Biodiesel manufacture

In 2007 Energy Safety became aware that some biodiesel manufacturing plant available in New Zealand did not meet electrical safety requirements.

The use of flammable materials in biodiesel manufacture

From an electrical safety point of view, storage and handling of biodiesel and biodiesel blends made that conform to the New Zealand specification in the Engine Fuel Specifications Regulations 2011, does not require special electrical equipment.

However, chemicals used in manufacturing biodiesel, including methanol and ethanol, are sufficiently flammable that they can be ignited by ordinary electrical equipment. For this reason they require the use of electrical equipment specifically designed to prevent the ignition of flammable materials.

The consequences of ignition or explosion of flammable materials in or around a biodiesel manufacturing plant and the spread of a fire or explosion are significant. It is critical that the selection and installation of all electrical equipment used for the manufacture of biodiesel is suitable and safe in the presence of flammable materials.

The same safety precautions must be taken with all electrical equipment in the vicinity of biodiesel manufacturing plant, and any location where flammable feedstock is stored.

Selection and installation of electrical equipment for biodiesel plant

The correct selection and installation of electrical equipment that is safe in the presence of flammable materials requires specialist knowledge and skills, and its certification also requires an independent specialist.

Likewise, the presence of flammable materials in biodiesel manufacture means the use of any naked flame, for instance from gas fuelled heating equipment, in the vicinity of biodiesel manufacturing plant is considered dangerous.

Energy Safety recommends that before any biodiesel manufacturing plant is connected to a supply of electricity that its safety is verified by a licensed electrical worker with expertise in dealing with electrical equipment for flammable hazard areas.

Biodiesel plant should not be used unless or until its safety is verified in this manner.

Documentation

Before you decide to buy biodiesel manufacturing plant or electrical equipment used in association with biodiesel manufacture, make sure you get documentation from the vendor or vendors confirming the equipment's safety and suitability for use in New Zealand. For your safety this documentation should be checked by a suitably qualified electrical worker.

The documentation should contain safety instructions for the plant's operation and maintenance. It is critical that these instructions are followed to ensure that the special electrical safety techniques are maintained. Any plant that does not have adequate documentation cannot be regarded as being safe and you should not consider buying, connecting or operating it.