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Old 08-22-2005, 01:54 PM   #1
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Veggie Gas (Biodiesel) - A Reality?

I continue to become more and more interested in the "reality" of alternative fuels. And really - who isn't; save money, reduce foreign oil dependency and do something good for the environment all at once - good deal right? So I've been watching with interest as some bio-based fuels (along with electric vehicles) move from curiosities to fledgling enterprises. With the price at the pumps as a major driver there seems to be a new media focus on fuel alternatives which seem to be driving some home grown, bio-based, hobby businesses into the realm of "real business". This increasing media focus helps to keep my bio-based flame glowing. It certainly doesn't hurt that we own a Motor Home which burns through a LOT of gasoline on a regular basis - so my noodle time for this subject has been at an all time high. My Interest in Alternative Fuels = (cost per gallon) X (miles left to our destination) X (media coverage). Translated; I've been thinking about this a LOT.

My curiosity was rekindled again this weekend. We visited the Kentucky State Fair again this year and one of the exhibits was from Kentucky Soy (http://www.kysoy.org/). They had a huge Dodge truck in their booth that was converted to run on SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil). A spoke with the truck's owner and a few of the people in the booth. Their concept was to convince Kentucky Farmers to grow soy as a "fuel crop" and burn SVO in their tractors. Kind of a "Grown Here, Fueled Here" concept.

I have to admit that the concept of SVO is pretty appealing. Unlike Bio Diesel, which needs specific processing equipment and chemical preparation to be used in modern diesel engines, SVO systems seems simple. Filtered SVO runs in parallel to a vehicle's existing diesel fuel system. Separate fuel tank, tank heater, injector changes, seals, pumps....basically some mechanical changes to install a second storage system and some new parts to merge the new system with the old. From what I understand, the basic idea is that the vehicle is started on regular diesel and warmed up to normal engine operating temp.and the engine coolant is used to heat the SVO. Once warm the system either mixes or completely switches the fuel to the SVO. Shutdown goes back over to diesel and purges the SVO in preparation for the next startup.

The obvious benefits to me are; no complex fuel prep ahead of time and cheap, readily available, renewable low (no) emissions fuel. Unlike true Bio Diesel, SVO processing seems to remarkable simple; essentially a water removal and particulate filtering process then pour it in and go. I also like that you keep the existing fuel system in place so if you can't reload the SVO no problem....just pay at the pump for "dino" diesel.

To me, the concept of an alternative fuel is great as long as a few criteria are met. First, it needs to be cost competitive, second is needs to be convenient, and last it needs to be simple. While the idea of picking up dirty cooking oil at my local chinese food joint does not sound conveniant to me it is cheap (or free). The idea of purchasing [clean] cooking oil does sound conveniant, especailly if I can safely store it in larger volumes at home. If the market got organized enough and local growers, processers and distributors could get fuel to home-based (or co-op neighborhood based) storage tanks wouldn't that be great? I'm reminded of our two 200 gallon fuel oil tanks we had in our old house in Maine. Having this much internal capacity allowed us to make volume purchase decisions when the prices were low (summer), riding out the peaks (winter) in the local fuel market. Again, this uses existing technology and distribution systems, which admittedly will add to the cost, but removing the local storage barrier of getting SVO to the pumping station solve some real problems. Why not eliminate the pumping station all together and give yourself some control over when and how much fuel you need to purchase to get the best price for your needs. Purchasing 200 gallons of anything in bulk has got to have less cost than purchasing 20 gallons at a time. Having said all of this I must admit loudly that I am no expert and have only a superficial understanding of the process, the benefits and the costs of Bio Fuels. I'm sure there are costs in mass production and distribution that will make Soy Oil $2.50 a gallon someday (maybe even now). But I can still dream can't I?

So, as a consumer, for the first time I've considered what it would take to keep my MoHo on the road when gasoline hits $3 or even $4...maybe $5 (eeek) per gallon someday soon. We're already curbing our travels to local trips and considering cutting out a long trip next year to put our resources to a planned Western Parks tour. So these changes in our "lifestyle" and planned use of the investment we've made in our Airstream make me think of silly things sometimes, late a night on the highways of America....watching those white highway divider lines go by and I'm thinking....SoyStream.....SoyStream!

