The answer to America’s fuel economy needs: Diesel.

Top gear – Basel To Blackpool

Worth the wait to watch it all. Remember that a UK Gallon is 1.2 US Gallons, so the VW’s 70 MPG is really more like 60 MPG US. Still, name any car available in the USA that gets 60 MPG on average?

No gasoline powered stock vehicle available in the USA could have made this trip… but even the hulking Jaguar, driven with a lead foot pulled it off…. on Diesel.

Weekend Tinkering… with Chuck The Plumber!

I was never cited by any candidate in the recent presidential election, but I can use a pipe wrench.

In my quest for energy independence one of the skills I’ve picked up is plumbing, oddly enough.

I’ve plumbed up as much of my homebrew BioDiesel setup as possible. The reason being is that waste veggie oil is some seriously messy stuff. The less I have to touch it, the better. So I have created a system where once I have pre-filtered the waste oil from the restaurants into 5 gallon buckets and poured it into the settling tanks, I never touch the stuff again. It moves through pipes from tank to processor, from processor to wash, from wash to dry, from dry to upper settling, than upper settling to final storage tank, and finally from final storage into our cars. All this movement is motivated by pumps and controlled with ball-valves. It has a sort of Rube Goldberg look and feel, but it works. If I ever move house, I’ll put some serious thought into organizing it better and designing a more compact, logical placement of the various elements.

One limiter to my production capacity to date has been the size of my drying tank. It started life as a 30 gallon poly barrel I obtained from a car wash. This meant that 110 liters was about as large as I could go in a batch. I finally sourced a 55 Gallon poly barrel last week, so this weekend I’m preparing it for deployment. This means removing the plumbing from the old tank and installing it in the new one. One of the problems of my old tank was the standpipe was too high. This meant that I had to manually drain the last 15% or so from my dried BioDiesel. Since this sometimes has residual water in it, I would just dump it into the WVO settling tanks at the start of the process. I decided to cut down the standpipe at some point and now is as good a time as any. I clamped the pipe to my workbench and donning my fashionable Bill Nye The Science Guy protective eyewear along with ear protection, I fired up the Dremel with a cutting wheel and chopped that sucker in half! (have I ever mentioned how much I love the Dremel Tool? Man, what an awesome little thing!)

Not the prettiest cut in the world, but it doesn’t matter… it will be submerged in oil for most of it’s life.

Yes, I smoothed it out with a stone tip, and washed away any residual metal bits. The last thing I want in my injection pump is metal filings!

I also have built and am testing a Methanol Recovery processor. Frankly its scares the bejeezus out of me, but I need to render my glycerine byproduct inert and non-toxic prior to composting it. More news about that soon.

I also finally got around to a long-deferred task: Replacing the handle on my wood-splitting axe. Sounds odd, I know. We have 3 fireplaces and a big supply of firewood. Last winter was so mild that we barely burned anything.. well WINTER was mild but Spring was wild. Lots of snow, but it was never cold enough to really use the wood. The winter before last though? That was crazy. Late that winter I broke the handle of our axe. I found a replacement at our local hardware store, a nice stout hickory one. Seemed crazy to buy a whole new axe when I can just replace the handle. Since I had all the tools out I went after the remaining wood left in the axe head and eventually worked it out. The new handle went in very easy. All that Douglas Fir that has been sitting out in our wood pile for the past 2 years since the big windstorm brought down that tree should be about ready to split this year.

The Moron Mechanic Strikes Again!

I recently performed an oil change on my wife’s Jeep Liberty CRD, as I’m an almost total “do it yourself-er” when it comes to car maintenance (NOT that I have any real skill… I’m just too cheap to pay for this sort of thing!) Usually that is a good thing. Today, I wonder however. It seems that when I pulled off the oil filter the rubber gasket stayed behind, and I installed the new filter right over it. This created a poor seal which as you can imagine, leaked oil.

Thankfully this condition was caught before things went REALLY wrong, but boy… what a mess. Sort of tossed a huge monkey wrench into my day’s schedule too.

Of course being a cheapskate once I realized that there was no damage done I was ticked off that I’d just wasted a few quarts of brand new oil! 😉

No photos sorry. I didn’t have my camera with me but if you do a google image search for “Exxon Valdez” and mentally erase the water, you should get a pretty good idea of what the scene looked like. Thankfully I had just bought a 50lb bag of “Oil-sorb” for use out in the BioDiesel home brewery in the barn and it was still in the back of the pickup truck! I think I used up 1/3rd of it.

Something like this... just subtract water.
Above: Just subtract water!

At least I’ll not make THIS mistake again!

Grown in Washington(?)

Diesel Tree?

As I work towards my own energy independence I thought about planting the spare acre or two of my property with rapeseed aka “canola”. That way I could not only make my own BioDiesel, but also grow my own feedstock. I assume rape will grow in Washington since it also grows in the UK and our climates are very similar.

Then I read about this tree. Copaifera langsdorfii is also known as “the Diesel tree” because you can tap it like a Maple and oil flows out. Pretty cool huh?

The wiki entry says though:

Despite its vigorous production of oil the tree does not grow well outside of the tropics and does not show promise as a reliable source of biodiesel.

Oh well. I guess the canola idea might still fly. 😉

Happy Birthday Diesel!

Happy Birthday!

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel was born today, March 18th 1858, so we celebrate his sesquicentennial!

He published “Theorie und Construktion eines rationellen Wärmemotors zum Ersatz der Dampfmaschine und der heute bekannten Verbrennungsmotoren” in 1887.

Thank you Herr Diesel, for all of your work. Because of you, I (and many others) have the option of transportation without strict dependance on petroleum as our only source of fuel.

While we’re on the subject of Diesel, have a read through this… it appears that some folks are beginning to question why we can’t buy them here in the USA.