Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The answer to the oil crisis: Bio-diesel from used oil

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DIESEL fuel from used oil? Why not.
An Ilonggo inventor from Mandurriao, Iloilo City has found a way to beat the rising prices of fuel by turning waste cooking oil into clean and environment-friendly bio-diesel.
It took almost a year for Jasper Aguilar, 33, of Imperial Homes 5, Mandurriao to perfect his technique of trans-esterification – the process of separating dio-diesel from impurities.
He first stumbled upon bio-diesel in the late 90s when he was doing his research on one of his projects.
Bio-diesel began in the US and Europe in the last two decades but it is only now that the Philippines showed interest in the technology of making alternative, organic fuel.
In fact, the coco methyl ester fuel which the national government is sponsoring can be traced to the advent of bio-diesel.
The 33-year-old bookworm and electronics buff became obsessed with pioneering the said technology in Iloilo which was basically hinged upon the principles of chemistry.
One stumbling block Aguilar met was the tropical climate in the Philippines which affects the process of making bio-diesel.
“In the US and Europe which are located in the temperate zones, the process vary. So I have to improvise a process that is tailored for our climate,” said Aguilar who hails from Batad, Iloilo.
Also, the raw material used in western countries is different from available oil here. “Americans and Europeans use canola oil while here the most common type of oil is from coconut.”
Likewise, Aguilar had to improvise his own equipment for his bio-diesel factory.
He converted a machine drill to a mixer while his reacting and washing vats are made up of welded metal sheets.
Aguilar studied electrical technology in a university in Bukidnon province for three years. But he did not limit himself to wires and circuits as he also took interest in chemistry and other fields of sciences.
The process of trans-esterification requires mixing of alcohol and catalyzer with used oil to separate clean and organic diesel fuel.
Aguilar uses methyl alcohol which is also present in rubbing alcohols. However, he declined to reveal the catalyzer of then formula. “It’s a trade secret.”
When the three components react at the right temperature, triglycerides separate from diesel oil.
While it is considered a waste product of trans-esterification, triglycerides can be used as weed killers. On the downside, it is also an ingredient for the highly unstable explosive nitro-glycerin.
On the average, Aguilar can concoct 180 liters of bio-diesel in a process which takes about 24 hours of mixing, settling and washing.
So far, a number of jeepney drivers and Aguilar’s neighbors have been patronizing his product because it is cheap – P25 per liter. The average price of diesel is from P30 to P33.
His hometown Batad is also going gaga over his invention with majority of diesel-run vehicles making bulk orders of bio-diesel.
“If drivers use bio-diesel, they can save at least P100. That’s P3,000 a month which is a significant amount for our drivers. Most of the time I run out of supply and I have to tell our clients return when we have stocks already,” Aguilar said.
Since it is organic, engines running on bio-diesel have very clean emissions.
“In fact, the scent of the oil based can be smelled from the emission,” Aguilar jokingly said.
Also, vehicle owners don’t have to modify their engines to suit bio-diesel. “It is similar to commercial diesel but much cleaner and efficient.”
Aguilar gets help from his father-in-law Bert Felongco and G-Boy Bollo and both have also mastered the formula and process of trans-esterification.
But while Aguilar admitted they also earn minimal profit from their product, the venture has limitations.
“We find it hard to look for raw material like used oil. Our main competitor for getting used oil from fastfood chains and restaurants are chicharon manufacturers. Also, we have to ship our chemicals from Cebu which also entails freight costs,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar also noted the lack of support from the national and local government on projects that could benefit the public in times of crisis.
“There are many inventors who have made innovation that may have significant impacts on our lives. But sadly, we lack the support from the government. We are not asking for money. Technical support will do,” Aguilar said.
Recently, the Department of Science and Technology took interest in Aguilar’s project and pledged to help him by way of upgrading his equipment and patenting his formula in his name.
Aguilar is also suggesting to the city government to put up a recycling facility for used oil where he can apply his “homemade technology” of manufacturing bio-diesel.
While he invested much of his money, time and effort in his bio-diesel project, Aguilar also believes in sharing his knowledge to the common folks.
“I want to transfer what I know to the public by writing a book about this. It would be satisfying on my part if other people can also have their own backyard bio-diesel refinery,” Aguilar said. (Published in The Guardian newspaper-Iloilo City August 19, 2005)


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