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Thank these restaurants for supplying us with their used oil:


Bridger Bowl

Dave's Sushi

7 Sushi

Montana State University

Taco Time of 4-Corners

Arby's N 7th Ave & W Main St

Broken Spoke Bar & Grill, Big Sky

Over the Tapas

If your restaurant wants to join the list, email here.




Q  What is the miles per gallon difference between Biodiesel, SVO, and petro diesel?
A  None, unless you want to get picky and then it's a bunch of conflicting reports stating 1-5% differences.

Q  How does the vehicle drive on the various fuels?
A  The same, except for the smell.  Biofuels smell like a BBQ grill going down the road.

Q  What is the procedure for switching to vegetable oil during startup?
A  The engine is started on diesel or biodiesel to create heat.  That heated water is circulated along the entire vegetable oil fuel system to the vegoil tank and back, just enough to warm the oil so it will flow.  The engine temp gauge on the dash reads 160F and you're ready to flip the switch and feed vegoil to the engine instead of diesel.  The same switch turns off the diesel fuel pump and turns on the vegoil fuel pump. 
   To shut the engine down, there is a 45-60 second purge time to clear the injection lines of vegoil so it doesn't gel as the engine cools. 

Q  What does it cost to convert a vehicle to run SVO?
A  Depending on the vehicle (car or truck) and whether or not you want an official kit or a homemade one, the cost ranges from $1000-$2000 (some newer trucks are even more).

Q  How much will my SVO fuel cost?
A  Half the price of diesel. 

Q  How much diesel or B99 will I consume?
A  Depending on your average trip length you will use a gallon of diesel for every 100-200 miles driven on SVO.



Bozeman Biofuels merged with Full Circle Recycling earlier this year.  FCR has been using vegetable oil since 2010 and is scaling up, and with economies of scale it made sense to combine all the oil sources under one roof.  With our efforts at FCR we have produced ASTM certified biodiesel using our recycled oil feedstock, and have begun blending biodiesel into the materials collection trucks.  Biodiesel is for sale through Full Circle. Contact

Back in 2004 Bozeman Biofuels formed and has been fueling a local fleet of vehicles ever since.  Our goals were to see the oil used and used locally - no fantasies were entertained that it was going to be able to supply the country.  On a small scale harvesting used fryer oil is philanthropy, but at the time all of it was being exported from our region, then transported again hundreds more miles to be mainly used as livestock feed supplement and beauty products. There are a half dozen or so vehicles being fueled here by that operation.  The oil is sold at cost and thousands of hours have been invested in seeking out a petroleum free lifestyle. 

At this point in time, the value of used fryer oil as fuel has been recognized and government subsidies are encouraging biodiesel production with used oil as well as virgin oil.  That has created a market for the oil which is reflective of its value, which is good as it ensures the oil will get used for its highest value use.  Competition now exists for the used oil and restaurants are commonly being paid for it, which tightens the profit margins of the recycling effort which is also good.  However, it is becoming geared to larger recyclers traveling longer distances so our goal is to retain our share of oil by becoming even more efficient at collecting, filtering, and marketing it. 

We are also endeavoring to upcycle the least desirable portion of the collected oil:   'dregs' - the heavy fats and food found at the bottom of any container of used oil.  During the summer of 2012 we experimented with the following uses for dregs:
- weed killer and liquid weed mat around shrubs
- fire logs
- dust control
- compost

As a weed killer, we lightly tilled the soil around four shrubs and mixed in dregs around two of the shrubs.  The dregs were then covered by more soil to shield them from contact, including pets.  Throughout the summer plant growth was severely inhibited around the dregs-treated shrubs.  This could be a valuable, effective, easy use for dregs, which will eventually break down into nutrients for the plant.  It should also work well under new walkways or other landscaping that wants to be plant free.

