This is a story that illustrates some of the adventures one can experience once they start making biodiesel.
There was a certain brand of drain cleaner that we use as a catalyst for biodiesel, as it’s contents were 100% sodium hydroxide (lye), which is pretty much all a homebrewer can use for making biodiesel with.
One day a few years ago I came across a piece of news that the company who made the lye was changing it’s formula, and was no longer offering a 100% lye product, in order to discourage people who were using it to make methamphetamine. I read the news on a biodiesel homebrewer forum, along with the news that homebrewers across the country were buying up the last of the existing stock as quickly as they could.
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You may (or may not) be aware that biodiesel is usually made with vegetable oil, lye and methanol. You may also know (or not know) that there are other alternative ingredients that are in various stages of use, research and development.
The diesel engine, when it was unvieled by it’s inventor Rudolph Diesel at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900, was running on peanut oil. Diesel designed it to run on mineral oil, but the French government, which had colonies in Africa where peanuts were grown, made the suggestion to test the engine on peanut oil.
(see this page for a brief intro to biodiesel)
One of the main arguments about biodiesel is that the use of food crops for vehicle fuel is unsustainable and contributes to global food shortages. This is true enough when the feedstock for biodiesel is vegetable oil. However, soy, canola, palm trees and other food crops are not the only things you can extract oil from. For the most part, the following alternatives involve feedstocks that don’t require the use of arable land. There are some emerging alternatives to canola and soy, such as camelina, and hemp, but they still require the use of arable land, so I have not included them here. To be fair, crops that are being grown for livestock feed can be pressed of their oil, then fed to livestock (and actually be easier for the livestock to digest), but I am not in favour of the livestock industry, and thus not considering alternatives that require or enable cattle ranching.
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A plain language explanation of Biodiesel and Straight Vegetable Oil technology. No auto repair experience required.
This intro is going to focus on diesel engines, and oil based fuels. Ethanol and other homemade fuels can be used in gasoline engines, but I have less experience/knowledge of that, and will save it for another essay.
This is not meant to be a step-by-step tutorial, but more of an introduction to and explanation of the process. There are many tutorials online. Here’s a good one (How to Make Biodiesel at Home). There’s a great online forum as well. (Biodiesel and SVO forums)
Avoid the site Journey to Forever, which is easy to stumble across when first looking for info. It is out-of-date and has quite a few errors. Eventually I’ll post my own tutorial on this site.
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Fed up with high prices at the pump and the state’s growing dependence on the oil industry, Taygan said he is “walking the talk” and using leftover frying oil from local restaurants to make fuel for his 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit truck and 1975 Mercedes. Both vehicles are powered by diesel engines and, after slight modifications, run perfectly off the canola and soy oil retrieved from Soupy’s Cafe and Jalapenos restaurants in Eagle River.
Sitting among the apple orchards that dot the top of Oak Hill Road in Harvard, Eric Broadbent’s house may well be the perfect site for a windmill some day. Broadbent is working on calibrating his anemometer to track the wind speeds himself, but said he’s heard reports that Oak Hill has seen wind gusts of 80 mph. He does hope to “do a wind project” there eventually, he said. But in the meantime, he has his sights set on smaller — though hardly less complicated — alternative energy projects. This summer he and his sons — Charlie, Jack and Scot — tackled the conversion of a 1981 Mercedes 300D to run on vegetable oil.
Diesel fuel in Canada will be blended with a minimum of 2-percent renewable biodiesel by 2012, if federal environment officials get their way.
The country’s proposed Clean Air Act – a work in progress – includes an alternative fuels package as environmental analysts had predicted.
Dexter, Mo. — Jerry Bagby is typical of the oilmen who are prospecting for a fortune in the Midwestern biofuels boom. He’s convinced there’s oil in these hills — and he’s found a well that no one else is using.
Bagby and a longtime friend have cobbled together $5 million to build a new biodiesel plant on the lonely croplands outside this southeast Missouri town. They’re betting they can hit paydirt by exploiting a generally overlooked natural resource that’s abundant in these parts — chicken fat.
By Ed Taylor, Tribune
December 2, 2006
Arizona Public Service and a Massachusetts-based company called GreenFuel Technologies Corp. have launched a project they hope will solve two problems at once — reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants while creating domestic fuel for motor vehicles.
The Emissions-to-Biofuels project at APS’s Redhawk Power Station uses algae that feed on the carbon dioxide produced at the power plant to turn the gas into biodiesel and ethanol fuels. (read more)
By ETHAN MAIER
It’s the newest trend in energy.
It runs cleaner and produces up to 65 percent fewer pollutants than most diesel fuels we have access to today. It also works in any diesel engine that is post-1990 without any modifications.
Even better, it is cheaper than anything you can find at your local gas pump. (read more)
While some see algae as the ideal source for biofuels, industry watchers at ThinkEquity’s Greentech Summit in San Francisco on Thursday said the technology is likely to be years away.
“Algae, as a biodiesel feedstock, is further out than cellulosic ethanol,” said Martin Tobias, CEO of biodiesel company Imperium Renewables, referring to ethanol from materials like wood chips, switchgrass, and corn stover.
Algae simply aren’t available in large-enough quantities right now, he said. (read more)