Friday, November 30, 2007

Biodiesel technology

ENERGEA -- The next generation of biodiesel technology -- CTER "Continuous Trans Esterification Reactor" technology opens a new chapter in biodiesel production: up to 50% lower cost of investment, turn-key modules the size of a container, multi-feed-stock technology, production capacity 5000 to 100,000 mt/a or more, high quality fuel according to EN 14214 standard. Email:

Biofuel Systems provides state-of-the-art biodiesel process equipment which meets all recognised international safety standards (eg. ATEX) and will produce biodiesel from a range of feedstocks to meet recognised standards, including ASTM 6751-03, EN 14214:2003, DIN V 51606. Currently offers systems from 900 litres per week upwards. Available in Australasia through New Zealand Biofuels Limited, and in the rest of world direct from Biofuel Systems, 58 Church Street, Ormskirk, Lancashire, ENGLAND L39 3AW. Fax: +44 1695 571222 e-mail:

BioDiesel International
of Austria uses re-esterification in its multi-feedstock production system to handle fresh and/or waste oils and/or animal fats with as much as 20% fatty acids, with no loss of free fatty acids, 0% wastes, 0% waste water and no disposal costs, resulting in pure biodiesel plus glycerine plus fertilizer (potassium phosphate).

Ageratec Sweden makes automated biodiesel processors using sequence controllers, ranging from 800 to 8,000 liters capacity.

Austrian Biofuels Institute -- an international centre of competence for liquid biofuels: Production: feasibility studies, process technologies for biofuels, project management; Feedstock supply: oilseed plant production and breedin, oil-mill technologies, waste oil recycling, logistic systems for waste oil collection. All countries of the European Union, supports biofuels business projects worldwide.

Pacific Biodiesel
-- Plant installation -- two configurations: 200,000 gallons/year (750,000 liters/year), expandable in 200,000 gallons/year increments to maximum 800,000 gallons/year (3,000,000 liters/year); or 400,000 gallons/year (1,500,000 liters/year) expandable in 400,000 gallons/year increments to maximum 1,600,000 gallons/year (6,000,000 liters/year). Telephone: (808) 877-3144, Fax: (808) 871-5631,, Contact Bob King, President

Superior Process Technologies, USA -- Multi-feedstock biodiesel processing technology, turn-key engineering and design services. "Superior's biodiesel technology offers the highest efficiency and is scalable from the largest continuous processing facilities in the world to small-scale alternative feedstock facilities." Contact:

Biodiesel processors

There are as yet no small-scale ready-made biodiesel processors on the market that are worth having. See for instance this message to the Biofuel mailing list: Re: [biofuel] Best Processer: "You could make an excellent processor plus more than 8,000 gallons of high-quality biodiesel for that price."

Biofuel Systems and Ageratec for small professional systems (Biodiesel technology section, above). For homebrewer-scale processors, build your own, it's easy and safe. There's a variety of types and designs here: Biodiesel processors.

Standards testing

Biodiesel fuel testing for the US ASTM D-6751 standard:

Analytical Testing Services, Inc.

Harris Testing Laboratories, Inc.

Gas Chromatographs (GC)

SRI Instruments supplies Low Cost Gas Chromatographs, used for biodiesel quality testing. Also sells pre-owned equipment. 20720 Earl Street Torrance, Calif. 90503 U.S.A. Telephone: (310) 214-5092 Fax: (310) 214-5097. (Information from Steve Woolcott, HarvestEnergy, Sydney, Australia)

Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR)

For Biodiesel quality testing
NIR Helps Turn Vegetable Oil into High-Quality Biofuel

Dr Gerhard Knothe, of ARS, USDA, is willing to help users implement NIR testing for biodiesel. E-mail:

NIR equipment suppliers

(Information from Steve Woolcott, HarvestEnergy, Sydney, Australia, and Steve Spence of WebConX)

Foss NIRSystems

Thermo Electron

Bruker Optics

ISOChem Near Infrared Analyzer from LT Industries

Grating Spectrophotometer, absorption photometer

Grabner Instruments: IROX Diesel -- Diesel Analysis with FTIR Technology

Oilseed presses

The Sunflower Seed Huller and Oil Press -- by Jeff Cox (from Organic Gardening, April 1979, Rodale Press): Vegetable oils used to be one of those items you just HAD to buy. Now here's how to make your own. In 2,500 square feet, a family of four can grow each year enough sunflower seed to produce three gallons of homemade vegetable oil suitable for salads or cooking and 20 pounds of nutritious, dehulled seed -- with enough broken seeds left over to feed a winter's worth of birds. Online at the Journey to Forever Biofuels Library.

