I have been doing a little research this week regarding alcohol. The purpose is two fold, for both in use to produce biodiesel and for as a gas additive in regular gasoline engines. You can use either methanol or ethanol for making biodiesel, and each has their advantages and disadvantages.
Methyl alcohol (methanol, or wood alcohol) is cheap, it takes a little less of it to make biodiesel, and it can purchased anywhere that sells racing fuel. The down side is that it is a bit harder to work due to the fact that when it burns the flame is totally invisible, and it is very poisonous. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or “corn liquor”) costs more to produce and is not as efficient when making biodiesel, but is easier to handle and is much less toxic. Another advantage is that it is pretty easy to make your own ethanol using copper tubing, pot, etc.
Of course, you can’t just put up a still without taking to the governement first. You can start your alcohol quest at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. My understanding is that if you are making alcohol for fuel use ONLY and will make 10,000 proof gallons or less per year (just over 5000 gallons at 190 proof), the permit process isn’t that difficult. You have to mix ethanol with something to make it unfit to drink in order to transport it legally, such as 2% gasoline, and I think you can mix it with methanol in a higher concentration. Basically, if you make it AND transport it off premise, you have to make it undrinkable. If you are using it only for making biodiesel onsite or blend it onsite with gasoline, then it isn’t a problem.
The main reason that I have been looking into ethanol instead of methanol is that I am moving to a home that is on a lake, and in case of a spill, ethanol wouldn’t cause a health issue. Drunk fish, maybe, but not poisoned. (We are talking about small quantities here, no more than 10-20 gallons at a time being stored). Another reason is economics, as buying ethanol is expensive, but it is pretty cheap to produce. We are talking about a still, just like the bootleggers use, except with the permission of the BATF so no one goes to jail. This isn’t a necessary step to make biodiesel, but is just one I am considering.
Another benefit of producing ethanol is that it can be blended with regular gas in the vehicles I have. Diesel cars are difficult to find used right now, but many cars can use E85 right now. Just blend 15% gas with 85% home distilled corn liquor and go. So distilling could have two major benefits. And besides, who hasn’t thought about setting up a still? :) And no, I woundn’t drink the stuff. First, that would be illegal, and second, I’m kinda picky about my adult beverages, being more of a social Scotch drinker. Both methanol and ethanol can be distilled and mixed with gas at about 10%-15% for any car made in the decade.
From reading the regulations, it appears that alcohol produced in a properly licensed facility (which could be your back yard) is NOT subject to any tax, as long as you are producing less than 10,000 proof gallon annually. (I am not a lawyer, you should read it using the above link before proceeding…) You can view the actual permit application here.
According to the site, calculating proof gallons is done using:
One gallon = The liquid measure equivalent to the volume of 231 cubic inches.
Proof = The ethyl alcohol content of a liquid at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, stated as twice the percent of ethyl alcohol by volume.
Proof gallon = A gallon of liquid at 60 degrees Fahrenheit which contains 50 percent by volume of ethyl alcohol having a specific gravity of 0.7939 at 60 degrees Fahrenheit referred to water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit as unity, or the alcoholic equivalent thereof.
This works about to approximately 1 gallon of 190 proof (95%) ethanol = 1.9 Proof Gallons. That means 5263 gallons of 190 proof per year before you have to pay taxes. That will make 6052 gallons of E85, which is more than 16 gallons per day. This would also make an even larger amount of biodiesel, or both.
If any of you are currently making your own alcohol for fuel use (legal or otherwise…) please email me and let me know. I may do an article about how to setup a still (legally) in the future. I will be gone next week visiting family in Texas, so it may be a while before the next post. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
I am working on a rather large article that covers an entire county in Iowa, thanks to an email from a visitor, but until then, I found an interesting website that answers a lot of questions I had about biodiesel, such as “Can I use biodiesel in a kerosene heater?” (answer: it is a bit thick, you probably need to blend it with kerosene and experiment to get the right blend). The FAQ page can be found at http://www.ybiofuels.org/bio_fuels/FAQResources.html.