Fire logs were dried in banana bread pans in a roof-top solar oven, and then wrapped in butcher paper for burning similar to a duraflame type fire log.  In fact, duraflame logs are now composed of plant oils instead of whatever petroleum by-product they used to be made from.  The mixture includes roughly 30% dregs, 40% sawdust, and 30% camelina meal (meal is what is left after a camelina seed is crushed and the oil is pressed out).  The meal acts as a great binder, much as flour in a cake, and results in a hard log versus a loose mixture of just oil dregs and sawdust.  We have tested just the loose mixture as fuel by packing waxed cartons and adding to a hot wood stove -  the flame burns noticeably hotter but coking seems to occur requiring annual stove cleaning.  Camelina meal is currently readily available as it has not been approved by the USDA as a feed supplement despite its 21% protein content.  Once it is approved an alternative binder may be needed.  The meal used for the experiment was provided graciously by Bill O'Connel of Bio Omega 3,, who grows camelina here in the Gallatin Valley and markets the healthy oil. 

As dust control, dregs need some time to be absorbed by the ground and are best applied during a hot summer day, ultimately creating a natural asphalt.  Alternatively, the dregs layer can immediately be buried by a thin layer of gravel, road mix, or even asphalt.  The layer also acts as a plant growth inhibitor which prolongs the amount of time between treatments.  Traditional dust control, magnesium chloride, is not something I have been fond of, despite how well it works, so we pursued the dregs dust control alternative with great, long-lasting results.

The compost experiment was the most exciting, as it resulted in spontaneous combustion!  We added 1200 gallons of dregs to a large row of wood chips in cooperation with Western Pines and their Earth Systems compost yard.  It was in the heat of summer and a few days later the whole pile erupted in fire.  Luckily people were on site at the time and had a front end loader to put the fire out.  Obviously the bacterial action in the composting process was exothermic enough to reach the ignition point.  The next experiment will be with manure piles.  The compost process should add nutrients to the end product, and there is a possibility of adding dregs to wood chips in a lesser proportion and then using the wood chips as boiler fuel commonly referred to as hopper fuel. 

Much of this work was performed and assisted by an intern through MSU's Department of Sustainable Agriculture, Forrest Lintner.  Forrest worked hard through the summer and persisted to end points in the fire log and liquid weed mat aspects, so we thank him and the department for having such a great summer internship program.  The program is overseen by Dean Williamson of MSU who also owns the bustling CSA (Communtiy Supported Agriculture) Three Hearts Farm. 


Biofuels defined
Straight Vegetable Oil
 - Which way to go, Bio or SVO
 - Collecting your own oil
 - Filtration
  (care to press your own oil seed? )                  

Before you contact us about vegetable oil, you MUST read this entire page.  You may be tested to make sure.  There are many biofuels experts who can't answer their phone or respond to email anymore due to the sheer volume of inquiries.  I am glad to answer a few questions after which paid consulting can follow, including consultations on vehicle conversions, oil filtration, solar energy, electric vehicles, and shop time for vehicle conversions.  I simply cannot school you from square one unless you're willing to pay for it (see Consulting page).  If you've gotten this far I know you can read, which isn't as much fun as getting tutored, but works .... so below is square one.  Enjoy!

Biofuels are plant-based fuels biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, and ethanol, versus petroleum based (geologically aged plant material).  The world's first internal combustion engine was a diesel, invented in 1897 by Rudolph Diesel and exhibited at the world's fair in Paris.  His goal was to build an engine that ran on oils from crops, which could be farmed using the engine, to create more oil, etc.  Rudolph was not excited about the switch to petroleum fuels, and predicted that we would return to the originally intended fuel eventually.  Biofuels are superior to petroleum fuels, and the benefits don't stop there.  They can be domestically produced, have significantly lower emissions, make engines run longer, and are quickly becoming mainstream.  Soon it could very well be that we see petroleum fuel as alternative. 

Biodiesel (BD) is substitute for Petro Diesel and is made from oil seed crops such as soybean and canola.  Any diesel can take Biodiesel without modification to the engine or vehicle, so there is no such thing as Converting to Biodiesel unless your talking about the mental decision to switch.  Biodiesel is comprised of about 80% vegetable oil, 20% methanol (high grade petroleum fuel), and a small amount of lye (sodium hydroxide).  A chemical transformation called transesterification takes place which reduces the viscosity and allows the fuel to flow thru filters and burn much like petro diesel.  In other words vegetable oil simply needs to be thinned in order for the diesel engine to utilize it.  Thinning can be accomplished by chemically reacting vegetable oil with methanol and lye as described above, or see the next section for another option.   

