Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Moving to

Thanks for reading folks.

We tried out a few blog sites when the Vegwerks Blog started, and we've decided to stick with

We'll see you there!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Biodiesel at the Renewable Energy Fair - Aug 9th Anchorage

REAP logoThe Renewable Energy Alaska Project is putting on their 3rd Annual Renewable Energy Fair Saturday August 9th, 11am-9pm at the Anchorage Parkstrip.

We will have a number of diesel vehicles running vegoil-SVO conversions for folks to check out, and will have a FREE introductory biodiesel and SVO seminar at 3pm. We've still got some spaces if you greasy drivers want to show off your rigs.

The fair itself is a great collection of renewable professionals and proponents from across the state, mixed in with great green vendors, scrumptious food and rocking tunes.

Daniel Lerch from the Post-Carbon Institute is the 5:15pm keynote speaker. "Daniel manages the Post Carbon Cities program, providing resources and assistance to local governments on peak oil and climate change. He is the author of Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty, the first major municipal guidebook on peak oil and global warming."

A big thank you goes out to the Knik Group Sierra Club for sponsoring our Alaska Biodiesel and SVO Network booth.

For those of you looking to make a day of it, other workshops include:

Deborah Williams, The Role of Renewable Energy in Addressing Global Warming
Peter Crimp, Wood Energy in Alaska – Renewed Interest in an Old Standby
Marvin Kuentzel and RJ Vasser, Renewable Energy System Design Basics

1 pm:
Robin Richardson, Just One More Reason to Watch What We Eat… The Amazing Relationship Between Food and Energy
Steve Gilbert, Fire Island Wind Update
Eric Yould, Hydropower in Alaska

2 pm:
Mike Willmon, Electric Vehicle Technology
Maryellen Oman and Cynthia Wentworth, Commuter Rail… It’s Time Has Come
David Lockard, Alaska’s Near-term Geothermal Development Prospects

3 pm:
Will Taygan, Backyard Biodiesel
Andy Baker, Solar Hot Water for Homeowners and Businesses
Chris Rose, Renewable Energy Policy in Alaska: Successes and Challenges

4 pm:
Bill Leighty, Brining Alaska’s Large, Diverse, Stranded Renewables to Alaska and Global Markets as Hydrogen and Ammonia with Firming Storage
Larry Flowers, Wind Energy: an Alaskan Opportunity
Doug Johnson, Overview of Tidal and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Projects in Alaska

Veg On!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Biodiesel Homebrew Guide: The Definitive DIY Manual.

Biodiesel Homebrew GuideBiodiesel Homebrew Guide by Maria "Girl Mark" Alovert: everything you need to know to make quality alternative diesel fuel out of waste restaurant fryer oil.

This is the book that I used years ago to learn how to brew biodiesel and build my reactor. It's currently up to edition 10.5, revised in 2007. There's no fluff here, no personal stories or politics, just the information you need to make your own biodiesel.

Girl Mark is one of the best known and well respected activists in the homebrew biodiesel community. She is famous for traversing the country leading workshops for the masses. She is the inventor of the water-heater based weldless-fumeless Appleseed processor and is a DIY expert on many internet forums.

Her book was written as a companion to her classes and it reads in a very comfortable, conversational tone. After a quick overview of biodiesel versus other veg-fuels; she jumps right into what to expect when using biodiesel, the good and the bad - in a friendly, but honest way.

With an eye for keeping it cheap and accessible to DIY folks, she emphasizes alternatives to expensive scales and chemicals, while still being safe. Biodiesel Homebrew Guide then leads you through test batches, titration, dewatering techniques, brewing fuel and quality testing.

The coolest thing about this book is its focus on chemistry for non-chemists. Yes, there's a quick explanation of what's going on in your reaction, but where the Biodiesel Homebrew Guide really shines is explaining what the reaction should look like, what it shouldn't look like, and how to test and fix substandard reactions. She explains and describes emulsions - ways to break them, and ways NOT to break them. The book tells you which popular DIY tests work, which ones aren't worth doing - and explains WHY. The book even goes into detail about the little white clumps that occasionally show up, and the creamy middle layer that we sometimes see.

