Lets keep the Earth green!

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Welcome to the Non-profit Fuel Cooperative!

If you care about our planet and everything living on it enough to want to do something about it NOW then you have come to the right place.  You realize that not being part of the solution means you are part of the problem?  If the answer is yes then read on otherwise you need to read up on the links at the end of this page and go do some serious soul searching. If you think that the health of the earth is important enough to warrant a little more effort than simply driving up to a pump and filling up and forking over a considerable amount of money to the very people who don't give a damn about this world then you might be the type of person who will get involved in this project.  WE NEED YOU! Please join the yahoo mail list if you want to get involved.

Localization!
"Go small and stay at home"!  This website is about offering people a way to produce their own fuel from locally obtained feed stock, typically oil from restaurant fryers, and all the information about how to build a system to do it, and the steps taken to process the oil and turn it into high quality fuel for a diesel engine.  Much of the way our modern society works (in the western world) is unsustainable.  Suburban life, driving to work, to the stores, buying products which are transported over thousands of miles using wasteful and polluting transportation methods, using petrochemicals to produce these products and foods, and more petrochemicals to package and transport them, choosing to buy products that are designed to be disposable rather than re-usable, it is all based on an addiction to an energy source that we have come to expect to be plentiful and cheap.  This has seemed the case, but it will not remain so. It was an illusion that we chose to believe in. We were encouraged to do so by corporations who care not about the future unless it is the future of their profit. That attitude is what led us to the problems we face today and it is not the attitude which will lead us to safety. Talk about carbon economy. Plants and algae that grew millions of years ago sequestered huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and stored it away in the form of crude oil effectively storing energy like a wound up spring.  It took many millions of years to do this and the environment gradually changed as a result.  What we have been doing within the last mere hundred years and especially within the last 50 is to quickly unwind that spring burning up the oil and releasing a lot of that carbon back to the atmosphere.  The climate is changing accordingly.  Should we expect it to be easy or convenient to undo the damage we have done? Of course not. But world demand for energy continues to rise and the demand is accelerating as undeveloped countries with large population bases, race to 'catch up' with the flawed model of the developed world.  Development can be a good thing but not when the forces that drive the development are derived from a system called capitalism which has as it's very essence a mandate for continuous expansion not a concern for long term sustainability which is what is necessary for continued life in a closed system like our planet. The days of cheap plentiful petroleum based energy and products is already over but like a juggernaut with so much momentum the early signs of disaster have little effect on the direction humanity is headed.  Except for some of us. My purpose here is to leave a trail of bread crumbs so that others can follow the path a little easier.  Hopefully a lot easier.  All the stuff I have learned about making biofuel is published here, I am not keeping any secrets.  The design details, rational of the design decisions, the parts lists and assembly instructions and also the operation manuals are all to be found here for free. The links are not obvious and you will have to read to find them.  This I have done on purpose, and is my way of weeding out those who will contact me without reading it, asking questions that are all already answered here.  These are the people seeking instant gratification which is also a notion which has been cleverly marketed to the masses and largely gobbled up willingly. It is also a factor, and one which is largely responsible for leading us to the edge of the abyss where we stand today. These are the people who also come to me asking for cheap fuel.  It doesn't take me more than a few moments talking with them to realize that they think biofuel is a cheaper substitute for petroleum and we can just carry on as always.  They just don't get it, and if this sounds like you, I urge you to read, read, read and think deeply and open your mind to the possibility of accepting some changes which may initially look unpleasant. Like walking and bicycling, like buying local organic produce, like avoiding disposable and convenience products, and so much more. Why am I doing this?  I believe in a social model called anarchosyndicalism which means that I want to work for the betterment of myself, my community and ultimately the world. This is a subject which is almost completely misunderstood, misrepresented by rebellious teens with funny hairdoos, and much maligned by corporatists who really fear and stand to lose control and a lot of money if joe average understood what anarchy really is and how much good people can do when properly motivated and empowered. I think anybody who cares about the future generations wants to preserve this world and live in a society that fosters peace and prosperity, so being an anarchist, I am highly motivated to work towards my full potential to help realize that goal, and most importantly to empower others to do the same for themselves.  You see I am selfish and it gives me great pleasure and personal satisfaction to think that I am doing something to help the world. I am only one person but by sharing my work openly and making it easier for others to do the same I hope I can contribute to making the world a better place.  I remind myself and others of the traditional African adage "This is not our world, we are only borrowing it from our children" 
Working together there is a way we can operate as a multitude which I believe is a way that individuals can work within a collective through a network in an absolutely democratic process to further their own individual interests, but the framework of multitude allows that to happen in a way which is not detrimental to the interests of the majority.  Multitude allows a social order which can operate according to network theory which is very much aligned with nature and I believe it to be the solution to the pitfalls of a hierarchical organizational structure.  I'd like to suggest you read the
book Multitude written by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt published in 2004. It is the most inspiring book on social order I have read in a long time.  Anyways in keeping with that inspiration, I offer this work through the medium most appropriate for it according to this new sociopolitical theory ( Is it really new or is it just the modern manifestation of old anarchist theory??) the world wide web.  So take the ball and run with it. I'm cheering for you.