Hela Mk II
ApproTec's Mafuti Mali ("Oil Wealth") press is a manual press for small-scale local production. The Hela Mk II is a high-performance manual press for extracting cold-pressed oil from sunflower and other seeds. The extraction efficiency is considered better than any other manual press -- about 12 kg of sunflower seed per hour. Easy to use, tough and durable, but not cheap -- US$265 in Tanzania. Contact Hugh C. Allen,

Sundhara oil expeller, designed in Germany for use in Nepal, now made in Nepal and Zimbabwe -- 60-70kg/hr (about 15 litres of oil). At the Jatropha Website:

Equipment For Decentralised Cold Pressing of Oil Seeds -- the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, Denmark -- 64-page report, detailed descriptions and diagrams, mostly mid-range presses from 80kg/hr and up.
PDF -- Acrobat file, 917k

Briquette Presses for Alternate Fuel Use, by Jason Dahlman with Charlie Forst, 2001 -- Design for a simple briquette press that can also be used as an oil press for seeds. Acrobat file, 2.8Mb

Jatropha System -- many oilseed presses detailed here, see "Oil extraction":

Small-scale electric screw presses to press oil from seeds from
T?bypressen in Sweden.

Tinytech Plants -- Tiny Oil Mill, oil expeller with cooking kettle, Groundnut Decorticator, Sunflower Cracker or Palm Nut Cracker, Copra Cutter, made in Rajkot, India. Includes oil expeller, electrical cooking kettle with digital temperature controller, filter press, electric motor 10 HP, spare parts kit etc. Crushing capacity of 3 tonnes in 24 hours. Can be run with diesel motor. For edible oil or making bio diesel -- green energy and electricity generation. Working successfully in 52 countries. The company follows Gandhian Appropriate Technology principles. Contact: E-mail:

KOMET Vegetable Oil Expeller, IBG Monforts in Germany -- range covers small hand-operated as well as powered machines. Virtually all oil-bearing seeds, nuts, and kernels can be pressed with the standard equipment without cumbersome adjusting of screws and oil outlet holes. The vegetable oil produced generally needs no refining, bleaching, or deodorizing. Big nuts, kernels, and copra (dried coconut meat) have to be crushed to the particle size of peas on the KOMET Cutting Machine "System CRUSHER". IBG Monforts:

United Oil Mill Machinery & Spares Pvt. Ltd manufactures and exports an entire range of machinery and equipment for small, medium and large capacity oil mills for seed preparation, oil expelling, filtration and refining. Oil expellers for extraction of oil from any oil-bearing seed, capacities from 1 ton to 150 tons per day (24 hours); other machinery/equipment with matching capacities.

  • Tiger Mk I Oil Expeller, all steel construction, fitted with steel gears and pinions, fitted with steam heating kettle with electricals, capacity 2 tons per day (24 hours). US$7,500-00
  • Tiger Mk II Oil Expeller, all steel construction, fitted with steel gears and pinions, fitted with steam heating kettle with electricals, capacity 3-4 tons per day (24 hours). US$9,500-00
  • Exceoil Mk 2 Automatic Oil Expeller, all steel construction with double reduction helical gear box with steam kettle complete with electricals, capacity 8-10 tons per day (24 hours). US$15,000-00

Prices F.O.B. Indian port. Also manufactures the Wolf baby oil expeller with a capacity of 1 ton per day , caste-iron construction. Email:

Dong Kwang Oil Machine Co., South Korea -- automatic edible oil presses, from 10kg/hr up. For sesame seed, sunflower, palm kernel, cacao, coconut (copra), olive, castor, cotton seed, maize (germ), rice bran, almond (germ), apricot (germ), soya bean, Chinese tung (germ), walnut, peanut, linseed, rape seed, perilla seed, mustard, etc.

SWEA A/S, Denmark. Double-screw oil press, 30 kg seed/hour, oil yield 25-38%, 6-10 litres oil/hour and approx. 21 kg cake depending on the quality of the seed.

