Biodiesel can be produced from plant and animal oils via a simple chemical reaction. The major component of oils are triglycerides.
Figure 1: Triglycerides consist of glycerol (red) linked to three fatty acid chains (blue). Triglycerides (fats) react with methanol to produce glycerol and biodiesel.
An alcohol can be used to remove the fatty acid molecule and produce biodiesel. This reaction requires a basic or acidic catalyst such as NaOH.
The reaction will only take place if there is a catalyst (e.g. NaOH) and the mixture is heated to 60oC.