Everyday, millions of litres of used cooking vegetable oil are wasted and flushed down the sink in home kitchens, restaurants and hotels around the world. What a waste! Especially as all that used oil can easily be converted into biodiesel, a fuel just like ordinary diesel, that could power trucks and machinery.
Biodiesel is a cleaner and better performing fuel than diesel, and it’s a surprise it’s not very popular in Africa yet. In this article, I’ll explore the potentials of biodiesel in Africa, and why its demand is growing around the world. I’ll also share an inspiring success story of one African entrepreneur who’s already exploiting the promising potentials of biodiesel in his country.
In this article, you’ll also learn how biodiesel is made, and all the ingredients, tools and knowledge you need to produce this revolutionary product. Hint: I have included two tutorials to help you fully grasp the basics. This article is a great read. I know you’ll enjoy it!
What exactly is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is very different from the ‘normal’ diesel many of us know. The diesel we’re used to is produced by refining petroleum (also known as ‘crude oil’). Crude oil, which is classified as a ‘fossil fuel’ or ‘non-renewable fuel’ can only be found deep beneath the earth’s surface, from where it is recovered and refined into several products, including petrol (gasoline), kerosene, and diesel.
Biodiesel is not in any way related to, or made from crude oil. Unlike ordinary diesel, biodiesel is a renewable and clean-burning type of diesel that is made from vegetable oils. Yes, vegetable oils! It can be made from most types of vegetable oils including soybean oil, canola oil, palm oil and most other popular oils.
In this article, I’ll be focusing on biodiesel that can be made from Waste Vegetable Oils (WVOs). These are the oils that have been used for frying and cooking food in home kitchens, restaurants, and anywhere else you can find waste cooking oils that may be wasted or flushed down the sink after use.
I know what you’re thinking. Is it really possible to use this biodiesel to drive your truck or power that electricity generator? Of course, it is. In fact, biodiesel is proven to give higher engine performance, more lubricity, and emits less carbon and toxic gases than the ordinary diesel we’re used to.
Biodiesel is indeed a revolutionary type of fuel that is already shaping our energy options for the future.
The 3 Top Reasons Why Biodiesel Is Becoming Popular Around The World?
Photo credit: climatetechwiki.org
Based on my research and findings, I’ll share with you the three top reasons why the admiration and popularity of biodiesel is growing across the world.
As entrepreneurs, it’s important that we understand the market factors that are behind this product. This insight will help us develop a viable business model that can make money.
Here they are…
1. The world wants to reduce waste and recycle more.
In today’s world, resources are becoming limited, and scarce. With a large global population and fast developing economies, both individuals and businesses are looking for more ways to reduce waste. This is why reuse and recycling have become a big deal nowadays.
Do you know how much used cooking vegetable oil the world wastes every day? It’s in the millions of litres! All this waste cooking oil is flushed down the sink or sucked into the drain. But wasting used cooking oil is unnecessary when it can be recycled into a highly valued product that can power trucks and generators.
Biodiesel is just one of many products that can be recycled from waste. In a previous article, I shared the inspiring success stories of five African entrepreneurs who are creating amazing products from waste. You can read it here: Making Money From Trash – Meet Africa’s Top 5 Entrepreneurs in the Waste Recycling Business.
2. There is a growing preference for cleaner and eco-friendly fuels
The carbon emissions from fossil fuel products like diesel, petrol (gasoline) and kerosene, are the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect, which is widely responsible for global warming and the adverse climatic changes that are affecting our planet.
Biodiesel has several distinct advantages over ordinary diesel. Biodiesel reduces net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 78 percent on a life-cycle basis when compared to diesel.
On top of that, biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic (has a low sulphur content and doesn’t contain carcinogens), making it more sensitive and relatively harmless to the environment.
It is no surprise that the developed world has embraced biodiesel and is gradually increasing its use as a transportation fuel. In most parts of the USA, diesel sold at retail outlets is blended with a minimum of 5 percent biodiesel. In Germany, it’s 7 percent. The same practice exists in most parts of the European Union and Canada.
As the pressure to further combat climate change increases around the world, I expect that the volume of biodiesel that is blended with ‘normal’ diesel will increase. Sometime in the future, cars and trucks could run on 100 percent biodiesel.
3. More countries want to reduce their dependence on crude oil products
If we have learned anything from the history of the last half-century, it would be that excessive dependence on crude oil, especially from foreign sources, is a very risky situation.
Over the past decade, conflict, politics and uncertainty have made crude oil prices very unpredictable. Since most countries around the world have to import petroleum products from foreign sources, the impact of high oil prices instantly affects daily activities, especially the local economy.
To avoid any future surprises from the unpredictability of global oil prices, more countries around the world are looking at locally accessible energy sources to shore up their supplies and protect themselves from oil price shocks.
Biodiesel is an interesting option for anyone who’s looking to diversify or complement their energy supply sources. Both virgin and used vegetable oils are abundantly produced locally, and this makes it possible for biodiesel to be produced anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter if you have crude oil reserves or not!
