy and money in the process, including electricity costs to run the two processing machines, methanol at 15p per litre (you’ll need around 10 ltrs per batch) and some other nasty chemicals. You’ll also need to contend with the glares and anger of your anti-biofuel neighbours who will pour scorn on your misuse of good foodstock land. Protesting that you’re about to convert miles of remote desert to eco friendly bio-material won’t help either.
The fact is they’re right in a way. We need to start lowering our consumption of, and reliance on, oil in general if we’re to transition safely through the period of dwindling reserves, so merely switching to bio alternatives without reducing our demand won’t work at all. And of course, not everyone will be able or willing to grab a few acres of land for growing. Apparently there’s also a shortage of waste oil now too, since the demand for waste oil from restaurants has shot through the roof post $100 barrel OPEC prices.
Ah well it seemed like an interesting idea anyway. Here’s a nice clear explanation of the issues relating to biofuels in general. The chart of oil production from plants is fascinating!
The Biobot range of processors will produce 50 to 100 litres of bio diesel. The units are small, safe and very easy to use requiring less than one hours` work to produce enough fuel to run the family car or small van. Fuel is made, stored and dispensed directly in the car from the processor which is mounted on wheels and easily tucked away in the garage, workshop or shed after use. As these machines have a built-in dry resin wash process, there is no need for messy time consuming water washing-our goal is remove the water content not add it! The waste oil is heated using a safe, thermostatically controlled, indirect heater. This avoids the use of immersion type heaters in the mix process, which eliminates the need to poor dangerous chemicals directly over a heating element. The chemicals which are added to the hot oil are mixed and introduced in a closed safe method. This eliminates having to precariously pour hazardous chemicals directly into the reactor vessel.