Feb 23, 2009

How time flies!  Well over the last year I've been tinkering.  The powered hang glider thing has taken up all my spare time.  It is a labour of love. The unit is powered by a 120cc two stroke engine. Not the cleanest of entities.  I bought it out of necessity since I am the sole tow pilot of our new hang gliding club and when I have towed the others aloft I am stuck on the ground unless I want to fart around in the tug which burns about 18 l/hr and glides like a brick.  I said I would convert the unit to electric when I got it and I will one day; the low weight high power motors are already available as are the power controllers.  The issue remains with the batteries.  Although some have done it now with series/parallel strings of lithium polymer (LiPO) packs which will deliver somewhere around 300 amps at 50 volts or so they don't say much about their battery life. These batteries are so sensitive to charge and discharge cycles that it is very challenging to keep all the cells healthy within a pack and those packs cost thousands to make. Yikes!  I'm waiting for the day that a better battery or super light fuel cell comes along.....

In the mean time, I've been working like mad on converting the two stroke to run on ethanol.  First I have fitted the stock engine with temperature probes to show exhaust and cylinder head temperature.  I also added a lambda probe to the exhaust pipe to monitor oxygen and therefore mixture.  These sensors all need to be displayed and when I ended up with a huge awkward conglomeration of hand held displays hanging from an umbilical I decided that a new display was needed.  It is almost finished now.  The display shows all the data needed for flight, RPM, CHT, EGT, Lambda, Battery voltage and engine hours.  Since I needed a crank sensor to get RPM information I decided to also make the unit capable of outputting a signal to an electronic ignition module which I have yet to build.  This is important because running on ethanol requires a little more spark advance than gasoline.  Another difference is that ethanol benefits from higher compression so I have a re-machined head that ups the compression ratio from the stock 8.5:1 to an even 11.0:1 Ethanol has a different optimum fuel air ratio so I have changed the carb to a fully adjustable one which required several modifications to make it fit.  It runs well with the new carb on gasoline which is all I have tested so far.  This carb is a diaphragm type and I have designed a unit I refer to as tthe 'mixture minder' which actually takes control of the pressure compensation diaphragm in the carb and manipulates it via pneumatic pressure with a little circuit I built that gets a signal from the oxygen sensor and uses that to drive the diaphragm so that the lambda probe stays on target. This prevents the engine from richening when I climb to higher altitudes where the air is thinner and less fuel is required. Engines produce more HC in the exhaust when they run rich.  Obviously the reverse is also true and the circuit will also happily add fuel if more oxygen is available but I haven't tried adding any yet. ;^>