The Huge Potentials Of Biodiesel In Africa – An Inspiring Success Story From Zambia
Mutoba Ngoma is a young Zambian entrepreneur and Founder of Tapera Industries, a small business based in Lusaka, the country’s capital.
photo credit: CNN Africa Startup
Several years ago, when Zambia was experiencing severe fuel shortages, Mutoba dabbled into biodiesel and became one of the first entrepreneurs on the continent to exploit the promising potentials of this fuel.
From a small operation which he started in his backyard with capital borrowed from his father, Mutoba was producing about 200 litres of biodiesel per month from the waste vegetable oils he collected from local households and restaurants. Today, his production has grown to 3,000 litres of biodiesel which he sells to local customers who use the fuel to power trucks and machinery.
According to the short CNN interview below, Mutoba says his business makes about $15,000 per month at the moment. Interestingly, he has found another use for the byproduct of his biodiesel production. He uses the waste glycerin to make organic soaps which have become an unexpected but promising revenue stream for his company.
The short clip below shows Mutoba and his team in action during the biodiesel production process. Take a few minutes to watch it. You’ll surely learn a thing or two!
How is Biodiesel Made? Can Anyone Make it?
Smart questions. I thought you’d never ask. 🙂
You’d be surprised to know that making Biodiesel is incredibly easy. Yes, it’s very easy. And anyone can do it. You don’t need to be a science geek, or have a PhD in Chemistry to produce a gallon or barrel of ready-to-use biodiesel.
Making biodiesel is simple, but you need to FULLY understand the fundamentals. In this section, I’ll take you through some of the most important things you need to know about the biodiesel production process.
Here we go!
All the ingredients and tools you need…
If you’ve ever cooked any food in the kitchen, you’ll know that the ingredients you use are the most important elements of your cooking. It’s not only important that you use the right ingredients, you also have to use them in the right measurements.
Don’t worry, I have included a short tutorial for you in this section that will put you through the measurements. I’ll just go ahead to list the ingredients you need to make biodiesel, as follows:
- Used Vegetable Oil – Of course, you know where to get this. Like I mentioned earlier, household kitchens, restaurants and hotels are great sources of waste vegetable oil. You can also use virgin (unused) vegetable oil, but this would be more expensive. That’s why I recommend used oil.
- Methanol – Also known as ‘Methyl Alcohol’. This is the second most important ingredient in biodiesel production after the vegetable oil. You can get methanol from any chemical merchants around you. It’s a very versatile chemical that’s used in industries and laboratories. It’s also quite affordable.
- Potassium Hydroxide or Sodium Hydroxide – These chemicals are widely used in soap making and are known in the market as ‘Lye’ and ‘Caustic Soda’ respectively. In biodiesel production, they act as catalysts during the reaction of the oil and methanol.
- Tools – Some of the tools you need during the production process are mixing containers, a thermometer or temperature gauge, weighing scale, and of course, a pair of safety gloves.
The production process
You’ll be dealing with chemicals while making biodiesel so it’s very important that you follow the right process, in order to get the right results.
Of all the tutorials on Youtube that explain how to make biodiesel, I found two great ones that are simple and easy to understand. If you’re curious, take a few minutes to watch them. There are several others too on Youtube that you can check out after reading this article. Watch them several times until you fully understand the entire production process.
This tutorial shows how to make a small batch of biodiesel using virgin (unused) canola oil.
This tutorial shows how to make biodiesel on a larger scale in tanks. This one uses waste vegetable oil collected from local restaurants. Pay close attention to the need to filter the used oils.
Now That You Know What To Do, What’s Next?
Like I already stated, the importance and influence of biodiesel will continue to grow across the world. In Africa, biodiesel presents us with a unique opportunity to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels which cause harm to both humans and the environment.
If you’re interested in exploring the potentials of biodiesel in your country, I have three pieces of advice for you:
Practice and perfect your understanding of the science.
You’ve just watched a few tutorials on biodiesel production. Don’t stop here. Try it out and do it by yourself on a small scale at home and see how it all works. Use the biodiesel you produce on a small engine to see how well it works. Practice has a way of boosting your confidence and preparing you for the business, when you‘re prepared to start it.
You may be tempted to take off on a large scale, especially if you live in a country where diesel fuel is expensive or scarce. But I would advise you to start on a small scale to test the market. Remember, no business idea is bulletproof. That’s why it’s important that you test your business concept on a small scale first.
A great business idea will remain an idea until you take action on it. Over the next few years, I expect that eco-friendly fuels like biodiesel will start to make significant inroads into Africa. If you feel a certain urge to start a business around biodiesel, by all means start taking some action. Until you do, you’re just as inactive as the next guy who has no viable idea.
That’s it! I hope you had as much fun reading this article as I had doing the research and writing it. It is my hope that this article will inspire Africa’s first biodiesel millionaires and increase the momentum to shift our continent towards renewable energy sources.
Any thoughts, comments or feedback regarding this article? Have your say in the Comments section below and I’ll be there to interact.
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To your financial success!