HYBREN A/S, Denmark. Mini single-screw press, integrated with full automatic pellet boiler. Adjustable oil yield depending on relation heat demand/fuel demand. Website in Danish:

BT Maskinfabrik, Denmark. Single-screw press, four different models from approx. 4 to 100kg seed/h, oil yield 30-35%

"Small-scale Oilseed Processing" by Janet Bachmann, NCAT Agriculture Specialist, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) -- Basic processes involved in small-scale oilseed processing, includes a low-tech method for raw material preparation using sunflower seeds as an example; information on methods and equipment used for oil extraction; notes on clarification, packaging, and storage. Sources for additional information and a list of suitable raw material.
PDF version (426 kb):

"The Manual Screw Press for Small-Scale Oil Extraction" by Kathryn H. Potts, Keith MacHell, 1993, Intermediate Technology, ISBN 1853391980
Manual oil extraction from peanuts or other soft oilseeds can be a viable enterprise for small businesses. Describes small-scale processes of oil extraction for use in rural areas, as well as ways to market and distribute the oilcake. From IT Publishing:

"Small-scale Vegetable Oil Extraction", S W Head, A A Swetman, T W Hammonds, A Gordon, K H Southwell and R V Harris, Natural Resources Institute, 1994, ISBN 0 85954 387-0 -- Covers a basic understanding of the science and composition of oils and economic and marketing considerations, principles of oil extraction, basic oilseed processing methods, the major oil sources with specific small and intermediate technologies for each. Results from actual third world situations are used. For example, the discussion of obtaining oil from sesame seed covers a hot water flotation method used in Uganda and Sudan, the bridge press (laboratory only), the ram press in Tanzania, the ghani process in Sudan, and a small-scale expeller in the Gambia. Technical details for each are summarized in a few paragraphs, including oil yields. Includes many drawings that are helpful in understanding each process, with a 14-page appendix listing suppliers of small-scale equipment. From ITDG:

Understanding Pressure Extraction of Vegetable Oils, VITA Technical Paper #40, by VITA Volunteers James William Casten and Harry E. Snyder

Understanding Solvent Extraction of Vegetable Oils, VITA Technical Paper # 41, by VITA Volunteer Nathan Kessler

Yields: Typical oil extraction from 100 kg. of oil seeds:
Castor Seed 36 kg
Copra 62 kg
Cotton Seed 13 kg
Groundnut Kernel 42 kg
Mustard 35 kg
Palm Kernal 36 kg
Palm Fruit 20 kg
Rapeseed 37 kg
Sesame 50 kg
Soyabean 14 kg
Sunflower 32 kg

Methanol suppliers

In the US, try race circuits.

"Contact any bulk, liquid fuels distributor for 55 gallon lots or better. Any bulk propane distributorship should be willing to tell you where they get their methanol from. It's used as a carrier for water, aka a "drying agent."

"For smaller lots speak with the management of any speed shop. Their customer base is largely dependant upon methanol availability. If you know anyone who races, they may be willing to part with small quantities.

"Also look on the net for distributors of
Sunoco Race Fuels. These distributors have access to unblended methanol in all quantities." -- Todd Swearingen, Appal Energy, at the Biofuel mailing list.

Dyce Chemical Inc. -- 1353 Taylor Pl., Billings MT, USA (406) 248-3131 -- 99+% methanol available in 55-gallon drums only. Call center (Pennsylvania) 888-926-4151. Sales (Montreal) 514-636-9230.

VP Racing Fuels sells pure methanol and has a world-wide distribution network.

Hiperfuels -- Methanol, 5-gallon containers, buy online, delivery by UPS/Fedex. Houston, Texas, USA. Phone 713 305-3133, Contact Jess Hewitt,

Methanex -- one of the largest suppliers in the world. Sales inquiries Phone (800) 661-8851 (toll free in North America), (604) 661-2600 Fax (604) 661-2676. Mail 1800 Waterfront Centre, 200 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, V6C 3M1, CANADA.
Current Methanol Prices Worldwide
Please note:
Methanex has filed a NAFTA case for US $1 billion over California's decision to phase out the noxious gasoline additive MTBE. "Methanex company is attempting to hold taxpayers hostage to the tune of nearly $1 billion, or 1.2 percent of our state budget, because we had the nerve to ban a product that was contaminating water supplies all over the state" -- Earthjustice. See "Challenge of California MTBE Ban Shows How NAFTA Grants Foreign Corporations Greater Rights Than Local Communities and Businesses":
See also: MTBE

Dehydrating ethanol

To dehydrate ethanol to make ethyl esters biodiesel, use Type 3A Molecular Sieve, 4-8 mesh, which absorbs about 20% of its weight of water in a few hours. Take a liter of 95% ethanol, throw in 250g of the zeolite, swirl occasionally, filter out the next day through a strainer. US$2.05 a pound in 10 lb quantities, and reusable indefinitely. Drive off the water under a broiler for an hour. From Adcoa, 1269 Eagle Vista Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90041. In California: (310) 532-6086. Outside California: Toll Free 800-228-4124. Fax (310) 532-5404. (Information provided by Ken Provost.)

