Biodiesel Homebrew Supplies In the East Bay:
Methanol: ERC (Engine Research Co), San Lorenzo. Lewelling St in San Lorenzo- 880 to
Hesperian Blvd, call them for exact directions
Bring your own fuel cans, drums or carboys. Drums available there with a hefty deposit,
including 15-gallon drums. For static control safety, don‟t let the kids who work there there fill
up plastic carboys while on your truck (they have this bad habit)- take plastic cans down and put
them on the ground first before filling (it‟s OK to do this to metal containers though).
Methanol is about $2.25 a gallon with volume discounts available
Also at ERC: Bung wrenches for opening drums- $7,
lightweight PVC snap lids for keeping rain off of storage drums- $2
Hours: usually 9-5:30, and 9-12 on sat. winter hours differ
Supposedly there are cheaper suppliers of methanol if you buy entire drums. Redwood Oil in sonoma is one popular
supplier, and supposedly there‟s a cheapish Methenex supplier in Oakland called Ashland.
thLye and KOH: Pacific Coast Chemical, 4 St, Berkeley
Need business license or other proof of being a legitimate business to shop there. I got around this
by faxing them an order form from a construction business- so they don‟t look too closely, at least on very common chemicals like NaOH (drain cleaner etc).
Cash only. 99% NaOH - $40 for 55 lbs, 90% KOH similar
Red Devil Lye drain cleaner (and only Red Devil) is 99% pure and still makes affordable
stSulfuric acid: 96% : Alameda Chemical on 81 st in Oakland-
also need legit business license or other letterhead (fax it there first?). 96% sulfuric acid, 4
gallons per case.
Phosphoric acid available there for a good price as well.
Lab supplies: LabPro in Sunnyvale- burettes, glassware, squeeze bottles, phenolpthaleine, pH
strips, etc- supposedly good prices. 408-745-0222 th“San Pablo Flea Market‟ (junk dealer on san pablo near 60) usualy has surplus glassware
including small graduated cylinders, and usually pipettes, also UC Berkeley does surplus auctions
periodically which have included labware.
Depot for Creative Reuse also has surplus glassware sometimes. EBay has a lab equipment section and there seem to be a few vendors who regularly sell new lab
glassware and scales there.
Scientifics (look online) has a catalog with good prices for glassware, lab supplies, pH strips,
Plastics suppliers such as Consolidated Plastics and US Plastics also sell labware such as large
plastic beakers, graduated cylinders, and squeeze bottle reagent dispensers for titration
Carboys (used as „gas cans‟ and methoxide mixers. Must have vent caps):
Containers Unlimited in San Leandro sell them for about $7 each in 36-can palletloads. (510) 430
– 0503. We periodically do a group order there. They also sell new drums, open and closed head,
including 30-gallon drums. They also sell cleaned „totes’ – IBC‟s- the 275 gallon HDPE tanks we use for oil and fuel storage, for $125
Us plastics (catalog), Tap plastics (retail stores locally) and Consolidated plastics (catalog) sell
carboys/jerricans for about $10
Scales: Triple beam balance scales are often at the flea markets for under $30. They‟re usually on
eBay and Craigslist as well. Electronic scales are very nice but have small capacity (usually 120
grams versus 600 in the triple beam) which introduces chance of error when measuring large
Phenol Red works fine for titration. It‟s $1.50 a bottle at Tubmakers on Ashby (near OSH), and
at other swimming pool supply places. Isopropyl alcohol used for titration can be 91% from the
drug store. Syringes and eyedroppers graduated in ml can be found at the drugstore, and work fine for making biodiesel and testing oil, though pipettes/pipette pumps/burettes are much more
accurate and can be found at LabPro, Scientifics, and on eBay. 99% (optional for titration but
nice) isopropyl is at auto parts stores under the name IsoHeet Gas Line Antifreeze. Iso-Heet is
the red bottle and is isopropyl. The yellow bottle called Heet is 99% methanol, which can be
used for making liter batches.
I recommend using nitrile gloves for general protection, and getting an expensive pair of PVC
gloves for methanol handling only (nitrile lets methanol through, but is cheap. You‟ll probably
rip lots of gloves so keep the pricey ones for methanol only.
Do not use respirators, there are no cartridge respirators which are effective against methanol
fumes and methanol migrates right through. A particulate cartridge is probably a good idea to
protect against lye dust when measuring lye.
Safety eyewear is a must, eyewash station or eyewash bottles is recommended for sites.
Goggles, gloves (green nitrile- $2 a pair) and eyewash stations are at Grainger on Potter St in
Berkeley. You have to have a business license to shop there but they usually allow a one-time
cash sale if you beg and plead.
Industrial Supplies: Grainger is also a source of pumps, valves, rupture disks and pressure relief
valves, bearings, thermometers, and other equipment.
McMaster-Carr (no retail stores) is another important supplier of industrial equipment and parts.
Look online and get a catalog.
Filters: I use the „whole house water filters‟ from Culligan or Sears. They‟re about $15 at
Yardbirds and most hardware stores sell some version for $20. Replacement cartridges in 5
micron are about $3. Don‟t get the clear acrylic filters in this case, not biodiesel-proof
There are a number of industrial filter suppliers in town, look in the phone book. You can
probably get a 5 micron for the same price as water filters, and sometimes can find reasonably
priced water separators in the same unit.
Waterblock filters (ie water separators) from Harbor Freight are useful for fuel stored in tanks in
winter, in addition to a 5 micron (they won‟t work for dewatering oil) . You will also need a pump or good gravity feed arrangement to use filters. I used a drill pump from Sears ($5.50) for a
long time- they break fast if used with oil, but seem to hold up to biodiesel for a few months. The
1” Clear Water pumps from Harbor Freight ($30 or so) are also used by many people for this.