Biodiesel Homebrew guide covers water-washing options, goes into depth about the pros and cons of each technique, and gives recommendations about which mist nozzles work best. It also includes a really cool section on acidulating and purifying glycerol, as what comes out of the processor is only about 40% glycerine - in a cocktail of methanol, soap and catalyst.

Finally Girl Mark provides a number of plans for building a basic or a bell-and-whistles Appleseed processor and stand-pipe wash tank.

Like other homebrew books it does not go into methanol recovery or acid-base reactions, but it does point you in the right direction - if that's where you are headed.

Biodiesel Homebrew Guide is definitely a work in progress, perhaps more like a 'zine than a book. It came as a stapled together pile of photocopies and contains a number of spelling and grammatical errors. There are also a few places where it seems that some paragraphs had been updated, but others referred to older editions of the book.

It's not a slick shiny book, but it is the DEFINITIVE guide for the thrifty do-it-yourself crowd. If you want to understand what's going on in your processor, and how to make quality fuel, then this is the book for you.

It's the perfect complement to b100supply's Home Brew Biodiesel - which has clearer plans and recipes, but doesn't go into as much depth about what you're seeing happen during the reaction.

You can buy Biodiesel Homebrew Guide for $18 (including shipping to Alaska) directly from Girl Mark at

Veg On!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Alaska Fish Oil Biodiesel Grant Reopened

AEA logoThe Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) $180,000 grant I wrote about in 13 million gallons of Alaska Fish Oil has finally been reopened.

More info at the State of Alaska's Public Notice.

Here's some excerpts from the grant's introduction:
The Alaska seafood industry processes approximately 4.4 billion pounds of fish annually, producing approximately 2.2 billion pounds of “waste,” those portions of the fish not processed for human or industrial consumption. Of that waste, approximately 62 percent is discharged into state waters. The discharged fish waste contains an estimated 13 million gallons of unrecovered fish oil.

Besides its use in pharmaceuticals and agriculture/aquaculture feeds, Alaska fish oil has been demonstrated as a suitable supplementary or displacement fuel in applications burning diesel as a thermal fuel (in boilers or heaters) and, in some circumstances, as an engine fuel. Alaska fishoil has also been demonstrated as excellent feedstock oil for the production of biodiesel (methyl esters).

A major hurdle hindering further oil recovery from Alaska-generated fish processing wastes is that the waste is generated at numerous geographically dispersed sites over relatively short periods of time in following harvesting practices of wild stocks. This tends to discourage investment in and the economic viability of fixed location oil recovery facilities, the most common model. Further, fish waste is generally not amenable to aggregation and transport as it is bulky, difficult to handle, and degrades rapidly unless frozen or otherwise preserved.

The intent of this project is to provide grant funding and technical/business support toward the development, construction, and demonstrated operation of a mobile fish oil recovery module. This module will be employed at and relocated between multiple existing processing sites thereby increasing its annual utilization and economic return. It is expected that at some processing sites, the fish oil product will be retained and utilized by the host facility and/or community to displace the use of conventional diesel engine or boiler fuels.

Need more info about the application? Contact the grant manager, James Jensen at (907) 771-3000.

Veg On!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tuning up Vegoil (SVO, WVO) Systems.

www.alaskavegoil.orgIt's been a fun couple of weeks. We've had a few folks bring in their not-fully functioning SVO trucks (first-time installations), providing us good puzzles to figure out and vegoil systems to improve.

We like to encourage do-it-yourself vegoil conversions. We'll sell you a kit at a discount, and give you free phone support installing it.

And if you get stuck, we're available to fix things.

Yep, here at Arctic Vegwerks, we keep busy. We teach biodiesel and SVO classes and seminars, sell and install vegoil systems, spend hours giving free phone consultations for our customers, and we fix those poorly running or unfinished WVO conversions.

We're available in 4 hour chunks of time, for $150 a pop. Both systems this week took two 4-hour blocks to finish up.

