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On our smallholding we are making biodiesel on a small scale, experimenting with a couple of oil drums, a pump, filter, copper pipe and plumbing fittings.

Oil is mixed with alcohol and potassium hydroxide (KOH), which acts as a catalyst. When the mixture settles the biodiesel is poured off the top, leaving a layer of glycerine (which is used to make soap and other useful products). The biodiesel is then finely filtered and de-watered, fueling the tractor and our field generator.

Our biodiesel is only made from used cooking oil. We don’t think it’s a good idea to take up more land to grow crops for vehicles when there are so many people in the world who don’t have enough food.  Some companies are now producing biodiesel from palm oil grown in huge plantations in West Africa or SE Asia. We think that biodiesel from these sources is environmentally damaging where orangutans and other species face extinction as their habitat is destroyed. For more information on this, see Biofuel Watch.

If you make biodiesel in the UK you have a responsibility to declare the usage to HM Revenue and Customs and to pay duty to them. The duty on biodiesel was reduced by 20 pence per litre in April 2002. The government hoped that this reduction will encourage the use of biodiesel on a larger scale. The duty was removed completely for small producers (2500 litres or less per year) from 30 June 2007, thumbs up!

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