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I'm planning on experimenting with biodiesel as soon as we get moved, and am looking at ways to make the process totally self-sustainable. Growing rapeseed for the oil is relatively straight forward, but what about the methanol and sodium hydroxide?

As it turns out, you can substitute ethanol for the methanol, and you can make ethanol pretty easily with a still.

Small copper stills can be had for $300 - $400 or so from suppliers like www.hillbillystills.com and since these are made by real hillbillies, you know they will work. But is this legal?

With the big push towards alternative fuels, it's not hard to get a small ethanol producer's permit these days. Just fill out the application and, once approved, away you go. The form is here... Application for an Alcohol Fuel Producer

There are all kinds of state and federal grants and loans for this kind of stuff, so it might be possible for the gov to pick up 25% or the cost or so. Hey, if they are gonna pay me to make moonsh... errrrr, alternative fuels, it's something to consider. Here's more info on grants and loans and whatnot... Ethanol Laws and Incentives

In any SHTF scenario, alcohol could be a barter item, it could be used for cooking fuel, heating, fuel for vehicles and generators (would probably require modifications), and of course, sipping from a Mason jar. EeeeeeHawww!

Oh, I think you can also "bake" hardwood chunks in a still and condense off the wood alcohol (methanol). You would be left with tar and charcoal. The charcoal could be used to heat the next batch, and the ashes from this can be used (I think) to produce potassium hydroxide, which can be used in place of sodium hydroxide to make biodiesel. So yeah, it seems like the process could be totally self-sustainable.
 

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Just be careful, looks like you are already looking into grants and what not, but distilling your own alcohol is a serious federal crime in the US of A, even if its for fuel and not human consumption. Several people on a different board I was on just talked about it and got calls and letters (no visits luckily) from the ATF. All they were talking about was using grass clippings to make burnable fuel, evidently a no-go. (i think a few discussions got too heavy on the details of how/what to do...)


If you find anything that makes it easy to 'comply' or get by the requirements to jump through many hoops PLEASE let me know!
 

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It ain't as easy as it sounds. Fifty gallons of mash might get you 5 gallons of alcohol after several distillion runs. I would make it to drink but not to burn. You can buy everthing you need off ebay.
 

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Nathan, it's not a crime if you fill out the form I linked above and get the paperwork in order before you distill some. As I understand it, they have loosened the restrictions considerably in recent years and will issue the permits if you follow the rules. It's a lot simpler if the fuel is for your own use; there are more hurdles to clear if you intend to sell the fuel.

Roy, yeah, it's pretty easy. With the simplest pot still, you might have to distill it a few times, but a reflux still will give you finished product in one go. The spent mash can be fed to your hogs or other critters, so there would be little waste.

Anyway, if your BOL has good water, it's something to look at.
 

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Most modern moonshiners use lotsa sugar. You can make shine without sugar by malting your corn. I have a book around here somewhere that tells how to make a solar still.
 

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Distilling alcohol for the use of personal consumption without the proper licenses, permits and/or bonds is illegal in the USA. However, people do it all over the country. In my opinion you have little to worry about if you dont sell it. If you sell it, you're gonna get hit with a fine and maybe jail time.
 

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Just be careful, looks like you are already looking into grants and what not, but distilling your own alcohol is a serious federal crime in the US of A, even if its for fuel and not human consumption. Several people on a different board I was on just talked about it and got calls and letters (no visits luckily) from the ATF. All they were talking about was using grass clippings to make burnable fuel, evidently a no-go. (i think a few discussions got too heavy on the details of how/what to do...)

If you find anything that makes it easy to 'comply' or get by the requirements to jump through many hoops PLEASE let me know!
Actually you can get a permit for free and tax rebates for distilling your own alcohol for fuel. Its not at all illegal for this purpose. It just has to be denatured…
 

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Not sure, but on Youtube, somebody has to have a stainless steel "distilation setup", which can be used to purify water,and I heard they run only $200 fun dollars..
 

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Distilling alcohol for the use of personal consumption without the proper licenses, permits and/or bonds is illegal in the USA. However, people do it all over the country. In my opinion you have little to worry about if you dont sell it. If you sell it, you're gonna get hit with a fine and maybe jail time.
isn't there a safety concern or do I watch too much of the Simpsons
 
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As long as you're not fermenting "woody" materials, you're fine. There won't be anything to produce methanol...so no problems. If you want an end result that's drinkable...there's quite a bit of "art" in addition to the science. :)
 

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When making alcohol for personal fuel use the ATF will grant a free license for up to 10000 gallons a year as long as it is not sold. The permit does not require that you denature it unless it is for commercial use (selling it).
 

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Our nephew ran a shuttle service in San Diego using biofuels. Restaurants gave the old fry grease to him and he would process the stuff into fuel himself. Very ingenuitive young man. I am curious to know if the 1970 vw bus would run on alternative fuel.?
 

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isn't there a safety concern or do I watch too much of the Simpsons
Safety is a slight concern, but not if you build a proven still. Most people think there is a chance your still will blow up. However this is very uncommon, and only happens in closed systems. The other issue is fire. Alcohol vapor is not flammable.... (wait for it) its EXPLOSIVE!!! So, potential alcohol vapor escaping from the still without being condensed when using some type of flame could really cause a major problem.

With all that said, it just takes a little logic to run a still safely. Keep your head about you, and walk before you run. Like anything, take as much precaution as possible in the beginning and learn what is tolerable.
 