First was a nice, burly, and moderately complex 3-valve Plantdrive setup on a 95 F250 Ford Powerstroke. The 3rd valve switched between looping and returning to tank. All the hoses were finished, but the electrical hadn't been started. We installed the really truly amazing VOControl on the truck. It's not cheap, but it BLOWS the competition's controllers out of the water. It's a real computer, not just a timer. More on that later.

The second was a 1996 Dodge 2500 Cummins with a Greasecar setup. It was installed by a local mechanic about a year ago, and had never run well. The mechanic is a good one and his work was beautiful. But, it was his first SVO kit and he just followed the generic Greasecar instructions. Once again I was unimpressed by the Greasecar setup. Temps rarely hit 100F, the vegoil was being pulled first through the veg filter, then the diesel filter and the tank and lines were full of gunk. We drained the tank, added a flat-plate heat exchanger and completely rerouted the engine fuel hoses. On its maiden run the temps were pegged in the 160's, yeah!

Thinking about installing a system? Need a tune-up on your existing system? We offer a free initial consultation to any Alaskan.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Vegwerks in the Anchorage Daily News.

vegwerks classRindy White from the Anchorage Daily News part together a great write-up on the Hands-On Homebrewing class I taught in Palmer last weekend. Page A4 of the Sunday paper no less!

Alaskans learn how to make their own fuel.
BIODIESEL: It's not easy, but the result is a $2 a gallon alternative.

PALMER -- Two bucks a gallon to make your own biodiesel sounds like a bargain compared to $5 to pump a gallon of gas or heating oil. But operating a processing plant in your garage might be more of a hobby than you're willing to take on.

I was also interviewed for the pickup truck story at the top of the front page of today's Sunday ADN. Check out the "ECO TRUCKS" part at the end:

Alaska's love affair with pickups sours.

The emails are already pouring in for another class, and the comments are piling up at the ADN website.

So here's some information for those FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Check out the events page at for upcoming classes.

I also offer private classes for groups of 5 or more. Email to set one up.

See these blog entries for more information on: sustainable Alaska biodiesel, Alaska grown fuel, Alaskan fish oil biodiesel and Alaska's place in the food vs. fuel debate.

Read more about straight vegetable oil (SVO) conversions at - using heat to thin the oil instead of removing the glycerin.

And of course you can join in the discussion at the Alaska Biodiesel and SVO yahoogroups email list.

Veg On!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hands-On Brewing Cheat Sheet

backyard biodieselThanks to everyone who came out to the Hands-On Brewing class last weekend in Palmer. The class was full, and there was a lot of stuff to go over. In a room full of beakers and graduated cylinders a new crop of biodiesel brewers tested Salmon oil, Mill and Feed's oil, and my personal supply of cherry-picked deep-fryer Canola oil. The layout of the room made the board hard to see, so I've put together the basic directions here for folks to remember:

Always wear safety equipment. Don't breath or touch this stuff. Biodiesel is nontoxic after you've washed the methanol and glycerine/lye out, not before.

For the reference solution:
  1. add 1000ml distilled water
  2. add 1 gram NaOH or KOH
For the titration:
  1. add 10 ml isopropyl alcohol
  2. add 4 drops phenolphthalein indicator solution
  3. "blank" the jar with a few drops -OH reference solution - swirl and add until the purple stays
  4. add 1 ml oil (be exact)
  5. measure 10 ml -OH reference solution - swirl and add until the purple stays.
  6. note how many ml -OH reference solution you used.
This will be the grams (Na or K)-OH added on top of the catalyst amount to strip the free fatty acids.

For the test batch:
  1. warm your oil to 135 degrees F. (methanol boils at 148F - don't overheat!)
  2. add 220ml methanol to methanol/catalyst jar
  3. add the catalyst - 5 grams NaOH or 8 grams KOH plus the stripping grams from the titration - to the methanol.
  4. swirl the methanol/catalyst mixture until it dissolves.
  5. add 1000ml warm oil to a 2 liter soda bottle.
  6. add methanol/catalyst solution to the soda bottle.
  7. shake for one minute, then shake one minute every 15 minutes for an hour.
For more detailed information check out

Monday, June 16, 2008

Alaska Suppliers of Biodiesel Chemicals.