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) is burned by any diesel vehicle with the addition of a heated supply of filtered vegetable oil fuel, no modifications to the engine are necessary.  Used vegetable oil needs to be significantly filtered and treated before hand.  Virgin oil can be purchased and burned without the filtering process, but is more expensive.  Bozeman Biofuels hopes to have a supply of filtered used vegetable oil available for sale locally for homebrewing of biodiesel or for running SVO vehicles on, thereby eliminating the ongoing aggravation of collecting and filtering oil.  The Bozeman Biofuels truck (94 Chevy 6.5L Turbodiesel) now has over 30,000 miles of SVO behind it!  With a 105 gallon veggie tank, it can make trips to Oregon and back averaging 18 mpg, with no stops at gas stations (except to wash the windshield, that is).  Not counting SVO, this truck averages more than 400 mpg of diesel.

Which way to go... BD or SVO
The common question at this point is whether or not to convert your diesel to SVO, to join Bozeman Biofuels Membership biodiesel buying group, have Bozeman Biofuels or Story Distributing drop off a 55-gal drum of certified BD, or brew your own BD.  The table below summarizes the comparisons.

- The easiest route is to buy biodiesel made at a huge plant where they know what they're doing and their product is certified.  As of March 2011 there is B5 for sale at an unmanned credit card pump in Belgrade for roughly the same price as petro diesel. 

- Making your own BD (much like brewing beer) from virgin oil can be straight forward, but obtaining small quantities of oil for a reasonable price is challenging unless you have a canola farm and a seed press.  Keep in mind that the price of methanol is about $3.50/gal, and if BD is comprised of 20% methanol you're already spending $.70/gal just for that one ingredient.  In addition, you'll need winter additives and some petro diesel to enable your vehicle to use a significant blend of BD.

- Making your own BD from used oil is possible and people are doing it all over the world, but it's tricky because your oil stock is different for every batch of fuel.  The chemistry dictates varying amounts of methanol and lye, and when you don't get it right you end up with undue amounts of byproducts.  Currently, some BD homebrewers are making a bad name for biodiesel by creating their own little toxic waste dumps and not properly disposing of the byproducts, and creating sub-standard fuel.  If you are a science geek and very detail oriented, you may well pull it off.  Nobody I know of has been successful at making BD with a kit they purchased, all have needed significant improvements costing roughly 4 times the "kit" price. 

- Converting to SVO requires the one time effort of installing a heated fuel system in your vehicle, and periodic maintenance (mainly changing the SVO filter and tightening hose clamps), and a high tolerance for experimentation and troubleshooting, and an on-going effort to collect and filter fuel unless you can purchase filtered oil.  The diesel system is unaltered, but in order to deliver hot vegetable oil to the engine you need to have a vegoil tank, pump, and filter, and that system needs to be heated mainly with engine coolant and also some electric heat.  Once it's complete, you just put straight vegoil into the tank, warm up the engine on diesel/biodiesel, flip the switch after 3-5 minutes and you're on straight vegetable oil. 
     The hardest part of any conversion is routing fuel, water and electric lines, which means drilling holes in your car and thinking it through.  In Montana, ALL fuel line must be married with hot water lines if you want to drive through the winter. 
     Next comes the challenge of collecting and filtering used cooking oil.  Firstly, there is no kit or set of plans that you can start with that will work without major modifications.  Secondly, used oil is increasingly hard to find (see collecting oil info below).  The smaller the quantity, the easier it is to filter but people commonly do not dewater their fuel which will ruin the engine after 10-30k miles (so it will seem like it is working for quite some time). 