The company is called Yokayo Biofuels, in Ukiah, CA. and they make and sell biodiesel. They show prices for biodiesel at $3.85 (including CA tax) or $3.35 for farm use, although these obviously change from time to time. It is worth noting that California doesn’t give ANY breaks for biodiesel use and taxes it at the same rate as petrodiesel. Ironic coming from the state that preaches “green”, not puting its money where its mouth is.
On another note, I was reading an article at http://www.gulfnews.com/business/Oil_and_Gas/10079963.html that raised an interesting point. Europe is also trying to increase their biodiesel production four fold in the next 3 years, “However, in order to meet the expected future increase in output, Rahkamo said Europe will have to look to importing feedstock from outside the region.” This means opportunity for American farmers and entrepreneurs, although most of the imports are expected to be from Asia and South America.
First the good news:
Largest U.S. biodiesel plant to open in Washington State
Orlando International Airport to use biodiesel fuel
Decatur Georgia County gives land for biodiesel
Now the bad news…
While other states are welcoming biodiesel processing plants with open arms, in Harvey, Louisiana, one resident said “In the end we don’t need more chemicals on the other side of Fourth Street… We need more green space, not Green Earth fuels.” showing how little they understand or care about biofuels in general. Read the article titled Backers of biodiesel plant fail to sway Harvey residents and see why it is so hard to invest and help the residents of hurricane ravaged Louisiana.
Southeast Missouri biodiesel plant to pay penalty
and finally, Other News (not biodiesel)
Solar start-up snags $35 million as CIGS ignites
This is the permanant page for biodiesel related videos. Each will open a new window so you don’t lose your place here.
* Motorweek Discusses Biodiesel (8 minutes)
* Odd video compilation of Daryl Hannah promoting biodiesel (4 min. 38 secs, mediocre quality). She runs biodiesel in an El Camino, which I find extra cool.
My Top Pick Videos
* Trucks Episode – Making biodiesel (11 min. 33 secs.) Nice video explaining what biodiesel is and a VERY GOOD tutorial on how to make it yourself. This is a must see for anyone new to biodiesel.
This video talks about Freedom Fuel America, who links to dealers who sell complete kits for making your own from used vegetable oil. The kit is about $3000 from Biodiesel Solutions, who also sells other products related to biodiesel, including other kits. The kits make as little as 2 or as many as 40 gallons per batch for about 70 cents a gallon, not counting the initial cost of equipment.
Biodiesel in the news so far this month. This is not an exhaustive list, just what has caught my eye thus far in October 06.
The Register has two recent articles, including Ericsson Goes Green and an odd report where a German inventor denies turning cats into biodiesel.
Reuters is reporting that oilseed processor Bunge plans two biodiesel plants in Spain. Reported Oct. 2nd 2006.
Scotsman.com recently reported another biodiesel plant going online in Grangemouth, Scotland. Keep in mind, we pay MORE tax for diesel than gas, whereas most of Europe pay LESS tax for diesel than gasoline, although still higher than we pay for either. Regardless, they are investing £60 million, which is over $112 million US dollars, according to this site. I would fully expect Europe to take the lead in biodiesel production because fo these tax advantages, as well the fact that a large portion of the cars in Europe are diesel, once again due to tax advantages.
ADM makes the news with an article on The Motley Fool titled ADM Wins Biodiesel Bet. It shouldn’t come as a shocker to see ADM involved in biodiesel, as they have the potential to become the future Exxon of the biodiesel world. It also links to this article which covers Shell Oil and others entry into biodiesel. (Warning, articles may require registration. I suggest using the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, which seems to just let you log in without a password. If you need a password, try “password”.)
It appears that many companies are TALKING about biodiesel, but the main players who are investing the real money tend to be smaller companies or entrepreneurs willing to take a risk. Likely, Big Oil will be last in line to actually have significant production, although since they own the delivery infrastructure, they surely won’t miss out on making a dollar with biodiesel. Of course, this is one of the good things about biodiesel, it is so new, there is opportunity for new people to make a difference, whether they are farmers, chemists or venture capitalists.
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