Epic Failure

Well today is what I call an epic failure.

I did learn some things though, and the biggest thing I learned is to never assume that a label that says a water heater holds 45 gallons means that it actually does. Mine holds 24. Baffling, for sure, but more than that, frustrating. long story short, I ended up with methoxide and oil all over the place. Luckily, no one was hurt and I managed to get it all cleaned up. But I’m not happy.

So, for everyone out there, here’s a lesson I’ve learned that hopefully you won’t have to. Always verify volume. This goes along with some of the other lessons I’ve learned like, never put biodiesel in a non-biodiesel proof plastic container, or it may dissolve and make a mess; never stick your hand in a bucket of liquid of unknown PH, because that can hurt; never ever touch open electrical contacts on your processor while it’s plugged in, because that hurts too.There’s probably a lot more things I’m not thinking of, but these are the big ones.

Learn from my mistakes. Seriously.

Cheers,

-Nathan

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Filed under Biodiesel, biofuel, diesel, epic failure, SVO, Uncategorized, vegi oil, WVO

Instructables Show and Tell to be held in Boone!

Well, it looks like it’s going to happen. I will be hosting an instructables show and tell for instructables members in North Carolina and anywhere within driving distance.

The 2 possible dates for this event are october 18th, and November 8th. It will most likely be at the Bald Guy Brew in the evening.

If anyone’s interested in attending please post on this forum topic.

-Nathan

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Filed under green, Instructables, Uncategorized

What is Biodiesel?

What is biodiesel anyways?

Well, biodiesel is a wonderful diesel fuel made from an organic oil, an alcohol, and a catalyst. In my case, and the case of most home-brewers, the oil is waste vegetable oil (WVO), the alcohol is methanol, and the catalyst is either NaOH (sodium hydroxide) or KOH (potassium hydroxide).

Biodiesel is compatible in most diesel engines. People talk about converting an engine for biodiesel, but this is inaccurate. There is no conversion necessary unless the fuel lines in the car are older than 1985 and are still rubber lines. All you have to do in that case is switch them to Viton or some other plastic that won’t be corroded by the biodiesel. Many recent cars come with engines that are for ultra-low sulfur diesel; these don’t go well with biodiesel. Other than that, switching to biodiesel is rather easy, and so is making the biodiesel.

In a nutshell all you have to do to make biodiesel is filter the oil, heat the oil, mix the catalyst and alcohol, add that to the heated oil, let all this react, drain the glycerin, and wash the fuel. Now, it’s a lot more than just that, but that’s the gist of it. You do have to make sure you get all the water out of your oil, that you use the right mount of catalyst, use compatible plastics, etc.

I go over the process of making the fuel in much more detail here.

The oil can be hard to get your hands on, legally. You want to make sure you use oil that’s still high enough quality that it will react to make biodiesel. Fast-food places like Macdonalds or Burger King tend to burn their oil quite badly. They do this mainly to get all the life out of the oil that they can, but by doing this they’ve made it unusable for most biodiesel home-brewers. Find a nice restaurant that will let you take their oil; write up a contract if you can. Asian restaurants typically have the best oil. REMEMBER, never just take oil! People have been arrested, tried, and sentenced in the past year simply for ‘helpfully’ removing oil from restaurants. This is stealing, so I recommend against it. Note: One gallon of oil makes one gallon of biodiesel.

NaOH and KOH are both just basically lye, which is getting harder and harder to find because of the problems meth labs pose. Fortunately you can mail order it, and there are places in the US where you can still buy it.

Methanol is also a little tricky to get your hands on. Methanol is race car fuel, and you can buy it from anyone who sells racing fuel. There are also places that sell grade 2 methanol. Grade 2 methanol has 2% or less propylene glycol, and, I’m told, is typically mixed with water and used in tractor tires, to keep them from freezing. When you make biodiesel, the propylene glycol comes out with the glycerin. The difference between race-quality methanol and grade 2 methanol is the difference between $4.30-$5.00 a gallon and $1.25 a gallon. One thing to keep in mind is that you always use 5 parts oil to 1 part methanol. So, since it’s a gallon of methanol to 5 gallons of biodiesel that’s only $0.25 worth of methanol per gallon of biodiesel, plus other chemical costs.

One other thing you must always do is wash the fuel. Once you’ve made it, you need to get any excess anything out of it. There are several different methods for washing. Traditionally people have used water, and that pulls all the particulates and stuff out of the fuel. you do have to do this several times, and you have to dry it to get all the water out. It can be time consuming and can produce quite a bit of waste water.

The other method for washing is called dry washing. You can use magnesol or something similar and mix that with your fuel. This does the same thing as the water wash in a shorter amount of time. The downsides: magnesol adds to your cost, $0.15-$0.25 a gallon. Plus, you have to filter down to about one micron to get all the magnesol back out. Bag filters also add to the cost, but are reusable, so it’s not too bad.

All in all, biodiesel is looking like a good solution for a handful of people. The thing is, there’s not enough waste oil in the world for this to be a viable option for large quantities, but it’s a great option for DIY enthusiasts like me who can and want to do it.

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Filed under alternative energy, Biodiesel, biofuel, diesel, green, SVO, Uncategorized, vegi oil, WVO

That’s not honey!

It’s biodiesel! And I make it.

Hello to whoever reads this. My name is Nathan. I’m 17, a senior in high school, and I make biodiesel.

About a year and a half ago, January of ‘07, I was talking to a friend who had just opened a coffee shop and was looking to “go green”. He was talking about biodiesel, and how expensive it was at the time ($3.75!) and how he wished he could afford it. I told him he could make his own for a  lot less than that, he told me no he couldn’t, I told him he could, and he told me to go figure it out. So, a little over a year later, after many many hours of reading, research, and talking to folks at the university, I was making it. For less than a dollar a gallon.

This blog is for me to share, document, and talk about things I’ve learned over the last year and a half.

I’ll talk about biodiesel, Bald Guy Brew, my Peugeot, alternative energy, and whatever else strikes me as fascinating. Feedback is more than welcome!

Cheers!

-Nathan

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Filed under alternative energy, Biodiesel, biofuel, diesel, green, Peugeot, SVO, vegi oil, WVO