Making biodiesel

Q. Greetings from Tropical Ho Chi Minh City!!

My name is Soren Kirchner and I am a Professor in Vietnam. My students and I are interested in setting up a Coop but we need to learn the following:

1) What equipment do we need to be able to produce 500 gallons a day of Bio Diesel? How much space? How many people (labour is 100 a month here) .
2) Where can we buy such equipment? How much?
3) Can the fuel that we convert be used in ANY standard diesel engine? I have heard that the tanks must be modified.
4) Here the cost of diesel is $2.00 a gallon (tax included) I need to be able to produce it for less than 50 cents a gallon and then presumably it will be taxed here to the tune of (???).
5) I assume that there are economies of scale, that is, if I make only 25 gallons the cost per gallon is higher and maybe NOT competitive with diesel fuel (??)

IF this is workable let me know. I want to bring alternative energy to Vietnam. This would make a wonderful life’s work for me as I pursue excellence in my University Teaching.
Thanks for your help

Soren Kirchner
RMIT International University, Vietnam

A. To answer your questions:

1. There are many different kinds of biodiesel processors. We are using a standard 50 gallon electric hot water heater and a 1″ water pump with plumbing, which is readily available in the USA. Our processor is shown @ . There are plans and parts list @

One person can easily operate this equipment and do everything by him/herself from start to finish. Larger industrial water heaters with larger capacity are available, so you can modify this set up to fit your plans. For 500 gallons, some more people would definitely help.

2. In the USA, all the equipment is available at every Home Depot or any hardware store for about $150-$200 without water heater and $400-$500 including a new electric water heater.

3. Biodiesel can run in ANY standard diesel engine WITHOUT any modifications. There is confusion between Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) and Biodiesel. See page 5 of our Introduction to Biodiesel for a helpful diagram @

4. It all depends on how much does methanol and lye cost over there in Vietnam. You need 200-220ml of methanol and 4-5 grams of lye per liter of oil. (This makes approx. 1 liter of biodiesel) We make biodiesel for about .70 per gallon here in Pasadena, California USA with the major cost being methanol. Also, the oil doesn’t cost us anything because we use free waste vegetable oil from a restaurant/caterer. If you used virgin vegetable oil, the cost would rise considerably

5. As with anything, if you bought bulk or wholesale, the cost should drop. Anyways, even if you made only 25 gallons, it should be cheaper than regular diesel fuel. You can also mix biodiesel with regular diesel at any percentage, with the most popular % being 20% (aka B20)

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