Roebic Drain Opener
  • 50# Bags NaOH, KOH - Garness Industrial, Anchorage 907-562-2933
  • 55 Gallon Drum Methanol - Inlet Petroleum, Anchorage 907-274-3835
  • 2# NaOH (Roebic Crystal Drain Opener) - Lowe's
  • 1# KOH - Arctic Vegwerks, Chugiak 907-688-5288
  • 12 oz. Methanol (HEET - yellow bottle)
  • Phenolphthalein Indicator - Arctic Vegwerks, Chugiak 907-688-5288

The homebrewer of biodiesel quickly discovers that you can't HazMat ship small quantities of chemicals to Alaska. It's lower 48 only.

The big chemical supplier in Anchorage is Univar. Unfortunately they DON'T want to deal with individuals, wholesale to businesses only. Furthermore, they told me on the phone that they don't want to sell to backyard brewers of biodiesel, even if they have a business license. What's more, they asked me if I had a fuel distributor license (which I do) and where my biodiesel facility was. I explained that I teach classes and seminars, including courses at UAA and APU, and they would "check" if they could sell to me. Ugh.

Next call was to Garness Industrial 907-562-2933, who resell chemicals to individuals and were great to deal with. Their single 50 pound bag price for NaOH and KOH was cheaper than the single bag price from Univar.

Garness prices June 16, 2008:

50# NaOH $57.50
50# KOH $107.00

Inlet Petroleum 907-274-3835, is a major petroleum distributor down at the Port of Anchorage. Their current price for a 55 gallon drum of methanol is $335.36, 10% more than Univar's single drum price, but they sell to individuals.

For SMALLER QUANTITIES of chemicals your options are limited.

Lowe's sells 2 pounds of pure NaOH branded as "Roebic (Heavy Duty) Crystal Drain Opener" for $8.68. The Tudor store was sold out, so I went to Wasilla to pick some up.

For those looking for Phenolphthalein Indicator solution, Arctic Vegwerks 907-688-5288 (yes, that's us) sells 30ml dropper bottles for $10. We also sell one pound bags of KOH for $10, 3 pounds for $20.

Small quantities of Methanol are sold as HEET in the YELLOW BOTTLE as most gas stations and grocery stores (I get mine at Fred Meyer).

Veg On!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Salmon Biodiesel at Oceans Festival June 7th Anchorage

oceans festival logoCome down to the Anchorage Parkstrip Saturday Afternoon for the Alaska Oceans Festival and visit the Alaska Biodiesel and SVO Network booth. We'll be sharing space with our non-profit sponsor, the Alaska Chapter Sierra Club.

Salmon oil biodiesel demonstrations will be offered every hour or so throughout the afternoon, but be sure to stick around for the evening beers and music.

Son Volt is playing a free show 7:30pm, with Fairbanks jam-Americana band Sweating Honey opening at 6pm. The 4pm keynote speaker is Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

As a side note, we're in need of clear 2-liter soda bottles (with caps) for upcoming biodiesel events. If you have a few please drop them off at the booth!

Veg On!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hands-On Biodiesel Brewing Class - June 14, 2008 - Palmer

biodiesel brewingSaturday June 14, 2008 - 12:30pm

$39 at the APU Kellogg Campus, Spring Creek Farm, Palmer

Please join Arctic Vegwerks for an afternoon hands-on biodiesel brewing class and make your own fuel! Participants will learn how to collect oil, test it, and create a small batch of biodiesel to take home. Registration is required, and the course fee includes all safety equipment, lab supplies and ingredients for a test batch.

Hands-On Biodiesel Brewing is the second in a series of biodiesel and vegoil events and classes this summer. New students are welcome. See the events page at for more information.

Spring Creek Farm is located at 6404 N. Lossing Rd in Palmer, Alaska.

From Anchorage take the Glenn Hwy past Palmer and turn LEFT on Farm Loop Road, after few driveways turn RIGHT at the Spring Creek Farm sign onto Lossing Road. Continue to the white farm buildings on your right.

Sponsored by Arctic Vegwerks in cooperation with Alaska Pacific University.

Click here for registration information (132k pdf). Call Will Taygan at 907-688-5288 for more information.