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Biodiesel Fact Sheet

Before you consider making biodiesel at home ... Read This!

What is Biodiesel?

A fuel made from renewable resources such as soybean oil or animal fats. It can also be made from waste vegetable oils. It is typically produced by a reaction of a vegetable oil with methanol and lye (caustic). Glycerol, which is also produced in the reaction, must be separated from the biodiesel.

Use of Biodiesel

Biodiesel can be used as an automobile fuel or a home heating fuel. Biodiesel produced that does not meet American Society For Testing and Materials (ASTM) International Standard D6751 may cause engine and fuel system problems and void warranties. There are costs associated with meeting the ASTM standards.

Risks to You

  • Toxic/poisonous - Methanol is toxic/poisonous if ingested and is a highly flammable liquid.
  • Skin burns - Lye can cause severe skin burns.
  • Respiratory damage - Methoxide, a mixture of methanol and lye, if inhaled can damage lungs. Skin exposure can cause severe skin burns.
  • Fire Hazard - Excess methanol and lye in the biodiesel produced may result in a product that is a fire hazard or that may not burn cleanly.

NOTE: Poison Control Centers within the US can be contacted by dialing 1-800-222-1222. For general information, go to: www.health.ny.gov/nysdoh/poisoncontrol/index.htm

Risk to Neighbors and Environment

  • A byproduct of the biodiesel reaction is glycerol. Glycerol should not be dumped on the ground, into a septic system or into any surface waters. An accidental spill of the glycerol may impact surface waterways such as streams, rivers, or lakes. Concerns include disposal of wastewater containing free fatty acids that have a high biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD, that can remove oxygen from water bodies and harm aquatic life. It is illegal to put anything other than domestic wastewater into a septic system. Do not put any biodiesel or chemical byproducts into a septic system.
  • The best way to dispose of the glycerol is through a wastewater treatment plant. Any hauler with a dumping permit (i.e., septic tank cleaners) should be able to take the glycerol. Also, you should contact your local waste water treatment facility to verify which chemical types and amounts can be put down the drain. You may be liable if your discharge affects their system. Keep in mind that glycerol is a fatty acid. If you pour it down the drain, it may solidify and clog your drain system.
  • The glycerol from the home brewer's reaction will not be of the proper purity for sale as a foodstuff or raw material for soap or cosmetics.
  • It is illegal to dispose of any pollutant into a storm drain, ditch, sewer, stream or the ground.
  • Mixing and "cooking" (reacting) of the components will cause a foul odor which may impact your neighbors.
  • If you produce a bad batch of biodiesel or need to dispose of used chemicals or products, you may contact a used oil hauler to collect it or bring it to a used oil collection facility. For information on used oil haulers in your area, call (518) 402-8792. Contact the NYS DEC regional offices for information on used oil collection facilities in NYS.

Best Brewing Practices

  • The area where biodiesel is brewed should have proper ventilation. Check with the local fire marshal for specific details and suggestions.
  • Biodiesel reactors should be a closed system not open to the environment.
  • Always wear safety goggles, chemical resistant gloves and a chemical resistant apron when working with any chemicals.
  • Keep children and animals away from the processing area.
  • Have a spill kit and fire extinguishers on site.
  • Have proper storage for chemicals and biodiesel, for example:
    • Chemicals should not be stored near heat or ignition sources.
    • Chemicals should be stored with secondary containment, such as a small container within a larger container.
    • Chemicals should be stored in High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or other compatible storage containers.
    • Label containers with what is inside and purchase or batch date.
    • Be knowledgeable about the chemicals you are using. Mixing certain chemicals can be dangerous.