     Also, collecting oil requires an agreement with the restaurant AND the current oil collector.  TAKING OIL FROM DRUMS BEHIND RESTAURANTS IS THEFT FROM WHOEVER OWNS THE DRUM & THE OIL.  You've probably seen it in the news by now, and it's no light matter:  Why do oil collectors despise this?  Because people who illegally collect generally take only the best oil from the top of the drum, leaving the dregs for someone else to dispose of, and they commonly leave messes behind and leave lids off to collect rain water.  There's nothing worse than showing up to collect oil to find that there is none, only drums partially full of water and dregs, which are difficult to remove and worthless.  The oil collector is on a schedule and depends on a consistent volume of oil to balance usage needs.  Please do not punish those who are serious about using used cooking oil by pilfering their supply.  We are responsible for collecting the oil year round and not leaving restaurants in the lurch.  If you're doing this because you are traveling, then consider the fact that you will not be able to dewater the oil while you're on the road unless you have a very elaborate mobile filtering system.  I will gladly sell you filtered, dehydrated oil which will not clog your filter.
     This web site lists Choice Energy's oil sources and I ask that those sources are respected.  Since the oil is valuable and finite in volume, it can quickly become scarce.  If you choose to collect your own oil and have a hard time finding any, it is simply due to a first come, first serve situation.  The people who have invested vast amounts of time and significant financial resources to experiment with the fuel have first right to the fuel for which they are collecting under contract with the restaurant.  I make the fuel available for purchase to allow travelers as well as locals to skip the whole collection/filtration fiasco and go right to the fun part of driving a converted vehicle.  Filtering is not easy on a small scale, as large vessels and lots of heat are the key, which fills up a garage in a hurry.  By using an SVO boiler to do the heating, which is already running to heat the renewable energy demonstration guest house, I've been able to accomplish the job petroleum free for a mere $12k investment.  If you think there is lots of money in collecting and filtering 'free' oil, think again.  Unless you go large scale it is more work than anyone I know cares to take on.  I started into this when diesel was well under $2/gal, so you know I'm not in it for the $$$.  To be able to buy filtered & dehydrated oil at $2/gal including road tax is cheaper than any small scale filtration system.  I wish I wasn't the first one to do it here so I could just skip that 3 years and simply fill up with high quality SVO.  For a $60 life-time membership you too can purchase fuel the easy way.

Fuel Choice:

BD - commercially produced

BD -
homebrew from virgin oil

BD homebrew from used oil





Very involved


Vehicle Conversion?




Add heated fuel system, $1000-3000

Driving Habits Short or long trips Short or long trips Short or long trips 20-mile minimum to warrant switchover
Season of Use B5-20 in winter,
B99 in summer
B5-20 in winter,
B99 in summer
B5-20 in winter,
B99 in summer
Full strength SVO year round

Cost of fuel

About the same as diesel

$1-2/gal plus time and $5-10k in equipment

$1-2/gal plus time and $5-10k in equipment

Half the price of diesel for clean filtered oil

Advantages Quick and painless

Lower emissions

Smells great, won't wrinkle your nose

Great for your engine

Lower emissions

Great for your engine

Lower emissions

Great for your engine if you brew it correctly

Cheapest in long run

Lowest emissions (no petroleum in fuel)

Great for your engine

Run full strength all year (after diesel or biodiesel startup)

Disadvantages Roughly the same price as diesel fuel

Must blend down to 5-20% BD in cold temperatures in Montana

requires homebrewing

requires source of virgin oil

Must blend down to 5-20% BD in cold temperatures in Montana

requires homebrewing

different recipe every time

requires source of used oil

Must blend down to 5-20% BD in cold temperatures in Montana

Requires vehicle conversion

Requires thinking while you drive to coordinate switchover from diesel to SVO

Must carry fuel or arrange purchase on road trips

(taken from National Biodiesel Board web site in April 2012)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions of biodiesel burning vehicles is reduced by >75% as compared to petroleum diesel
* Particulate emissions reduced by 47%
* Unburned Hydrocarbons reduced by 67%
* Ozone forming compounds reduced by 50%
* Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduced by 48%
* Sulfur Oxides (SO2, acid rain) at the tailpipe reduced by 100% since BD has no sulfur content, and by 2006 diesel fuel had to contain no more than 15 parts per million sulfur (former standard was 500 ppm), however, lowering the sulfur content of petro diesel also removes lubricity
* PAH (human health cancer causing compounds) reduced by 80
* NOx (nitrous oxide) essentially unchanged to plus 10%