Plans are to test the instrument this season and put some airtime on it and then begin running ethanol blends with increasing ethanol quantity and see where that leads.  In the background I'll design and build the electronic ignition module and see what that adds especially with the higher ethanol blends.  Ethanol has much higher latent heat of evaporation than gasoline so there is a much more pronounced temperature drop in the carburettor than is the case with gasoline.  I have made provision for a temperature probe for the carb and the software I have written automatically detects whether the sensor is connected. If not it just displays the ambient temperature from a sensor mounted on the circuit board. If it detects a carb sensor then it reverts to displaying carb temperature which will be important for the running on ethanol because there is always the possibility of ice forming in the carb when there is high humidity in the air due to the cooling in the carb. Pilots like to keep an eye on stuff like that while they are flying around over forested areas. On the other hand all this cooling means that the air inhaled by the engine is significantly denser which means more power and since an air cooled two stroke engine gets a big portion of it's cooling from the intake charge cooling the crank case and botom of the piston face, I don't anticipate that the extra compression ratio will result in the typical increase in head temperature as it will when running on gasoline. This needs to be tested.  Potentially some of these issues can be tweaked by adjusting spark timing to some degree.  I have arranged my code so that the pilot can choose from different spark timing maps which can be manually selected. I am planning to optimize the timing map for fuel types which could perhaps look like one for staigh gas, one for E50 one for E85 and one for E100. I think that an engine that is fully tweaked to get the most out of ethanol can get more power than on gasoline but the changes are not backward compatible. In other words I could perhaps run 14:1 compression and xx degrees of spark advance with alcohol but then if I put gasoline into that same engine it would detonate and begone. I'm aiming for a happy medium so if I land out in some farm field I can go get some local gas and just dial back my spark timing to fly home.

I've also been lookin into the question of two stroke lubricants that work with these blends. Got a lot of little bottles of this and that in my lab now. The problem with petroleum based lubes is that they do not tolerate any moisture.  Ethanol loves to adsorb water, in fact it will pull it out of the air so any fuel with a significant percentage of ethanol is likely to contain a not so insignificant amount of water.  We can go to lengths to avoid this using metal cans and being careful but I'd like to design for real world conditions and real world people who tend to get lazy about the details at times so I went in search of a lubricant which tolerates water.  There has been much adoo about ethanol fuels ruining two stroke engines especially in the marine engine world where water in the fuel is even more likely.  I did tests and found that beyond a small percentage of water the gasoline and oil simply separate which spells death for a two stroke.  With higher concentrations of ethanol the problem gets worse.  E100 will not even mix with petroleum based lubricants. I tried co-solvents to try to keep the oil and ethanol to stay together.  I tried vegetable oil.  I tried biodiesel.  Now biodiesel is soluble in both gasoline and ethanol.  Opinions vary on how much is needed for proper engine lubrication but the problem with water got way better right away when I switched to plant base lubricants.  Kinda makes sense eh?  Castor oil is a vegetable oil which has a long history of use in racing engines due to it's tolerance for high heat and excellent lubricity. Turns out castor oil also has the amazing property of being a co-solvent for polar and non-polar molecules like water (polar) and hydrocarbons like gasoline (non-polar) There are some other co-solvents but they are more difficult to produce (energy intensive) and are more rare, thus less sustainable....dead end there.  Castor oil it turns out, even with E100 can tolerate a substantial amount of contamination with water before phase separation begins. Rather than adding co-solvents as a band-aid measure, I now had a lubricant which is also a co-solvent. It tends to emulsify at the onset of separation and the emulsions are fairly long lasting and I suspect that an emulsified fuel of this type could still be used so long as it is kept shaken every day or so. I don't think it would be hard to keep the water content below that point anyway but if there was mixed fuel from hot humid summer that got cold in the winter.....then it migh become an issue. There has been a lot of interest in emulsified fuels on the web of late. Gee I wonder why.  Well I guess good things stand the test of time.  When I was a kid I used to make my own fuel for the RC airplane engines using methanol from canadian tire and castor oil from the drugstore. They say when some folks get old they tend to revert to thier childhood.  Well I guess it's true. LOL.

Stay tuned for more....but I can't promise when.

June 27, 2008

Wow!  it's been a year since I made an update.  I've not been idle.  But then neither has the world.  Let's see....Oil now $141.50 a barrel.  Diesel about $1.40 a litre.  Stock market has hit a record low since the great depression.  On the other hand a mennonite man scratched his chin and smiled at me last night as he contemplated his first batch which passed the wash test and passed the methanol test in his self made 1700 litre vacuum reactor.  The smile said it all. Long weekend is here.....I'm going flying while I can still afford the fuel....

June 26, 2007

I'm working on some passive solar stuff which uses vacuum and an idea kinda like a ram pump.  If this works it's gonna be really cool cuz there's no moving parts except a couple of check valves and the system automatically circulates when the sun shines with no power input  (other than the sun).  Stay tuned for details.