Would it make sense to convert to a Cummins engine, and go SVO? A motorhome certainly makes a good platform for this concept, lots of fuel carrying capacity, long steady types of driving, etc. I know I know...the cost of the conversion, divided by the dollar per gallon saved will not work out to a reasonable ROI. But since I own the MH and it's finally looking and working like we want it to....why not? Re-powering a MoHo is a common maintenance item on any long term use coach. Why not just plan for the engine replacement to be a diesel? Can I get BioFuel delivered to my door in a few years, maybe, maybe not. But what if? Hmmmm. Maybe even a deep fryer that pops out of the baggage compartment under the awning. Fries anyone?
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Old 08-22-2005, 02:19 PM   #2
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http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/st...tate_2002.html

since the taxes are still a nice chunk of our gas prices, I thought I would post a link to the chart for those. Its a reality check for some of us..here in GA its 31 cents of our 2.55 per gallon.

This is a good site as well
http://www.gaspricewatch.com/usgastaxes.asp
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Old 08-22-2005, 02:59 PM   #3
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I just checked Albsertsons.com for the price of vegetable oil, only $8.39 per gallon. I realize that a large portion of this is packaging and delivery, but a 75% reduction would still be $2.10 with no fuel tax, which by the way pays for construction and maintenance of our roads.

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Old 08-22-2005, 03:29 PM   #4
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Bill - you're raining on my parade! $8.39 a gallon!....I guess I love gasoline again!

But, staying conceptual here, do you think the growing, processing and distribution could ever become cost effective, or will the technology be forever locked in five gallon buckets riding around in the back of old VW diesel Rabbits on their way to McDonalds for "fuel"?

Am I smoking soy here or what?
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Old 08-22-2005, 03:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by swebster
Bill - you're raining on my parade! $8.39 a gallon!....I guess I love gasoline again!

But, staying conceptual here, do you think the growing, processing and distribution could ever become cost effective, or will the technology be forever locked in five gallon buckets riding around in the back of old VW diesel Rabbits on their way to McDonalds for "fuel"?

Am I smoking soy here or what?
Steven,

It would take an analysis of the cost of raw material, corn, soybeans, rapeseed or whatever, and the cost of producing the oil, fuel quality should be cheaper than food grade, in order to determine where the cost of oil needs to be for vegetable oil to be cost competitive. Also you are probably stuck with a diesel type engine because of the high flash point of vegetable oil. Plus higher oil costs will also increase the cost of production and refining of vegetable oil.

I believe that it takes a substantial subsidy for ethanol to be cost competitive now.

Bill
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Old 08-22-2005, 04:44 PM   #6
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I have been looking into this for about six months now, since I own a truck with a duramax diesel ($60 to fill up) and a vw with a diesel ($30 to fill up). In doing research I found that the diesel was actually invented to run on peanut oil. The only problem I have with doing this is the collection of the grease, too time consuming and messy. I was at a Dairy Queen the other day and someone was there collecting the used oil to run in a Mercedes diesel. But if someone were to deliver the oil to me for say half of what diesel cost I would do it in a heartbeat.

Here are a couple of website www.greasel.com www.grassolean.com www.vegenergy.com

There are alternatives for the 454, Propane or natural gas. Although I think the conversions for these are somewhat more expensive. They have some UPS trucks and our mass transit here in Atlanta (Marta) run on natural gas. I also own a Land Rover and in Europe they have converted some of them to run on LPG.

I think the main thing here is to limit our dependency on foreign oil and to help our economy. Plus having something compete with diesel would help bring the prices down I would think.

