Monday, March 31, 2008

Which Truck Should I Get for a SVO (WVO, VegOil) Conversion?

Dodge Ram 2nd GenThe most popular post by far on the Vegwerks Blog is Which Diesel Should I Get for a SVO (WVO, VegOil) Conversion?

Not surprisingly, it's also the most common email (and phone call) question that I get.

So, loyal readers, here are my top three choices for SVO trucks:
  1. 1994-1998.5 Dodge Cummins 5.9l 2nd gen 12 valve
  2. 1989-1993 Dodge Cummins 5.9l 1st gen 12 valve
  3. 1983-1994 Ford International 6.9/7.3l pre-Powerstroke

Now, here's the details:

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO), even when heated, is still thicker than diesel. You need a truck with an injection pump than can withstand the added stress of SVO.

The strongest injection pump out there out there is the Bosch inline P7100, found on 2nd generation 12 valve Dodge Cummins trucks.

The best SVO truck:
1994-1998.5 Dodge Cummins 5.9l 2nd gen 12 valve

Other good candidates for a vegoil conversion are pre-Powerstroke 6.9/7.3 Fords with the regular Stanadyne injection pumps and 1st generation 12 valve Dodges with the Bosch VE rotary pump. Personally, I convert a lot of VWs with the Bosch VE pump, and have good luck with them, so I would prefer a Dodge, but they are harder to find than the Fords. In early 1994 Ford made a turbodiesel version of the 7.3 IDI, it's the newest, most powerful of the old-style pre-Powerstroke engines.

Common, easier to convert diesel trucks:
1989-1993 Dodge Cummins 5.9l 1st gen 12 valve
1983-1994 Ford 6.9/7.3l IDI

Halfway through 1994 Ford switched from an Indirect Injection (IDI) engine to a Direct Injection (DI) system with a Hydraulic Electronic Unit Injection (HEUI), a type of Common-Rail system, instead of a regular mechanical injection pump. These are very common, but the fuel routing issues cause purge times to be almost 15 minutes with a standard conversion. With the extra modifications to reduce purge times, these can run vegoil very well, but may cost $1000-$2000 more.

Common diesels that may require more complex, expensive conversions:
1994.5-1997 Ford Powerstroke 7.3l 1st gen
1999-2003 Ford Powerstroke 7.3l 2nd gen

GMC/Chevy trucks have a very sensitive injection pump that is known to break when running straight vegetable oil. I don't recommend converting these trucks, although there are a few local GMC fanatics who are running SVO.

The Dodge VP44 is a radial-piston rotary pump, instead of the axial-piston VE rotary pump, and that makes a lot of difference. Basically, the VP44 is a sensitive pump that breaks easily on straight vegetable oil.

Not Recommended:
1982-2000 GMC/Chevy 6.2/6.5l
1998.5-2002 Dodge Cummins 5.9l 24 valve

Yeah, but what about the newer trucks? Ummmmm, they're newer. All have Direct Injection (DI) engines with some sort of common-rail injection system, and would require at least as much additional modifications as the 7.3l Powerstrokes. We can convert them, but consider converting them experimental and expensive.

And what about Isuzu, Toyota, International, and other early 80's trucks? Well, most of them are pretty good candidates, but info on the rare trucks is beyond the scope of this piece, although I've happily driven an old VW pickup for years on SVO.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grease Price Conspiracies.

Alaska Mill and FeedWith diesel prices going up, there's been a lot of interest from folks trying to save a buck with our Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) systems. Amazingly, Anchorage has a SVO-friendly grease collection company, Alaska Mill and Feed. They have been selling SVO drivers 55 gallon drums of filtered, dewatered, used (sometimes heavily used) cooking oil, known on the commodities market as "Yellow Grease."

It's been priced at 75 cents a gallon for a few years, but recently they raised the price to $1.00 a gallon. I've heard rumblings in the local vegoil community that maybe Mill and Feed is just trying to squeeze us a little, since diesel prices are so high. This couldn't be further from the truth.

A quick check at the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service's Bioenergy Portal leads us to the National Weekly Ag Energy Round-up. Yellow Grease is commanding an amazing 33 cents a pound on the open market.

Since Yellow Grease runs about 7.6 pounds per gallon, at 33 cents a pound, the market rate is just over $2.50 a gallon! Those 35 pound (about 4.5 gallon) cubies of old fryer oil are now worth $11.55, double what grease was selling for a year ago!

Even with shipping costs to the lower 48, Mill and Feed is losing money by selling grease at the low local price. Mark, the plant manager, has done a great job cleaning up their oil and keeping costs low for Alaskans. We're lucky to have such a great business supporting Alaska biofuels.