June 11, 2007

The secretary general of OPEC just announced that the price of crude oil "will go through the roof" as a result of the move of the industrialized west toward biofuels.  LOL!  Read all about it here:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/aeb9a650-136e-11dc-9866-000b5df10621.html

In other news, sadly, due to lack of enrollment Everdale has informed me that they will not be running the biodiesel workshop this weekend.  :(


May 15, 2007

Just going over some stuff preparing for the course I'm gonna teach at Everdale in June and I realised I must have been on drugs when I designed the methoxide mixer originally.  I don't know why I specified welding a stainless fitting on the bottom of the stainless pot.  Considering that I use vacuum to draw the liquid into the system, all that is required is to route the methoxide delivery tube down into the pot from above.  This has the added advantage of being able to place the stainless pot into a plastic pail with no hole in the bottom so if there is ever a spill it affords secondary containment.  Swell!  Ok so I modified the docs and uploaded to the site.   BTW the golf is running sweet with the methanol injection.  Lotsa power!  Not that I condone laying rubber all over town but on the highway it sure gives that extra kick which is just the thing for passing on hills and blind curves when you need to be quick.  (Kidding of course) ;^>  I'll put a page together with pix and docs when I get time. Flying season has arrived so don't hold yer breath. Oh I added an update to the hang gliding page too.  Free plans for anyone who wants to copy my launch dolly.  Cheers. Sky out dudes. Fly safe.

May 04, 2007

So I've been making progress on the flexfuel Golf TDI.  All the hardware is installed for the alcohol injection system and I have been using it with the methanol I recover from making biodiesel.  Granted methanol is not a biofuel but if it works with methanol then it will work with ethanol and when I start making ethyl esters (which is the next science project) it will be ready.  I'm building a page specifically for the description of the alcohol system and I'll add a link here when the data is ready for human consumption.

April 27, 2007

Big news!  I am now the manager of the  Center for Advanced  Photovoltaic Devices and Systems. I'll be spending a lot of my personal time in this field now as well, so I guess this means a lot less time for biodiesel work but on the other hand I'm finally working in a job that is not at odds with my environmental ideals. YAHOOO. ( Party at my place :)  I always believed the future is in solar for meeting the energy needs of this planet.  It's a no brainer. Now I get to work on the cutting edge and believe me there is a lot of stuff going on in this field.  A few years ago I started some research of my own on nanostructured films for blackbodies and developed a film with dense silicon columns 100 nm wide and 400 nm tall.  The surface was the blackest thing I have ever seen.  Since then some industrious students have improved the technique getting the column diameter down around 10nm !  This is in the order of the bohr radius for silicon which means the band gap of the material no longer conforms to the classical and well understood model for bulk silicon material. In laymans terms this means we can tailor the light response of the material to convert photons from a broader spectrum of light which means silicon solar cells stand to be much higher efficiency without high cost! I hope that we will be able to develop technology that will allow everyone to produce all the power they need for themselves.  My own interest in the structures was as a nanotextured heat exchanger material as part of a thermoacoustic heat engine again for converting solar energy to electrical energy.  If anybody out there knows anything about phonon resonance in ferroelectric materials I'd like to buy you a beer.


April 22, 2007

This date marks the day that Chris Muller passed into the sky.  His death was a tragedy but his life was anything but.  Mark the thermals for us Chris.  Pura Vida.

Update Mar 6, 2007....Finaly got permission to link to pics of the beast Feb 20,2009....HERE IT IS thanks Rod!

Ok so it's time to admit that I have been working in secret on something BIG!  A co-op scale reactor capable of doing 1000 to 1500 litres at a time.  So far the biggest volume reacted was 1100 litres but there is room enough in the reactor vessel for about 1500 litres.  The system is producing high quality fuel.  I have promised the owner not to divulge the location of this system or other details which could give away the location, but this is big news and I felt I had to share at least the fact that I know how to build a system that big and that it works well. Vacuum processing rocks!  Well I've been telling you this all along right? There are so many advantages to using vacuum that I don't know why anyone would consider anything else! Anyhoo, the cooperative now has another option besides individual local scale production which I still feel is the proper approach to the issue considering what peakoil has in store for us and our culture of excess, but hey that is just me. Walk on. Apparently many folks who came to my meetings thought otherwise and would like a co-op that can make fuel centrally and just distribute it to it's members....tsk tsk....think of the carbon economy of that decision....I don't care if you are driving carbon neutral on your way to pickup your fuel....you are still wasting energy in so doing, but then I am not supreme dictator of this world ( uh...that would be someone else, but she doesn't talk to me anymore since December 17th when apparently her world turned to sunshine at last ...so....wtf).  Anyways the point is the co-op can build something grandiose if that's what you want.  Send me a message and let me know.