Rules You'll Have To Follow

  • National Fire Protection Association Code 30 prohibits the storage in excess of 25 gallons of methanol. This regulation is integrated in the Building Code of NYS Chapter 3 and the Fire Protection Code of NYS Chapter 34. Contact the local Fire Marshall to check if certain fire permits are required.
  • Electrical wiring must meet local codes and should be approved by a certified electrician. Explosion proof fixtures and equipment provide the best protection.
  • Local zoning laws may prohibit the construction of a biodiesel reactor in your house/garage.
  • An industrial zoning permit may be required for manufacturing biodiesel to sell commercially regardless of the amount. Depending on the county, there may be building permits requirements. Depending on the amount of wastewater ("wastewater" means water and wastes discharged from homes, businesses, and industry to the sewer system) discharged during the biodiesel process, a State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit or National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit may be required. If you have to discharge the wastewater to the sewer system, you should contact the local sewer system.
  • Depending on the amount of biodiesel being brewed, some may be subject to Part 596 of the Environmental Conservation Law: Hazardous Substance Bulk Storage Regulations. Two of the ingredients for brewing biodiesel are methanol and sodium hydroxide which are considered hazardous substances. This may apply to you if you have one or more of the following:
    1. an aboveground tank storing a hazardous substance, or mixture thereof, with a capacity of one-hundred and eighty-five (185) gallons or greater;
    2. an underground tank storing a hazardous substance or mixture thereof of any capacity; or
    3. a non-stationary tank used to store one thousand (1,000) kilograms (2,200 lbs.) or more of a hazardous substance or mixture thereof for a period of ninety (90) consecutive days or more.
  • Furthermore, Part 595 establishes the reporting requirements of hazardous substances, in this case methanol and sodium hydroxide. If you release methanol in quantities that are in excess of 5000 pounds to the air or 1 pound to land or water; and sodium hydroxide in quantities that are in excess of 1000 pounds to the air and 100 pounds to land or water, you have to report these releases to the DEC.
  • In addition, to report an accidental release of methanol or sodium hydroxide, contact the NYS Spills Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.
  • Part 596 stipulates that homebrewed biodiesel should not have more than one (1) percent of either of the chemicals (methanol or sodium hydroxide) in its composition for it not to be consider a "mixture" and trigger chemical bulk storage regulations.
    "Mixture" means a heterogeneous association of substances where the various individual substances retain their essential original properties. The term "mixture" includes solutions (but does not include alloys or amalgams) where one or more active ingredients are hazardous substances. Mixtures are regulated if they contain one (1) percent or more by volume or weight of at least one hazardous substance.
  • If homebrewed biodiesel is mixed with any quantity of petroleum diesel, you may have to register the storage of your biodiesel with the DEC under Part 612: Registration Of Petroleum Storage Facilities.
  • If you have any questions regarding Parts 595 and 596, please contact the Division of Environmental Remediation at 518-402-9543.
  • Air Quality Regulations such as DEC's 6 NYCRR Part 211 addresses general air pollution issues. Domestic manufacture of biodiesel for domestic use is exempt from Air Quality permitting as a trivial activity (Part 201-3.3). However, if process equipment is operated 300 hours or more per year, 6 NYCRR Part 236 invokes numerous emission control, monitoring, repair, reporting, and record keeping requirements. The DEC must be granted access to verify compliance with Air Quality regulations as outlined.
  • Tax Laws, such as Article 12-A of the NYS Tax Law applies to anyone selling biodiesel for diesel motor fuel or heating oil and must be register as a distributor with NYS Department of Taxation and Finance and pay the appropriate excise, sales and petroleum business taxes. If you use biodiesel for home heating oil, you don't have to pay state taxes.
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) does not require registration if the brewer uses the biodiesel for personal use in their own vehicles. Any person who manufacturers and either sells or transfers home brewed biodiesel motor fuel must register with USEPA under 40 CFR 79.56.

Want to buy and use biodiesel without all the hassle and risk?

Contact the National Biodiesel Board (www.biodiesel.org/) at 3337 Emerald Lane • PO Box 104898 • Jefferson City, MO 65110-4898 • (800) 841-5849 • fax: (573) 635-7913 to obtain information on biodiesel producers/distributors in NYS.

For More Information

  • Contact the DEC's Pollution Prevention Unit at (518) 402-9469
  • Contact the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority at (518) 862-1090

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