Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I'm headed to a local biodiesel co-op tomorrow to fill up my tank and find out more about it. The guy running it is into alternative fuels and he gets his veggie oil from Yosemite, the Casino in Tuolumne City, and other local restaurants. It sounds like he's worked out a pretty good deal within the local area. I'm not sure what he's charging per gallon, but I think biodiesel is pretty competitive with petro diesel these days.

Rudolph Diesel originally patented his motor on peanut oil - petroleum diesel hadn't been invented yet. Henry Ford's motor burned methyl alcohol (methanol) and they both had the same idea - namely that farmers could be self sufficient energy-wise by growing enough crop to produce either vegetable oil or alcohol. If a farmer had 160 acres, 20 acres or so could be set aside simply for fuel production to run pumps, motors, presses, generators, etc. There'd be no need for the utility grid or runs to the gas station.

Biodiesel is different than straight vegetable oil (SVO) or waste veggie oil (WVO). Biodiesel is brewed from veggie oil and lye or sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. The two are mixed and glycerin along with biodiesel is produced. The glycerin can be used to make soap or other products, or even composted since it's organic. SVO can be burned directly in a diesel motor but it has to be heated first to insure the viscosity is low enough and that it doesn't congeal in the fuel lines and injector at lower temperatures (like bacon grease). WVO also has to be filtered to remove food particles from the frier and settled so that any water that might be present is separated by gravity to the bottom, then drained off - don't want water in your diesel motor! Older vehicles should make sure the fuel lines won't react with the biodiesel and corrode or otherwise degrade. Newer vehicles don't seem to have this problem, but if one does switch over, it's ultimately the responsibility of the owner to research this issue for their own vehicle.

One thing to think about in joining a co-op like the one in Groveland is storing biodiesel in a tank or 55 gallon drum so that one doesn't have to do the drive too often. Mike, the proprietor, said he's willing to work a deal where he delivers biodiesel to customers who are near his pickup route when he's collecting veggie oil.

So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and learning more...


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