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!