They are not selfpriming, so you might want a foot valve (harbor Freight?) to keep them primed,
or use a bottom-draining storage tank to feed them. Greasel.com and biofuels.ca sell filter socks
and filter cones in something like 5 micron- these are pour-through rather than pump-through,
cheap, and last forever with biodiesel.
The flea markets:
Coliseum Flea Market is near the Coliseum BART (bring a bike, it‟s a few blocks) and can be
seen from 880 and the Coliseum exit. It‟s open tue-sun and is huge.
Laney Flea Market in downtown oakland is open on weekends
Ashby flea market is at Ashby BART station on weekends
Marine swap meets are useful and cheap source of filters, renewable energy
equipment/inverters/solar panels/12V stuff, pumps, things that run on diesel and kerosene
(lanterns/stoves/heaters) and gas cans. They seem to happen every couple of months, and are
advertised in the events section of Latitudes 38 magazine, which is free at the West Marine stores
(one of which is across the street from Grainger on Potter St).
Huysman‟s auctioneers are online somewhere with a schedule of local auctions and what is in them. Their auctions often turn up fuel tanks, transfer tanks, trailers, and other farm stuff that‟s useful for fuel/oil storage and handling. Also diesel cars and large trucks turn up periodically.
Auctioneer Jack Young is a Burnveggies list member and sometimes advertises upcoming stuff
on the list.
Metal, tanks, processor parts, and assorted salvage: nd st recycling yard off of Gilman, often turns up useful stuff. The metal recycling area of the 2
it‟s hit-and-miss but I‟ve found a lot of gear I‟ve used for biodiesel there.
“Alco” in oakland/alameda (?) is a metals recycler which is many welders‟ source for raw
materials. Richmond has another one called Action Metal Recycling on Richmond Parkway.
Old water heaters to use as processors turn up on Big Trash Night in Berkeley, in the metal ndrecycling area at the yard on 2 st, and often plumbing companies will give you an old one. New
water heaters can be as low as $160 for a 40 gallon electric (electric ones are ideal, but gas ones
can be used with an inline electric heater if necessary). Used water heaters sometimes have
leaking tanks. Solar installers sometimes pull functional, large water storage or electric heater
tanks out of jobs.
Bags and Barrels in Hayward- 510 732- 1333 sells recycled drums, drum lids ($3), and other containers. I believe they‟ll take drums for recycling also.
Napa Paint in Napa CA has totes (IBC‟s) for about $30 periodically. You have to clean them of
some chemicals though.
Stainlesstanks.com online is a dealer of food service equipment, and huge used stainless tanks
go for about $1 a gallon capacity.
Depot for Creative Reuse on San Pablo Ave sells used bubblewrap, which is very useful as a waterproof insulation for processors used outdoors. It can also be predictably found in the thdumpsters of the retail shops on 4 st (just north of University) in Berkeley. Plastic-encapsulated
fiberglass insulation (not waterproof) is cheapest at Home Depot ($8 for a big roll)
Bataeff‟s Salvage in Santa Rosa has lots of tanks. There‟s also some kind of recycling/reuse yard
associated with the dump in santa rosa, where agricultural surplus supposedly ends up.
Triangle Supply in San Jose is supposedly a good source for stainless steel medical or research or
food processing gear including tanks.
East Bay Restaurant Supply off of 880 in Oakland has wire shelving (Metro Racks) like the ones I use for processor stands ($30 for a 24” x 30”). This stuff also turns up in metal recycling quite
often. Look for the heavy duty version with a reinforced middle rib, it‟s rated for 1000 lbs
Yardbirds‟ is the cheapest source for plumbing and electrical supplies in the area, and is a nice
local alternative to Home Depot. The closest one is in Richmond, there‟s one in san rafael too.
The Richmond one is a couple of bikable miles from BART.
Ball Valves cost about $6-$12 at local stores They‟re much cheaper at Harbor Freight ($3 for ?”,
$4 for ?”, $5 for 1”)
Very cheap ball valves and pumps for various applications are at Harbor Freight. The nearest
one is in Vallejo, but there are a few others nearby:
Vallejo: 5201 sonoma blvd, 707- 645- 0185
Newark: 39155 cedar blvd, 510- 793- 5425
Santa Rosa: 930 Piner Rd, 707 544 6442
Harbor Freight‟s competitor is Northern Tool, there‟s not a local store but both places are
primarily catalog sales: Northern: 800- 533 5545. They stock slightly different equipment, very
cheaply made in China, for our purposes it‟s primarily ranch/farm supply gear, pumps, material
handling equipment, foot valves, drum deheader tools, etc… A local version of Harbor Freight is Bonanza Tools on International in Oakland. They sell stuff
like drum pumps, cheapo Chinese tools, etc.
Air stones: I use aquarium ones but they dissolve in a few weeks. I prefer to make my own out of
cheap sharpening stones ($1 at the flea market, Harbor Freight, Bonanza…) by silicone-caulking
an aquarium air line into them. You still need an aquarium air pump.
Surplus Center- look for them online and request a catalog. They‟ve got GREAT prices on
surplus pumps, pulleys, bearings, motors, etc…
Temperature gauges: I recommend automotive mechanical type- they‟re at every auto parts
store- but the ones at Pep Boys are particularly sturdy (and come in the correct temperature
Tinkers‟ Workshop is a good place to ask for help when you need to make sense of this all. 1336
Channing Way, Berkeley 644 2577
Burnveggies list is the local biodiesel/svo email list, and I have often found needed parts just by
asking on the list: www.goblin.punk.net/mailman/listinfo/burnveggies