Anhydrous ethanol

pH testing

Very cheap testers can be a false economy. Good instruments are available for a reasonable price. It's worthwhile to spend a bit extra and get one with a replaceable electrode.

Testing oil -- There are special pH meters made for testing fossil oil products, and they're very expensive. You don't need them for making biodiesel -- all regular pH meters work in natural oils! Measurement takes about 30 seconds in water and up to two minutes in oils. After measuring oils wash the electrode carefully with dishwashing soap and rinse thoroughly, first with tap water and finally with a little distilled water. Never use solvents to clean an epoxy electrode -- solvents are only needed if you sample mineral oil products. -- Factory-direct supplier of pH, ORP, Conductivity, CO2, Dissolved Oxygen, Ion Selective and Titration electrodes, meters, and monitors. The retailing window of the largest electrode manufacturers in the world. If you can't find a direct factory replacement in the product listings, send in the technical details of your electrode or application. Supplies electrodes, meters and controllers and more, handheld meters, pocket meters: pHep Pocket pH Testers, from $57.00, pHep 3 model is waterproof with temperature compensation, range 0.0 to 14.0 pH, resolution 0.1 pH, accuracy +/- 0.1 pH, calibration automatic 1 or 2 points. Worldwide sales ex USA. Online customer support:

Davis Instruments -- pH Checker with Epoxy Electrode & Batteries, US$ 34.50 -- Accuracy: Better than 0.2pH. Wide Range: 0 to 14pH with 0.01 reading. Long battery life (3000 hrs).

Fisher Scientific -- Corning Chekmite handheld electronic pH Testers - Follow the path: Catalogs > Fisher Catalog > pH/pX > Meters > Corning > Corning Chekmite* pH Testers

Hagen -- Hagen Wide-Range pH Test Kit, measures pH 4.5-9.0, enough for 100 tests (a user has found you can use half the sample size -- 2.5 ml instead of 5 ml -- and half the number of drops of reagent -- 2 instead of 4 -- to halve the cost)

Hanna Instruments, Inc. -- pHep® simple, inexpensive pocket pH meters, three models, US$33.60 to $39.50, range 0.0 to 14.0 pH, resolution 0.1 pH, accuracy ±0.2 pH to ±0.1 pH. Website has worldwide branch contact details.

Omega Engineering -- PHH-7X pH Tester with replaceable electrode, 0.01 pH resolution, 3000- hour battery life, $35.00. Also sells 4.01, 7.01 and 10.01 buffer sollution (calibration fluid), $5 each, a must for brand-new pH testing units.

on pH from Eutech:
Introduction to pH and pH Measurement
Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions for pHScan Testers
DOs & DON'Ts
Cleaning & Reconditioning Electrodes
pH Electrode Care and Maintenance
Temperature Compensation for pH Meters
Typical Problems in Industrial pH Measurement & Control - Part I
Typical Problems in Industrial pH Measurement & Control - Part II

Useful information on Maintenance, Troubleshooting and FAQ in Technical section at the website:

Natural test papers -- Cabbage Paper is made of red cabbage leaves -- alkalis change it to green, acids to red. Here's how to make it, and many others.

Other pH testing methods are phenolphthalein solution from a chemical supplies company -- not "phenol red" -- and pH test papers, which come in various ranges.


High-quality bubble stones for biodiesel washing -- instead of plastic these are sintered bronze and won't be affected by alcohol. Listed as sintered bronze muffler filters 40 micron. Sized from 1/8 to 3/4" pipe size fitting, $1.62 to $5.24 US plus S&H. MSC Industrial Supply Co. Phone 1 800 645 7270. Email or for technical enquiries. (Found by Gene Hoxie, Sheridan Wy.)

Try pneumatic exhaust silencers, used to quiet exhaust air from air tools or other air / pneumatic systems. They don't rot, they're cheap and they work very well.



PumpBiz is an international distributor of over 9,000 pumps. "We have been selling pumps to many biodiesel customers over the years. We also pride ourselves in being true pump engineers with lots of knowledge about pump design and pump applications." Centrifugal pumps, magdrive pumps, diaphragm pumps, vertical, magnetic drive, metering pumps, drum barrel pumps, gear pumps, multistage pumps, self-priming trash pumps, peristaltic pumps, jet irrigation pumps and ANSI-standard pumps. "AskHenry? Through our patent-pending 12-step process, he'll determine – online, 24x7 - the right pump for your application."