* 550% Fossil Fuel Efficiency: (reference) for every unit of fossil fuel energy used to produce biodiesel, 5.5 units of energy is returned - compare that to 83% efficiency of petroleum diesel

* Non-toxic and biodegradable: USDA tests conclude that biodiesel is 10 times less toxic than table salt
* Does not burn on its own:
throw a match into a drum of biodiesel and the match goes out

Borrowed from Portland's Biodiesel Coop
GRAPH KEY: THC = total hydrocarbons CO = carbon monoxide NOx = nitrogen oxides PAH = polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons nPAH = nitrated PAH B20 = 20% biodiesel, 80% diesel B100 = 100% biodiesel Source: Cincinatti Office of Environmental Management & US Department of Energy NREL studies. World Energy studies show significantly lower emissions.

Current Supply of BD
All biodiesel is obtained thru Story Distributing, who buys it locally from Full Circle Biofuels.  It is fully ASTM certified fuel, and CURRENLY AVAILABLE AT A 5-20% BLEND AT PACIFIC PRIDE IN BELGRADE, seasonally blended (20% in summer, 5% in winter).

A note about Story Distributing:  Yellowstone Park obtains all of its Biodiesel thru Story, and frankly the only reason the Bozeman area has any biodiesel available is due to Story Distributing's Dan Alexander's devotion to biofuels.  Dan has consistently worked with Bozeman Biofuels and provided great information for our endeavors and endless support of our ideas. 

Biodiesel Websites  National Biodiesel Board web site- the Official Industry web site   A complete resource on Biodiesel  Willy Nelson's Biodiesel company website, promoting Truck Stop Bio Diesel availability across the country, great designs of garage-scale Biodiesel production, as well as SVO   Detailed plans for using an old electric water heater to make Bio Diesel (Note that there are 5 pages total there)  General info and links   Technical question website  
        SAVE organization Helena, MT  Great news on Biodiesel  
        Cetane defined and described

SVO Web Sites    Most affordable kit out there and a long history of use
        http://biodiesel.infopop Forum with SVO conversion info and BD resources  
        click here Practical steps to converting, starting with WasteVO collection 

Renewable Energy Education
       RETScreen Canadian Government Website  A wealth of information on wind, solar heating, solar electric, biomass, heat pumps, micro-hydro


BD  Biodiesel
DIY  Do It Yourself
SVO  Straight Vegetable Oil
WVO  Waste Vegetable Oil (usually collected from restaurants with deep fat fryers)
UVO  Used Vegetable Oil


A Note on "WASTE" and how Europe defines it:
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005 18:57:08 +0100

From: "John Nicholson" <>
Subject: RE: new member - have question about license

The disposal of used cooking oil as an
additive to animal feed has been banned in
all European nations, and this ban has been
implemented in the Republic of Ireland longer
than in the UK. Material only becomes a
'waste' when it has been disposed of by the
holder. If there is an alternative non-waste
pathway for any material outside the waste
stream then the holder does not need to
dispose of it. Material so collected as a
commodity for a specific purpose is not
regarded as a waste and therefore does not
fall to Waste Management Regulation. Even
though some waste materials are regarded as
controlled waste' they are not waste unless
and until they are disposed of.
Article three of the European Waste Framework
Directive sets out clearly the requirement
for all member nations to reduce the creation
of waste by creating markets for materials
that would otherwise become a waste disposal
problem and also by the development of new
technology less demanding of resources. What
we are doing in Bio-power in terms of
collecting quality used cooking oils fits in
with both of these requirements. We prevent
the unnecessary creation of a waste by
providing a non-waste pathway for quality
material. This encourages the better care of
used cooking oil, so fat users look after
their oil better, and change their oil more
regularly. We often sell oil to fat users
and so we benefit twice over if if they
change their fat more often. As part of this
process we also encourage the use of lower
cholesterol oils and even a percentage of
olive oil in cooking oil blends. Olive oil
is actually good for you.
John Nicholson.
Bio-power UK Ltd.







Renewable Energy Integrators