Nuke & Pave

“Nuke & Pave”… it is a systems administration term for deleting the data off a hard drive and rebuilding the system software and user environment from scratch (with some data restored from backups of course.) The idea is to just blow away any crufty buildup and start anew.

That is what I’m planning on doing to my home brew BioDiesel setup in a few weeks. The system has grown organically over the past several years with me constantly tinkering, modifying, and adding to the design. Additionally the handling of waste vegetable oil (WVO) in the area has made things… messy. So I figure I’ll drain my tanks, get out the pressure washer, and give everything a good washing to get it cleaned up. Everything from the settling tanks to the concrete slab. I’ll then disassemble the plumbing and reconfigure it to my liking.

The only thing that will not get washed out are my BioDiesel storage tanks. This is a pair of 55 Gallon drums (that started life as my original WVO filtering system) that I can’t really risk getting water into. I’ll tighten them up with good seals and wash their exteriors though.

I’ll also plumb in the new methanol recovery still to the processor. My little test with a prototype has gone very well and I’ve learned how to (and how NOT to) extract methanol from my glycerol BioDiesel by-product. I haven’t built a new recovery still yet, but I plan to do so very soon. Plumbing it into the processor will allow me to clean up a messy step in the process, namely draining the by-product off the bottom of the processor. Right now I do this into buckets and hand carry it to the still. I’ve gone through this process with each expansion of the system: either doing something by hand, or using temporary plumbing to bridge a gap, and eventually building a cleaner, more efficient system to reduce labor to turning valves and operating pumps. The less I touch this stuff, the less I spill on myself, the ground, etc. Ideally I’d like to do as little manually as possible.

I often find myself sitting in the middle of this Rube Goldberg setup, looking around and just thinking about how I can improve it. Step One however always involves dropping that nuke and getting this part of the barn cleaned up. I’m a designer, not an engineer, so I work somewhat intuitively and through iteration. The time for that is now, while the weather is dry and warm and I can let things dry for a week or so before using them again.

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