In other news petroleum diesel hit $1.00 per litre again this week. Not since the past summer have I seen it that high. The Burgan oilfield (one of the supergiant reserves of sweet crude) has recently peaked at 1.7 meelion barrels per day despite attempts by Kuaiti engineers to ramp production to 1.9 MB/day. Don't forget that back in 2005 they predicted that they would pump 2 million barrels a day for the next 30-40 years.  Right. The news media did mention the fact somewhere in the background....lol.....it worked, nobody seems to be aware of the fact.  Some folks seem to think the Saudi's are hiding similar stories but who knows? Guzzle on I guess. Sigh. Oh and I'm almost done a mod that will allow me to run methanol recovered from making biodiesel as another alternative fuel in the car. Ya that's right. This is so sweet. No more worries about drying the methanol to make it suitable to re-use in the next batch of biodiesel.  Also it makes for fab windshield washer fluid when diluted 50/50 with water.  I'll publish full details on how to inject methanol into a turbodiesel when I have everything working.  Damn I wish it wasn't so cold..... Hey when I get the kit from greasecar installed (which I promise I'll do this summer....it really doesn't suit my living room anyways) I'll be able to run petrodiesel, biodiesel, straight vegetable oil AND methanol.  I count 4. I guess you can say I have a multifuel vehicle. Giggle.

Update Jan 17, 2007

Everdale has invited me back to teach again this summer.  The course will run on the weekend of June 15-17th.  I don't think the course is listed yet on their web page but it will be.  This time the plan is for me to pre-assemble some of the system's sub components so assembly will be quicker and this will leave time to teach the process as well.  Everdale has graciously offered the use of their reactors for use in demonstrating the process on site.  Sweet.  It's all coming together  - see? there is a Great Spirit in the universe.  There is also talk of a seminar happening out in B.C. sometime early this year (when the weather is a tad nicer ....pleeeze) So stay tuned for details.

Update Dec 17, 2006

I found out that some women can be extremely heartless.  It's true.

Update July 19, 2006

I have been working on a step by step description of the process for making biofuel on the system.  I decided it was better to write two documents. One covers the single stage process which is useful when working with new or good quality used oil. The second document details a two stage acid -base process for more difficult feedstocks. I have published the documents under the copyleft license and as always, the links are embedded in the text.  Sorry no instant gratification here.  My time is very precious and I will not respond to emails from anyone who has obviously not taken the time to read all the material I have published on this website. All the information you need to do what I have done is there and on the pages in the external links section especially journey to forever. Take the ball and run with it.

Update June 19, 2006

I taught a course over the weekend (June 16-18, 2006) at Everdale farms which was a big success.  We built a 90 litre reactor over the weekend and now Everdale has two systems which they plan to use to produce biodiesel for their farm equipment.  They are growing oilseed crops and plan to press the oil out and use the pressed seed cake as a food supplement for farm animals.  The oil then gets rented to restaurant owners under an agreement so that it gets changed before it becomes so saturated that it is a health risk for the people eating the fried food ( By the way a lot of restaurants don't change their oil frequently enough and it means that they are frying food in oil that is highly saturated and very unhealthy! When I titrate oil before making biodiesel I find out just how saturated the oil is and some places have very unhealthy oil indeed!) The lightly used oil will then be picked up and turned into biodiesel for the farm equipment which is guaranteed to be easy with a single stage process due to the good oil quality.  I love this idea.  Everybody wins. Restaurants can claim they use healthy organic oil which is unsaturated, patrons get a healthier fried food, Everdale benefits 3 ways, the rental revenue stream, the seed cake, and in the end the biofuel. The environment benefits too. Awesome.