Pumps FAQ from PumpBiz -- General Pump Information:
1. Main characteristics to be considered
2. Impeller Diameter and RPM
3. Pump Characteristic Performance curve
4. Brake Horsepower
5. Cavitation
6. Time, Temperature and Pressure effects

Little Giant pump -- "This 115 volt pump will handle SVO or heated WVO, biodiesel and water. Originally designed by Little Giant as a solvent pump. Relatively fast, about 300 gph on veg oil. Best little durable, all around pump that your money can buy. Intake and outlets are 1/2" NPT, making plumbing into small diameter systems a snap." - Todd Swearingen, Appal Energy

Pony Pump from Flotec -- 115V 360 GPH Self-Priming, Model# 50AC110B, Wt. 5.0 lbs, Item# 109730, $49.99

1" Clear Water Pump -- Popular as a mixing pump with biodieselers, but note that this pump is too small for reactors processing more than 100 litres/25 gallons per batch.
Harbor Freight Tools -- 1" Clear Water Pump -- Item 1479-1VGA
Northern Tools -- Cast Iron 1in. Clear Water Pump, Model# 109955
(Warning -- very BAD at dealing with international orders!)
Northern Tool & Equipment Co. (UK) Ltd. -- 1" Clear Water Pump, Item No. 109955E

Collecting used oil

From Todd Swearingen of Appal Energy: "Best method I've seen yet for collecting oil is a vacuum pump similar to what you'll find on septic service trucks. See:
Enhanced Self-Priming Pump

"Trash pumps work on warm days and can handle burger patties well. It's when the evening chills and you're trying to move pudding that they come up
lacking. But if you're moving as much oil as a trash pump or vacuum pump can handle in the summer, the easiest thing to do in winter is switch to a process of exchanging dumpsters, removing full ones to a warm shop."

Fuel heaters, filters

Diesel-Therm "prevents the filter's pores from clogging up at very low temperatures by warming the fuel with a small heating system, which is mounted in front of the filter. In a matter of seconds, the energy-rich paraffin crystals will dissolve and the fuel passes through the filter as if it were summer."

Racor Diesel Fuel Heaters -- from Parker Hannifin Corp.'s Racor Division -- Heavy-duty In-Fuel-Line Diesel Heater comes installed inside a new fuel line and literally replaces the fuel line between tank and primary filter. It prevents power loss and stalls, and assists starting down to -40°F. This heated path is recommended for extended use in cold weather environments and severe conditions.
-- from Mid-Atlantic Engine Supply Corp, Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Racor filters -- from Racor Division (Parker Online Catalog)
-- from J & H Diesel Service, Inc., Greenville, Mississippi USA

Arctic Fox Hotline Electric In-Line Fuel Heater -- Fuel warmer with internal heat tape in the fuel hose. Before starting, thaw frozen diesel fuel in just 3 to 5 minutes. Can work in conjunction with coolant heaters. 12 or 24 Volt, controlled by a switch on the dash, optional thermostat control.

Arctic Fox Hot Fox Fuel Warmer -- Simple 1-1&Mac218;2 " (38mm) diameter stainless steel tube inserts in the tank through a standard USA fuel gauge sending unit opening. Coolant passages inside the tube surround the fuel standpipe to provide excellent heat rise. (Assumes you're also using a block heater or coolant heater.)

Pour-point depressants, winterising equipment

Vegetable oil filters

Vegetable oil filter cones are made of "Pelon", a generic term which can be cotton fiber but is more often synthetic, the longer-lived usually being synthetic. It can include adhesive versions of both ("fusible pelon"). Both cotton and synthetic Pelon run between 1.5 and 1.75 ounce for filters. Standard Pelon is usually 1.25 ounce. The thicker Pelons can be found in any upholstery supply warehouse in 48" or 96" bolts. -- Todd Swearingen, Appal Energy.

Slip-On Filter Bags: 7" x 18" x 11" 20. Part# 9830K11 -- 10 or more, $1.75 each. McMaster-Carr Catalog , Page 331:

Filter Mesh to Micron Conversion Chart

Multifuel lamps and stoves

Lamps and stoves: Biodiesel does not travel up a wick very well, like kerosene or heating oil will, so it can't be used for ordinary wick lamps or stoves. However, tests have found that it will travel about 7cm up a wick but not more than that, and the wick should preferably be thick (about 1cm) and loosely wound -- tightly-woven commercial wicks won't work well. Biodiesel also might not work in heating furnaces or stoves, though some models work just fine, and others can be adjusted.

