Biodiesel: The afterlife of oil – Natascia Radice

Biodiesel: The afterlife of oil – Natascia Radice


Just a minute ago, this oil helped make a delicious meal possible. But now, it’s just some nasty goop. What should we do with it? Well, the easiest thing would be to pour it down the drain; that makes it seem like it’s gone, but it’s not really gone. Instead, it’s collecting bits of food and other random stuff, producing monstrous, greasy blockages that clog not only your own drain but entire sewage systems, causing flooding and pollution. Many places have laws for proper disposal of grease, but we can go one step further. Instead of just throwing it away safely, we can turn it into something useful. And if you’re wondering what anyone could possibly want with a bunch of digusting, used cooking oil, the answer is: biodiesel. You’ve probably heard of diesel engines. They power farming and construction equipment, trucks, buses, ships, trains, backup generators, and even some cars. Most of the fuel that feeds these engines is refined from petroleum, which comes from long-dead dinosaurs and other ancient fossils. But diesel fuel can also be derived from more recently-dead organisms, like plants and animals. And this type of fuel is what we call biodiesel. Biodiesel is a biodegradable energy source, made from plant oils or animal fats, that can usually be burned in regular diesel engines. You guessed it, it’s the ‘bio’ version of diesel. It’s cleaner than normal diesel, so there has been a push to generate it from crops like soybeans. Now, growing plants for fuel, instead of food, comes with its own problems. But fortunately, we already have some oils and fats right here. Preparing your used cooking grease for recycling is easy. First, let it cool down to room temperature. Then, transfer it to a clean container. You can use any old bottles you have lying around, like milk jugs, as long as they’re completely empty, rinsed, and dried. Use a funnel to avoid spills and a sieve to filter out any small food particles. You can even add bacon grease and other animal fats or the excess oil from canned food, like tuna or sardines, just make sure it’s really oil and not brine. So, what happens now that your oil is safely contained? Well, many cities have recycling services that will pick up large amounts of grease from restaurants and other establishments. But there are locations where individuals can drop off their containers, as well. All of this grease will end up at a processing plant, where it can be converted to useable biodiesel. How does this conversion work? Well, all these oils and fats you donated are made up of triglycerides, a glycerol molecule connected to three fatty acid chains. To convert fats to fuel, they react with an alcohol, usually methanol or ethanol, which produces long-chain esters and glycerol. To compare, here are some molecules of regular diesel fuel. Now, here are the molecules we created by breaking apart the triglycerides. Glycerol is the odd man out, so it’s removed at the end of the process. But look at these esters! If you squint, their structures look pretty similar to those of the long-chain hydrocarbons in regular diesel. And diesel engines, with a few small modifications, can also be made to squint and burn these esters like regular diesel fuel. Et voila! Biodiesel. Now, you might be wondering whether all this hassle over recycling used cooking oil is even worth it. After all, how much energy can it possibly generate? Well, if all the grease that New Yorkers throw away in one day were converted to jet fuel, it would be enough to power several hundred flights from New York to Los Angeles. And let’s not forget that using waste oil instead of burning more fossil fuels will limit our negative effects on the environment. Recycling used cooking grease turns goop into good. By contributing a little bit, individuals and businesses can help create an alternative, stable source of diesel oil, while protecting the environment and keeping our cities cleaner. And that’s pretty slick.

100 thoughts on “Biodiesel: The afterlife of oil – Natascia Radice

  1. How about breaking down the oil into its most basic molecules, and extract the hydrogen molecules from them? That way, hydrogen fuel can be used for fuel in cars and electricity.

  2. Oil never came from dinosaurs. The term Fossil Fuels was picked to entice customers with the scarcity from the start by Standard Oil Co.

  3. To think Rudolph Diesel provided the world with a solution to Climate Change in 1903 before it ever existed, only for the money. Otherwise we would all be breathing cleaner air! The diesel engine was originally designed for this very fuel not Petroleum diesel!!

  4. Very good vid but forgot to add one thing… the negatives. Biodiesel from crops like corn competes with farmland and food for the citizens. Also, unlike gas that we put in our cars, biodiesel isn’t explosive enough. But say if we could use biodiesel it would be close to impossible to replace regular gas as big companies have the monopoly over fuel.

  5. If you're looking for more info, please check out our current project to convert used cooking oil to run a boat. https://youtu.be/7PRuVw_IEgg

  6. Im wondering isn't more awareness given to people about this way of creating fuel…..A LOT of people around the world and Lots of regions around the world are just not aware of this opportunity….its literally turning our wastes into a cleaner fuel….something we throw away into something we buy at gas stations…its insane😥😥😥

  7. Ted ed I have a question for you. In your video you said that in the transformation proces from deisel to biodeisel a molecule is created called glycerol and that is removed at the end of the proces, my question is: what happens to the glycerol, what do they do with it?

  8. Do not pour your used oil down a kitchen drain, im serious DO NOT DO IT
    It will clog up your plumbing like cholesterol

  9. How is this greener than fossil fuels, though? Does burning glycerol not convert it to carbon dioxide? Sure, you don’t have to worry about spills, but if it makes CO2 it’s not much better in the long term

  10. Am I the only one that found it hilarious they showed the engine on the train graphic as that tiny thing at the very front? It’s also rather irritating they never go into any detail on the actually conversions energy cost, it was my understanding one of the big reasons biodiesel has never taken off is it’s far cheaper and energy efficient to just refine more diesel from crude. That and the act of making a Diesel engine “squint” makes it less efficient.

  11. Let's not forget biodiesel still generates CO2 amongst other gasses we don't need too much of in our atmosphere Wich doesn't really make it a solution

  12. Incidentally, that “react the triglycerides to get glycerol and esters” reaction is the exact same one that makes soap.

  13. I have collect a jug of cooking oil and put it on my counter. The Americans have yet to come and liberate it though :/

  14. My master project is about biodiesel usage in diesel engine comparing it with diesel and a blend of both as well.

  15. no! first you give me a decent job and make my years of education worth the effort I put, then MAYBE we can talk about me giving back anything to this society. Thats how it works, see? you gotta give to receive, you greedy fucks!

  16. 1:44 whenever you see someone working with their eyes closed and confidence on their face, know that they are master in what they are doing. 😁👍

  17. The only problem is that biodiesel is awful for modern electronic injection engines, like common rail. It tend to lay a layer of sticky glue like thing, like a very used frier (even smells like fries) that blocks and destroy the delicate common rail system components. In my experience of 7 years repairing electronic diesel injection systems, biodiesel is like a cancer that you can't avoid because normal diesel here has at least 20% biodiesel in it by law. It only works great with old engines with mechanical injection but they are very pollutant.

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