Alaska Biodiesel Night a Success!

www.alaskavegoil.orgWow, we had over 100 people turn out to yesterday's Alaska Biodiesel Night. Folks flew in from all over the state, and many of key biofuel folks were in the audience to help answer the tricky questions:

Hans Geier, the Delta Canola famer has solved the problems that growing Canola in Alaska has been faced with in the past, and spoke about his farm-scale oil press.

James Jensen from the Alaska Energy Authority updated us on fish-oil projects, specifically mentioning their use of antioxidants for fuel preservation, the portable rendering plant grant, and studies to determine the benefits to the environment by capturing the oil from carcasses instead of dumping them.

A fisherman (Brian Pauling, I think?) from Dillingham asked about shelf-life and stability of fish guts/oil/biodiesel, as they are trying to get a fish oil energy project off the ground.

Tim Hudson was there to testify about the National Park Service's successes with B100, and specifically mentioned using heated fuel systems to keep B100 driving down to -38F.

And many other folks brought up great points, from "secret diesel" recipes and unheated blending proposals, to biodiesel efforts on prop airplanes.

Anthony Destafano from SEAKsolutions, flew up from Juneau and gave a great presentation on Southeast Alaska's renewable energy potential. He focused on the fact that biodiesel can help now, and doesn't require the years of studies and infrastructure requirements that plague many renewable energy projects.

I tried to focus on the the title of the evening. "Biodiesel: What is it? Why is it so great? How can I get it?" We covered chemistry, ASTM specs, emissions, carbon and energy balances, lubrication and oxygenation benefits to the engine, and of course, how to obtain biodiesel. Basically, with the new Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), you need some kind of additive to protect your engine - biodiesel is an excellent one, and B20 blends will run in unmodified diesel engines.

We at Arctic Vegwerks are working with the biofuels community and are expecting to sell ASTM biodiesel this summer, while hoping that local producers are up and running within a year. More on this later.

Furthermore, Arctic Vegwerks is offering a series of classes and seminars on backyard biodiesel this summer. More on this soon.

The evening ended with a great networking session in the foyer, Zane Ulin and crew from Premium Biofuels Alaska were handing out flyers on the BioPro, building off of Anthony Destefano's fleet-scale biodiesel project in Taku that he mention in his talk. Folks from UAA were handing out questionnaires for yet another biodiesel feasibility study, and Mark Goodman from Mill and Feed told me about the skyrocketing market for yellow grease. More on grease prices soon.

Thanks to the folks from "French Fries to Go" and "Greasy Rider" for the films, to all the great people who made this happen, especially Judy Stoll who helped staff the table at the last minute, and a big cheer to the Sierra Club for sponsoring the evening. We'll do it again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

biodieselSMARTER: a 'zine for brewers.

biodieselSMARTEROne of the hardest things about backyard biodiesel is wading through all the crap on the internet and finding the good information. To make things harder, backyard brewing techniques are constantly evolving. What was cutting edge two years ago may have been put aside as too problematic (like the Magnesol dry-wash - it's difficult to filter out), and today's new techniques still have kinks (like the Purolite dry-wash - preventing resin compaction). There is the solid peer-reviewed biodiesel community website that will give you everything you need to get started for free, but when entering more advanced homebrew issues (acid pre-treatment, methanol recovery, GL 1-day drywash) we're at the mercy of the mob at the infopop forums.

Enter biodieselSMARTER, a DIY full-color 'zine "for biodiesel homebrewers by biodiesel homebrewers." Now in its second year, it's only $10 for a subscription and it's jam-packed with real stories about real folks doing real homebrew. Issue #5 is a full 40 pages, and its homebrew roots show with the 100% recycled paper, 100% wind-power, folded 8.5 by 11" format.

It's based around case-studies, and the only fault I find with it is that a couple of times it shares cool things that folks are doing, but doesn't give enough detail to reproduce what is happening (the living filter for wash water.) Most of the time however, the information is great (ethanol treatment for methanol exposure, sizing a purolite resin column, and Dr. Dan's TDI death row analysis.) I especially like Spanking Ester, the question and answers column from Leif at Piedmont Biofuels: 5% prewash chemistry, efforts to scale up the GL 1-day method, anti-gels for biodiesel, etc. etc.

But don't take my word for it, check out what Kumar and Lyle have written, and then send in your $10!