BriteLyt Petromax multi-fuel lanterns work just fine with biodiesel. "We are happy to report that the burn-time was over 8 hours, at the highest setting, and you did not have to re-pressurize the lantern as often as you would using other fuel-types. The performance was great, and the lantern was just as bright, and there was NO SMELL. Using the product inside, we noticed no smell at all." The lanterns also work with ethanol. 150CP lanterns, run up to 20 hours,1 pint of fuel, approx 100-watts; 500CP lanterns, approx 400-watts. There's a stove-top accessory so you can cook with them too.

We've been using biodiesel in this
kerosene pressure stove for nearly two years. See one burning biodiesel here. These stoves are common in 3rd World countries ("roarers"), but they're rare in industrialised countries. Ours came from India and it cost US$8. Here are some stoves you can buy on the Internet, but not for $8.

BriteLyt Multi-Fuel Brass Pressure Stove. Same family as the BriteLyt-Petromax multifuel pressure lantern, which can burn biodiesel or ethanol. The stove has an adjustable burner, with preheater and lantern parts and a pressure indicator. Preheats in same manner as the BriteLyt-Petromax lantern. Empty weight 4lbs, fuel capacity approx. 1 qt., 8K-10K BTUs, runs 5-6 hours, on oil base fuels. Polished Brass, Matte Finish on Brass, or Nickel Plated Brass, price: $75.00.

Brass Pressure Stove -- 8.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall, disassembles quickly, produces around 8,000 btu, runs on kerosene or diesel fuel. Available in the US via the Internet, priice $48. No wicks, it holds a little more than a pint of fuel and will run 3-4 hours on one tankful.

XGK? Expedition Stove: "This stove is tough enough to handle any fuel—white gas, kerosene and even poor quality diesel, to name a few."

WhisperLite Internationale? 600: Multi-fuel burning lightweight camping stoves -- use MSR White Gas, kerosene, jet fuel or auto gas.

Optimus NOVA Multifuel Expedition Stove -- The burner capacity is enough to prepare meals for two persons in extreme conditions. Multifuel technology means that you will find fuel anywhere in the world. Appr. 2.850 Watts/9,700 BTU. Burning time: Up to 2.5 hours at high output (one filling=0.45 L /15.5 fl.oz.).

Optimus HIKER Multifuel Expedition Stove -- "The Himalaya Stove". The Hiker is a multifuel stove, wherever you go, you will be able to find fuel for your Hiker. No conversion needed between ordinary fuels (when using methylated spirits/alcohol, simply change the burner jet). Fuels: Kerosene/paraffin, white gasoline/petrol, diesel oil, methylated alcohol/spirits and Coleman fuel. Appr. 3.000 watts/10.000 BTU. Burning time: Up to 2 hours on one filling (0.35 litres/12 oz.) at high output.

Viscosity meter

Some people use viscosity measures to check the "quality" of their biodiesel. Unfortunately, it won't tell you that, excepting in a laboratory with highly accurate equipment, and even then it would be only a part-indication. Impurities such as mono- and di-glycerides have viscosity values close to those of biodiesel, and the small quantities that make all the difference between poor and good conversion can't be measured this way at the homebrew-level. Viscosity can be a useful comparative indicator, especially when doing test batches. See Viscosity testing.

Marsh Funnel Viscometer is a simple device for indicating viscosity on a routine basis. When used with a measuring cup, the funnel gives an empirical value for the consistency of a fluid. From Fann Instrument Company, Part No. 20100. (With thanks to Huseyin Turcan.)

Visgage® Pocket Viscosity Comparator oil viscosity testing instrument -- the VISGAGE checks oil viscosity on-site quickly and conveniently, without thermometers or stop watches. It can be used to check any oil from light spindle oil to heavy gear oils. Simple to operate, accuracy of 95% or better.Made by Louis C. Eitzen Company, Inc. , email:

You can make your own viscosity meter.
Aleks Kac offered this advice to a Biofuel mailing list member struggling to get his home furnace working with biodiesel:

    Kinematic viscosity is measured in "Stokes". You cannot measure it at home without a viscosimeter. There is a comparative way, though. Take a liquid with a known viscosity value (petroleum heating oil, look the value up in an engineering manual) and let a known volume flow through an upside-down plastic water bottle with a drinking straw glued in a hole in the screw top. Stop the time with a stopwatch. Do the same with your biodiesel (same volume) and compare the results. Generally a smaller diameter straw will produce more accurate results. If the time of your sample is 1.5 the time of your control sample (petroleum oil), this means its viscosity is roughly 1.6-ish that of the control sample. -- Aleks Kac, 6 Nov 2001.

