In this study, chicken fat biodiesel with synthetic Mg additive was studied in a single-cylinder, direct injection (DI) diesel engine and its effects on engine performance and exhaust emissions were studied. A two-step catalytic process was chosen for the synthesis of the biodiesel. Methanol, sulphuric acid and sodium hydroxide catalyst were used in the reaction. To determine their effects on viscosity and flash point of the biodiesel, reaction temperature, methanol ratio, type and amount of catalyst were varied as independent parameters. Organic based synthetic magnesium additive was doped into the biodiesel blend by 12 μmol Mg. Engine tests were run with diesel fuel (EN 590) and a blend of 10% chicken fat biodiesel and diesel fuel (B10) at full load operating conditions and different engine speeds from 1800 to 3000 rpm. The results showed that, the engine torque was not changed significantly with the addition of 10% chicken fat biodiesel, while the specific fuel consumption increased by 5.2% due to the lower heating value of biodiesel. In-cylinder peak pressure slightly rose and the start of combustion was earlier. CO and smoke emissions decreased by 13% and 9% respectively, but NOx emission increased by 5%. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.