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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Having the ability to make your own fuel is a good good thing, and it's not as hard as you might think. Knowing a little about the process can help you to make an informed decision whether or not this is something you want to try.

Basic (simplified) chemistry: Vegetable oils contain molecules called triglycerides, which are molecules of glycerin with 3 fatty acids attached. To convert these to biofuel, you add a mixture of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide and methanol or ethanol. The hydroxide breaks the bonds, leaving you with a glycerine molecule and 3 free fatty acids, and these then combine with the methanol or ethanol to produce biodiesel.

Triglycerides tend to break down under heat and certain storage conditions, so most vegetable oils will contain glycerine with 3, 2, and 1 fatty acid attached, along with naturally occurring free fatty acids. There is a simple test called a titration test which will let you know the amounts of these free fatty acids, and will let you calculate the exact amounts of hydroxides and alcohol to use.

Probably the best feedstock for most people would be Rapeseed. You would expect about 2,000 pounds per acre, which would yield about 50 gallons of oil. The pressed seeds could be used to feed livestock.

Methanol (wood alcohol) can be made with wood and a still, but ethanol would probably be easier to produce. Sugar beets would be my preferred feedstock for this. Mash it up, add some yeast, and let it ferment, then distill off the mash in your handy still. Again, the spent mash could be fed to your critters. You would use roughly 25% of the oil volume in alcohol, so 100 gallons of oil would need about 25 gallons of ethanol.

I don't know of any simple way to make sodium hydroxide, but potassium hydroxide should be fairly easy to make. The methods I have seen involve letting water seep down through hardwood ash. The result is "lye water," which could probably be evaporated to produce potassium hydroxide.

There are tons of good instructional videos on biodiesel online, and lots of good plans for making the equipment too. Biofuel would allow you to make environmentally sustainable fuel to power generators, farm equipment, vehicles, provide home heating, or for use as a bartering item. I believe it should be possible to make all of the ingredients, and if this is the case, it's worth a closer look to anyone who has some land and is looking for a way to be more self-sustaining.

PS: This process also produces glycerine, which can be used to make a nice soap.
 
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Nice post, I have seen it where a flex fuel vehicle can run off basically distilled moonshine and be done quickly enough the be viable. I wish my BOV was flex fuel or diesel.
 

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Since you have to make alcohol to make the biodiesel why not just make the alcohol and use a "standard" gas vehicle (after raising the compression to 13 - 14 to 1) ?

You can get approximately 10000 gallons of alcohol with two harvests from five acres of Jerusalem Artichokes. (You are only harvesting the tops and leaving the bulb in the ground).
The plant will grow well in most any soil and it will not have to be planted every year unless the ground freezes to the level of the bulb in the ground. If the ground in your area freezes then you can eat the sweet bulbs or feed them (along with the tailings from the still) to your live stock. The remaining liquid can be used as an excellent fertilzer for your garden or for next years crops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sure, you could just run on alcohol, but I consider the biodiesel to be more versatile. My ideal setup would include a diesel pickup, tractor, and generator, and they could all be used with biodiesel without any modifications at all.

It would be nice to have a flex fuel vehicle, especially if your plan is to bug out. Some military vehicles take this to the extreme, and can even run on used motor oil.

I don't plan on bugging out once I move to my new place, however. My idea is to suckle off the OPEC teat for as long as I can, so would use standard diesel engines as long as the oil lasts, then have the ability to transition to home-made fuels if and when it became necessary.

There's no one "best" way to do this. Each person should really look at all the factors that affect them and their situation, then decide on the best course of action for their unique needs. For me, that's biodiesel.
 

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I studied up on the process of making biodiesel a few years ago before I bought my current truck. I was toying with the idea of buying a diesel for the specific purpose of being able to make my own fuel if SHTF. I opted to go with a flex-fuel Ford F150 for basically the reasons that Paul outlines above. (That may have been a mistake because my truck gets absolutely horrible mileage, even when I burn 100% gasoline.)

The one thought that I kept coming back to when considering the biodiesel option is that making the stuff seems like a fairly time consuming process for small batches and the quality of the fuel produced seems to vary greatly from batch to batch. I do not know the answer to this question so if somebody else does please let me know, but the time that you would save from being able to power a tractor with biodiesel seems like it would be more than offset by the time just making it?

Any thoughts?
 

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Wheat Grass, particularly I'm told a "blue" wheat grass is supposedly able to yield about 400 gallons an acre.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The one thought that I kept coming back to when considering the biodiesel option is that making the stuff seems like a fairly time consuming process for small batches and the quality of the fuel produced seems to vary greatly from batch to batch.
The quality of the finished product depends on the quality of the materials and the amount of care you put into the process. A lot of people start with waste vegetable oil that they get from restaurant deep friers. This varies a lot in quality, so the finished product can vary too, although this can be offset by careful processing.

If you have the oil, catalyst, and alcohol, the actual processing takes some time, but can be mostly automated with a few simple timers. Small-ish batch processors handling 40 gallons or so are often made from old water heaters and are designed to run more or less untended.

Growing your feedstock, harvesting it, separating the seed, extracting the oil, chopping and splitting wood to run the still, growing and harvesting the feedstock for the alcohol, distilling the alcohol, and producing your own catalyst would be time consuming. But if fuel wasn't available or was $10 or $20 a gallon, it would be worth the effort to me.

It would be easier than farming with a mule or by hand. It would be easier then walking 30 miles to barter with someone, especially if you are packing your trade goods both ways.

In such a scenario, I wouldn't be driving 15,000 miles a year. My fuel needs would be modest, say 200 gallons a year. This would be just enough to "farm" maybe 6 or 8 acres and have enough to use the truck now and then and still have enough left over for lanterns and to run a generator to top off my batteries or for when I wanted to use higher powered tools like a welder.
 