You can use two straws, the second one to let air in for a smooth flow of oil -- see how we do it with small test batches of methoxide: Adding the methoxide


Atago refractometers. With Auto Temp Compensation: ATC-1E: Y20,000; ATC-2E: Y21,000. Manual adjustment: Model N-1E, Y14,000; N-2E Y15,000. Heat resistant: H-50 and H-80, both Y25,000. 32-10 Honcho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0001, Japan. Phone 81-3-3964-6131, Fax 81-3-3964-6137, E-mail:

Sugar Refractometers from

Brewing equipment

Tony Ackland explains what you need at the Home Distillation of Alcohol (Homemade Alcohol) site -- thermometers, hydrometers, fermenters, etc.

The Revenoor Co. -- Stills ranging from 5 gallons to 1,000 gallons, and an interesting, 3,500-word introductory article on producing alcohol as a fuel from veteran distiller Terry Wilhelm.

New Zealand commercial suppliers
Spirits Unlimited, mail order:

Ray Toms'
Moonshine Supplies -- Ray "in his own humble opinion is the best person to help you with any brewing problems you may come across". Mail order New Zealand and world-wide (local law is your problem). Hydrometers, Hyper Yeast, Turbo Yeast, other yeasts, and much more:

Gert Strand AB -- Distillers Yeast, including Turbo Yeast 20%, plus useful turbo yeast FAQ. Order Online (freight takes two weeks, from Sweden). E-mail:
Brewhaus Inc. -- Gert Strand AB's distributor in North America. E-mail:

The Brewery's
Technical Library for articles on brewing related topics -- see Yeasts.

Temperature gauges

Ashcroft Bimetal Thermometers

WIKA Bimetal Thermometers

OAKTON Instruments -- pH meters, thermometers and other equipment: "best quality waterproof instruments, many for under US$100, available from stock from a wide variety of distributors".

Automatic temperature control valves

Penn Bradshaw water regulating valve, part number is nsv47ab-4. Johnstone Supply, Chattanooga TN. Phone 1 800 5250387, Price US$229.00, pay by credit card.

Danfoss Model AVTA: -25 to +130 C, with +50 to +90 C capillary bulb, opening on rising temp. (can be reversed), differential pressure 0 to 10 bar, max test pressure 25 bar, accuracy of 1% either side.

Metrex 800-T-37SE

Rustproofing, anti-corrosion

POR-15 -- General rust-proofing, repairing leaking fuel tanks, protecting steel biodiesel processors from corrosion, and more -- a permanent solution.

"POR-15® was tested for 168 hours at 97°F in a condensing humidity salt spray (ASTM B117). At the end of the test period, coated steel was free of rust or pitting. Acid and alkali resistance tests performed found panels coated with POR-15® to be impervious to gasoline, oil, chromic acid, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, 50% sulfuric acid, and 50% hydrofluoric acid. POR-15® was applied over a rusty substrate as a finish coat (approximately 23 mils dry film thickness). The coating showed essentially no undercutting at the scribed area after 2000 hours in a weatherometer.

"A 2 mil thickness of POR-15® was applied to lightly rusted steel and then exposed for 1000 hours to a salt spray. At the end of the test period, no undercutting was observed at the scribed area. Recoatability is excellent. Laboratory tests have shown very good adhesion when applied up to 14 days after application of the first coat. In an actual Field test, a topcoat was applied 6 weeks after the first coat had been applied, and the intercoat adhesion was excellent as determined by a crosshatch tape test. A metal box used as a filter for raw sewage was coated with POR-15® and placed in service within a few hours after the interior and exterior were coated. No visible rusting occurred at the welded areas after a six month exposure.

"A POR-15® coating was subjected to 700°F for 10 hours; it remained hard and showed no apparent loss of adhesion. A panel subjected to elongation was pulled beyond the yield point of the base metal without affecting the POR-15® coating."

We've used it, it works exactly as claimed.

How to remove all rust from steels tools and parts.