P.S. I just got my #3 and #4 back issues. Full-sized and beautiful. I now remember why I didn't subscribe last year: the old ad-free version was $25 a year. The new, smaller version has a few ads, but it's a measly $10 for a great 'zine. Every biodiesel brewer should have a subscription.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Review: Biodiesel America

Biodiesel America BookI must be honest that I have mixed feelings about the author of Biodiesel America, Josh Tickell. He has made himself and and his Veggie Van into the grassroots face of big business biodiesel. His now-famous book From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank was how we all first learned to make biodiesel, but it's terribly outdated, and even the 3rd edition has unsafe techniques. Furthermore, Josh has renounced straight vegetable oil, and although he has videos on how to make biodiesel, he is more well know for his work with the big producer lobbying group the National Biodiesel Board.

But, much of that is behind us now. The NBB is embracing sustainable biodiesel and offers a half-price membership for small producers. Josh's new film Fields of Fuel has received rave reviews, and even Kumar at Yokayo has come around and embraced Josh's efforts. Personally, I'm hoping Josh and Fields of Fuel will come up to Anchorage to help promote the expansion of biodiesel in Alaska (more on this later).

As for the book, Biodiesel America: it's a great read for the end user - the individual or the fleet manager thinking about running biodiesel. It's not a how-to book, but more of a rosy "biodiesel will save the world" kind of book. The entire first half is setting the stage: the history of petroleum, peak oil, Dr. Diesel, and alternative energy. Not enough for one book? Tickell then turns to the benefits for American farmers, and the benefits of burning biodiesel. He gets a little bogged down in describing American politics, the farm bill, and the committees and politicians that are involved in biodiesel regulations and incentives. But, he comes back with a nice section on biodiesel plants, their growth and economics.

It's a fine book to loan to your friends who are interested in running biodiesel, or for the business owner that is considering it for their fleet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Revolution Green DVD

Revolution GreenRevolution Green is an independent, well produced film about community-based biodiesel. It tells the story of Bob and Kelly King, and their journey from diverting cooking grease from a Maui landfill to a partnership with Willie Nelson, and the truckers and farmers that have been brought into the fold by the now famous BioWillie.

Narrated by Woody Harrelson, it tells an amazing story of the people that have gathered around Bob as he has spread his expertise from Hawaii to Texas, Oregon and beyond. His plants are commercial, yes, but focused on sustainable biodiesel. These biodiesel facilities are relatively small in size, and located to complement the community, whether it be near waste grease or cottonseed crops.

There is a big focus on Willie Nelson's impact on the acceptance of biodiesel by the trucking community, and the struggles of American farmers. The film is refreshing in its ability to balance the professional, business side of the industry with the personal, family side of truckers, farmers, and celebrities' lives.

Overall, I enjoyed Revolution Green and its ability to tell the story of a few key American biodiesel pioneers, and their ability to keep biodiesel a renewable and sustainable fuel.

For $20, it's a good addition to any biofuel enthusiast's collection.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Alaska Biodiesel in the News.

biodiesel magazineI just caught wind of the January 2008 Biodiesel Magazine article on developing projects across the US. They highlighted the Alaska fish oil projects, and mentioned the grant for a portable fish-oil rendering facility, which I wrote about a few month's back. Looks like I'll have to give up some personal information and get a free subscription.

Also, the Anchorage Daily News published my response (original response here) to the Science magazine studies, which once again pointed out that destroying the rainforest is a bad way to grow oil crops for biofuels.

Veg On!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 26th - Anchorage Biodiesel Night - Free!

Wednesday March 26th, 7-9pm at the Anchorage Museum, 7th Ave and A St. FREE!

Speakers and films sponsored by the Alaska Biodiesel and SVO Network: a Sierra Club Smart Energy Solution, SEAKsolutions Juneau, and Anchorage Mayor Begich's Office.
Biodiesel: What is it? Why is it so great? Where can I get it?

Join us for an evening with biofuels experts from across the state, and award-winning short documentary films. Tour operators, fleet managers and interested individuals are invited to explore practical options for a sustainable Alaska.

From fish oil and Alaskan Canola crops to local restaurant grease, Alaska's biodiesel and straight vegetable oil systems can displace a significant amount of diesel, save our communities from high fuel prices, reclaim wasted resources and reduce our carbon emissions.

Speakers include Will Taygan, Arctic Vegwerks - Chugiak and Anthony Destefano, SEAKsolutions - Juneau.

Films include the short "French Fries to Go" about Telluride's Granola Ayatollah of Canola, Charris Ford and his restaurant-grease powered Grassolean, and "Greasy Rider" a cross-country voyage powered by waste vegetable oil.
For more information contact the Knik Group Sierra Club at 907-276-4048 or check in with us a