Just my 2 cents worth.
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Old 08-22-2005, 05:54 PM   #7
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Biodiesel is great for individual use but unfortunately it simply wouldnít work on a larger scale, just like ethanol Biodieselis a net energy loser. It takes more energy and resources to make it than what actually comes out. Itís great when Used Veggie oil is used because there is one more reused component but there simply isnít enough used veggie oil to go around. As gas prices rise and this Biodiesel thing catches on I imagine fights at local burger joints for UVO. Like my pessimistic signature says there is no hope for us. Hydrogen Biodiesel and ethanol will not sustain this countries appetite for energy.
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Old 08-22-2005, 08:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Biodiesel is great for individual use but unfortunately it simply wouldnít work on a larger scale, just like ethanol Biodieselis a net energy loser.
According to some reports it is not a net energy loser, according to this report, http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/f...0Biodiesel.Pdf,
"Moreover, biodiesel has a positive energy balance. For every unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained."

Not trying to cause problems, but I'm a big advocate of alternative fuels and just want to keep the facts straight. Here are a couple more sites that are informative www.biodiesel.com and www.biodiesel.org.

There are two problems I see with biodiesel. Not readily available, for the most part, around Atlanta anyway, you can't get it at gas stations. Two it is more expensive than regular diesel. If someone can solve those two problems I think biodiesel will take off.

Again just my 2 cents worth.
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Old 08-22-2005, 08:37 PM   #9
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Biodiesel is becoming more readily available in NC at least in a few areas. One reason the price is higher is that there are no tax breaks or subsidies to offset the cost of it. IIRC the "realworld" price of pure bio (B100) is about $4 a gallon. They were selling B50 for about a $.30 a gallon premium the last time I checked. Currently the only thing I have running diesel is my tractor...But in my personal opinon I think that fuel prices have remained artificically low if pegged to inflation over the years...

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Old 08-22-2005, 08:57 PM   #10
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There is a biodiesel plant in Lakeland, Florida. There is a distributor in Tampa. I think the biodiesel.org site has their address.

When you consider all the monkeying around, and conversions, where is the savings? Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, I don't think it is worth it.
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Old 08-22-2005, 09:25 PM   #11
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There is a biodiesel plant in Lakeland, Florida. There is a distributor in Tampa. I think the biodiesel.org site has their address.

When you consider all the monkeying around, and conversions, where is the savings? Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, I don't think it is worth it.
Pick,
Biodiesel does not require any conversions on a normal diesel engine...that is the beauty of it. As far as I know no manufacturer currently warrants an engine to run on anything over B20 but every gallon we can provide from alternate sources helps. And I suspect as the evidence mounts we will see the warranty stances improve.

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Old 08-22-2005, 10:19 PM   #12
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According to some reports it is not a net energy loser, according to this report, http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/f...0Biodiesel.Pdf,
"Moreover, biodiesel has a positive energy balance. For every unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained."

Not trying to cause problems, but I'm a big advocate of alternative fuels and just want to keep the facts straight. Here are a couple more sites that are informative www.biodiesel.com and www.biodiesel.org.

There are two problems I see with biodiesel. Not readily available, for the most part, around Atlanta anyway, you can't get it at gas stations. Two it is more expensive than regular diesel. If someone can solve those two problems I think biodiesel will take off.

Again just my 2 cents worth.
True but I believe most farms use chemical fertilizers that are made from petroleum and natural gas. It seems to lead right back to the original problem.
I just dont see the point of using all that farmland so we can feed our motorhomes and trucks. I donít know maybe thereís enough manure to go around.
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Old 08-22-2005, 10:25 PM   #13
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According to some reports it is not a net energy loser, according to this report
Perhaps. But the "National Biodiesel Board" is hardly a disinterested source.

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Old 08-22-2005, 10:53 PM   #14
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An interesting editorial about gas prices...

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion...x.htm?csp=N009

I have always (since I started driving anyway) wondered how gas prices never really seem to change that much... I assume we pay for it one way or another.

There always seems to be an angry outcry or at least grumbles whenever renewable energy sources are mentioned. Politics aside, is the general feeling that it can't work and is a waste of money? What is the downside to attempting to develop renewable, efficient, and affordable energy sources?
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