Update June 6, 2006

I am now concentrating on the next stage of the project which is upscaling the reactor to a 100 litre size tank.  Due to complexities associated with adding the heater interlock to the 36 litre size system, I have decided to go with the larger size system for the course I am going to teach.  The larger size will be more serviceable to the average needs of the fuel consumer anyways and will likely be the system on which the cooperative moves forward.  For information purposes I am looking into the possibility of demonstrating a batch process on the research size reactor in parallel with the reactor build course.  This is possible due to the fact that the process requires attention only intermittently and we can take breaks from the course and visit the reaction in progress from time to time over the weekend. I am awaiting confirmation from Everdale to see if this is possible.

What's the Point?

This website was created to promote and kick-start local biofuel production. I am developing a reliable and consistent biodiesel reactor which I am personally using. The reactor was designed to make biodiesel production simple enough for the average person to convert waste vegetable oil into high quality fuel consistently and easily.  The goal is to setup a few of these reactors so that members of a cooperative can manufacture their own fuel at cost similar to the way home made wine is produced.  Using this approach 90 liters of fuel can be made per batch. As interest and participation grows within the community more batch reactors can be added or if necessary the reactor size can be increased.  If you are interested in getting involved use the email link on this page to join the yahoo group and keep up to date with what is going on.

Currently any food vendor using oil must pay to have it disposed of. With a bit of additional work and chemicals that can be converted into diesel fuel for a fraction of the cost of diesel oil. This process is not difficult and a good reactor design makes it easy to do reliably and safely.

Equipment.

I have completed a small 30 liter reactor for the purpose of gaining knowledge with the idea of scalability in mind for the future.  I have reacted several batches throughout the summer of 2005 but progress was relatively slow since it was such a good flying season!  Now that winter is approaching, the focus is returning to the biofuel project.  One area of the endeavour which had an obvious need for some sort of organization and standardization was the setup used for doing titrations.  I have developed a kit that makes titrations easy and repeatable even in the field, by incorporating a small heater and magnetic stirring capability in a small portable low cost unit which is described here.

Update: The reactor is working very well now and I am getting consistent results.  I have learned a lot and feel confident about scaling up to the large size.

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a fuel made from waste that can be burned in a regular diesel engine without any modification.

Biodiesel has better lubrication properties than commercial low sulfur diesel fuel and actually extends the life of your engine and fuel pump.

Biodiesel has drastically reduced emissions and does not produce many cancer causing emissions like fossil fuels do.

Biodiesel does not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it simply re-releases part of the CO2 that plants which made the oil recently took out of the atmosphere. Fossil fuels release gases that have been trapped underground since prehistoric times.

Biodiesel is a renewable resource and makes usable fuel from waste oil.

Biodiesel is simply made by mixing a fat or oil with an alcohol and lye. Biodiesel is up to 92% of the final product with the rest being glycerin which is itself a useful product commonly used in cosmetics. The waste from this process is basically soapy water and is not environmentally harmful. The oil can be cooking oils, or oilseed crops such as soybeans, canola, cotton and mustard seed or even tallow or animal fat.

Biodiesel is safe  - it's as biodegradable as sugar, 10x less toxic than table salt and has a flash point of 125C compared to diesel oil which is 55C which makes it extremely safe as a fuel since it does not produce explosive vapors when stored at room temperature.

Biodiesel is considered an "alternate fuel" by the US government and has been rigorously tested. It has been used in Europe since at least the 1980's.

Biodiesel Benefits

Acknowledgments

My thanks to the University of Waterloo for hosting this domain and Erick Engelke for getting the DNS set up and Eric Praetzel for graciously offering the space on his server. Future life forms are indebted to you.  Also I would like to thank Rose Vogt of the Graduate House for donating oil for the cause!

From small seeds grow large trees  - Lao Tzu

Biodiesel Links

Links about the future of petroleum based energy and our future as a species.

News worthy of paying attention to?

Aside from the standard subservient mouthpieces like the CBC, Al Jazeera, CNN etc, which are fun for getting the latest brainwashing spin....here are some alternatives you might want to check.
Other Kewl links

Essential stuff for maintaining sanity.



Check out my political protest song: Dubya Lies

Some of my other Hobbies:

Philosophy:  My critique of Robert M. Pirsig's theory of ethics.
Hang Gliding:  This is where I hang around on the weekends.


Email me: Join the yahoo mail list