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When making alcohol for personal fuel use the ATF will grant a free license for up to 10000 gallons a year as long as it is not sold. The permit does not require that you denature it unless it is for commercial use (selling it).
I'm not trying to be argumentative, just state the facts as I know them.

First, it would be the TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) that you would get your Alcohol Fuel Permit not the ATF. The ATF relinquished control of Alcohol issues a few years back, as ironic as that may seem. Second, all fuel produced within the confines of the Alcohol Fuel Permit must be denatured despite its use commercially or not.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with a TTB Federal Agent. Although we are on good terms, it was in no way a pleasant meeting. A fuel permit was given up due in part to the fact that there was no denaturing agents on site, which is required.
 

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Our nephew ran a shuttle service in San Diego using biofuels. Restaurants gave the old fry grease to him and he would process the stuff into fuel himself. Very ingenuitive young man. I am curious to know if the 1970 vw bus would run on alternative fuel.?
You could convert it to run on ethanol but with an aluminum engine it isn't one of the best things to do. First you want to increase the compression to about 13:1 which places a higher load on the bearings and then the alcohol carries water which will cause corrosion in the aluminum. It isn't a big issue with the air cooled engines because they get warm enough to get rid of the water fast but if it is allowed to pool in an aluminum vessel corrosion is a big problem. Cast iron is a lot more desirable for longevity with an alcohol fueled engine but that doesn't mean it can't be successfully accomplished. The hardest part (most technical) is making the carburetor modifications. To make it easier you might want to switch to a different kind of carb - like a two barrel Holley or a Weber dual throat that you can change out the air and fuel jets and has big enough fuel passages that you don't have to drill them all out to support the added fuel delivery that you will need.
 

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Our nephew ran a shuttle service in San Diego using biofuels. Restaurants gave the old fry grease to him and he would process the stuff into fuel himself. Very ingenuitive young man. I am curious to know if the 1970 vw bus would run on alternative fuel.?
The cost in fuel to make fuel distilling isn't cost effective. My nephew was going around and collecting old cooking oil and grease from the local restaurants to convert into fuel. He had great set up going but the restaurants started getting wise to his business and wanted to charge foe the grease and oils.
 

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I'm planning on experimenting with biodiesel as soon as we get moved, and am looking at ways to make the process totally self-sustainable. Growing rapeseed for the oil is relatively straight forward, but what about the methanol and sodium hydroxide?

As it turns out, you can substitute ethanol for the methanol, and you can make ethanol pretty easily with a still.

Small copper stills can be had for $300 - $400 or so from suppliers like www.hillbillystills.com and since these are made by real hillbillies, you know they will work. But is this legal?

With the big push towards alternative fuels, it's not hard to get a small ethanol producer's permit these days. Just fill out the application and, once approved, away you go. The form is here... Application for an Alcohol Fuel Producer

There are all kinds of state and federal grants and loans for this kind of stuff, so it might be possible for the gov to pick up 25% or the cost or so. Hey, if they are gonna pay me to make moonsh... errrrr, alternative fuels, it's something to consider. Here's more info on grants and loans and whatnot... Ethanol Laws and Incentives

In any SHTF scenario, alcohol could be a barter item, it could be used for cooking fuel, heating, fuel for vehicles and generators (would probably require modifications), and of course, sipping from a Mason jar. EeeeeeHawww!

Oh, I think you can also "bake" hardwood chunks in a still and condense off the wood alcohol (methanol). You would be left with tar and charcoal. The charcoal could be used to heat the next batch, and the ashes from this can be used (I think) to produce potassium hydroxide, which can be used in place of sodium hydroxide to make biodiesel. So yeah, it seems like the process could be totally self-sustainable.
Buddy I don't know making biodiesel yet but let me tell you I am a bonafide rumrunner now (in GA back in the day you were a moonshiner for whiskey or a rumrunner for rum) and I know my way around a still. I have three, I love them dearly and all three are like artwork to me. I got a copper alembic five gallon, a stainless steel 3 gallon (my fav) and a copper 1.5 gallon. Now, I have a love for all three but only one stuns me and that's my mile high distilling 3 gallon stainless. It's easy to use like prefabricated plumbing, has no real drawbacks and uses maybe an 18th of the water a copper one needs. It has a condenser, which is much more efficient and it is a dream to clean. A rub with soapy water and it's like new in minutes in the bathtub. The yield is awesome. With the copper alembics you need flour paste to seal it, it needs much more constant monitoring for leaks etc and heats up very fast which causes me to watch my worm nonstop. My steel one is fire and forget, you hit temperature and walk away letting the electric thermostat on the burner regulate your heat. Slowly it will climb, but you just turn it down a notch until you hit a cruising temperature and only have to check it every half hour or so. If you are looking for a GOOD product, steel. Copper needs to be cleaned pot to worm with acid almost every run. Steel takes longer to run but its worth it. The same still I use, a guy uses down in Macon for his fleet of flexfuel silverado V6 work trucks and it works great. He has three full time still hands and beats fuel costs by two dollars a gallon. And yes, that last comment you made in your post is also true there is a guy on youtube catching workable fuel from pine distillation. It's a gasifier/collector/condenser setup made of pipe and steel drums. It refines a liquid that can run a generator motor with either gasses or the liquid it condenses.
 
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