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technically, my truck is flex-fuel, a 2011 Silverado, but I have never found anywhere to try flexfuel..I get at 25 MPG, and I am a cruisecontrol user..
 

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technically, my truck is flex-fuel, a 2011 Silverado, but I have never found anywhere to try flexfuel..I get at 25 MPG, and I am a cruisecontrol user..
well then you can run really powerful moonshine, there's guys in GA who run a fleet like that with a huge still.
 

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technically, my truck is flex-fuel, a 2011 Silverado, but I have never found anywhere to try flexfuel..I get at 25 MPG, and I am a cruisecontrol user..
I hate you! :-D I get 12-13 with a tailwind, 15 if I am in Iowa and can fill up on 100% gas.
 

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Biodiesel from soybeans I will have a lot of them. I will be looking into that one. I am sure it is not simple.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Biodiesel from soybeans I will have a lot of them. I will be looking into that one. I am sure it is not simple.
Actually, it is pretty simple. Mix your sodium hydroxide and methanol according to the results of the titration test, dump it into the soy oil, shake it for 5 minutes, and wait for the glycerine to settle. BAM, you have biodiesel. :)
 

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Here again I'm counting my blessings that my multifuel diesel in my bobbed M35A2 will run on just about anything. I scored some waste veg oil just a couple days ago and the biggest problem I had was selecting the right cloth combination to keep the trash out of my fuel tank. As far as the glycerine issue goes, I just add alcohol. old gasoline, new gasoline or whatever else I have on hand (she loves automatic trans fluid) right into the tank and burn it all together. When the SHTF, every vehicle I see on the side of the road is a small cache' of emergency fuel. No matter where I go, there'll be fuel close by just in case. And for the record, the 465LDT Multifuel diesel will run on pure waste motor oil, but they run a little happier on a blend including something to thin the oil out just a taste. Gasoline, pump diesel, alcohol (as close to 100% as you can get) or methanol all work well. As long as there's no crumbs, chunks, or goobers in it, it's all good!
The pair of barrels between the cab and bed are for reserve fuel.

Speaking of upgrades, a couple days ago, my neighbor gave me all her old solar-powered LED yard lights. I removed the solar panels, checked each of them in direct sunlight with a volt meter. After doing a little math, I soldered 11 panels together in series, then double-stick taped them together, stuck them to the roof of my truck, and BAM, I now have a 25.8 volt solar trickle charger to keep my batteries up and charged.
 

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Actually, it is pretty simple. Mix your sodium hydroxide and methanol according to the results of the titration test, dump it into the soy oil, shake it for 5 minutes, and wait for the glycerine to settle. BAM, you have biodiesel. :)
Yes Just wondering where I will acquire Sodium hydroxide after SHTF. I know in years pass diesels have been made to run on just about any oil.
Just one of the things I will be looking into.
Good information keep posting.
 

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Yes Just wondering where I will acquire Sodium hydroxide after SHTF. I know in years pass diesels have been made to run on just about any oil.
Just one of the things I will be looking into.
Good information keep posting.
Good point Smitty! When Rudolph Diesel designed his namesake, he made it to run on veg oil as at the time it was plentiful and inexpensive. I'm not sure how they did it but all the city busses here in Southern California are now diesels running on compressed natural gas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Smitty, Sodium hydroxide is pretty cheap to buy in bulk. You can get 50 pounds of it for about $80, and 50 pounds will make a lot of biofuel. Source: bulkapothecary.com

I can't find any simple way to make the stuff, but you can make potassium hydroxide fairly easily, and you can use that instead.

To make potassium hydroxide, you filter water through hardwood ashes, which makes a solution of potassium carbonate. The potassium carbonate used to be used to make soap, but if you evaporate the liquid and then heat the potassium carbonate, it will gas off carbon dioxide and leave you with potassium oxide. Reacting the potassium oxide with water produces potassium hydroxide...

K₂CO₃ ' K₂O + CO₂' and then: K₂O + H₂O ' 2 KOH

This all sounds more complicated than it is, I think. I haven't actually tried this yet, but intend to once I get settled into my new place. Finding the new place is taking much longer than I had hoped, but such is life. I hate moving and am determined that this will be my last move. :)
 

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Smitty, Sodium hydroxide is pretty cheap to buy in bulk. You can get 50 pounds of it for about $80, and 50 pounds will make a lot of biofuel. Source: bulkapothecary.com

I can't find any simple way to make the stuff, but you can make potassium hydroxide fairly easily, and you can use that instead.

To make potassium hydroxide, you filter water through hardwood ashes, which makes a solution of potassium carbonate. The potassium carbonate used to be used to make soap, but if you evaporate the liquid and then heat the potassium carbonate, it will gas off carbon dioxide and leave you with potassium oxide. Reacting the potassium oxide with water produces potassium hydroxide...

K₂CO₃ ' K₂O + CO₂' and then: K₂O + H₂O ' 2 KOH

This all sounds more complicated than it is, I think. I haven't actually tried this yet, but intend to once I get settled into my new place. Finding the new place is taking much longer than I had hoped, but such is life. I hate moving and am determined that this will be my last move. :)
The key phrase you didn't highlight is "hardwood ashes" which means you are mostly screwed in Montana. But I also stock a LOT of Lye with the intent of using it for soap or fuel if my tractor doesn't get fried in a EMP.

Oh and BTW a Chevy 2011 Silverado getting 25mpg is a load of shit. It simply isn't possible unless you are just trusting the computer readout on your visor and not checking it for accuracy.

I'm sorry for being blunt, yes even I occasionally show a unreasonably high MPG on a tank but the average will be a lot closer to 19-20mpg
 
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