General equipment

Universal Process Equipment, Inc. -- used gear at good prices: Evaporators, milling, reactors, extruders, mixers, fermenters, filtration, kilns, glass lined equipment, others, incinerators, complete processes, furnaces, glass lined equipment, heat exchangers, tanks, turbines, generators, centrifuges, chillers, compressors, dryers, boilers, pulverizers. Complete plants available. US-based, deals worldwide.

Diesel engines

Diesel Engine Trader .com -- New, Remanufactured, Reconditioned diesel engines, Marine Industrial diesel engines, Marine diesel motors, Diesel engine spares -- the HUB for trading diesel engines, worldwide.


There's a good primer on Solder & Brazing at Tony Ackland's Home Distillation of Alcohol site:

The Brazing Book -- A well-known classic by Handy & Harman, now updated and online in full-text. For both the novice brazer and the seasoned engineer. Five main sections: Section One, "The Idea of Brazing," explains exactly what brazing is, where to use it, and how to perform it properly. Section Two, "Brazing in Action," presents detailed photographic case histories illustrating some of the many applications in which brazing is used today. Section Three, "Choices In Brazing Materials," plus technical reference tables and related information. Section Four, "Available Reference Materials." From The Precious Metals Fabrication Group. has two useful articles on soldering by
Tammy Powl. The scale is a bit different -- Tammy's a jewelry maker -- but the principles are the same.
Soldering Tips

Step by Step Soldering

The information on this page is provided in good faith and is accurate to the best of our knowledge. It is provided without any guarantees or liability. Journey to Forever is in no way responsible or accountable for any information provided on any of the external websites referred to above.

En espa?ol -- Biocombustibles, biodiesel
Biofuels Library
Biofuels supplies and suppliers

Make your own biodiesel
Mike Pelly's recipe
Two-stage biodiesel process
FOOLPROOF biodiesel process
Biodiesel processors
Biodiesel in Hong Kong
Nitrogen Oxide emissions
Biodiesel resources on the Web
Do diesels have a future?
Vegetable oil yields and characteristics
Biodiesel and your vehicle
Food or fuel?
Straight vegetable oil as diesel fuel

Ethanol resources on the Web
Is ethanol energy-efficient?


Spanish version -- Versión en espa?ol

Why make biofuels?
Food or fuel?
How much fuel can we grow? How much land will it take?
Cutting fuel costs
Food miles
Car facts and transportation
Biofuel mailing list

"How can you say you're environmentalists?" asked a local sceptic in Hong Kong. "Your Land Rovers aren't green at all -- one runs on leaded petrol and the other's a dirty diesel."

"Um," we said, thinking fast... "but if everyone had cars like ours, there'd be no need for roads."

In fact no car built today has such low manufacturing eco-costs as a Series Land Rover. And these old Land Rovers last and last: "My Land Rover is 41 years old and has prevented the need to build at least five replacements during that time." -- Series I owner, England, Land Rover Owners Internet mailing list, December 1999.

Land Rover stopped building the Series models in 1985. (See Project vehicles. See also The best car in the world.) The motor industry now produces 100,000 new vehicles a day worldwide. (See Car facts.)

But our critic had a point: the vehicles were green enough (even the blue one), but their fuel certainly wasn't. But we didn't plan to pollute the atmosphere with dirty fossil-fuel exhaust fumes all the way from Hong Kong to Cape Town. There are better, cleaner, fuels -- and you can make them yourself!

Why make biofuels?

We had three main aims in learning to make biofuels:

  • Using renewable fuels for our journey and publicising them
  • As a means of improving energy self-reliance in local communities
  • As an environmental project for schools participating in Journey to Forever.

Both biodiesel and ethanol are clean, grow-your-own fuels that can be made on-site in villages or local communities from renewable, locally available resources, for the most part using simple equipment that a local workshop can make and maintain.

These fuels are among a wide range of sustainable local energy options. Others are methane (biogas) digesters that turn livestock, crop and food wastes into cooking and heating gas, solar energy (see Solar box cookers), wood gas, charcoal and fuelwood (good fuels unless overharvesting destroys the trees themselves), wind power, water power.

Usually the "answer" is in a mix of technologies. Biofuels can be used to power small-scale farm and local workshop machinery and electricity generators as well as vehicles. Knowing how to make them provides a useful set of ecological questions in investigating local energy options which are worth asking even if the final answer is "No".

For instance, should a crop such as peanuts be used to make fuel, or would the villagers be better off eating the peanuts? Or selling them? Should they press them to produce oil, for cooking or for selling or for fuel, and feed the high-protein seedcake residue to livestock, which in turn they can either eat or sell, while using the livestock wastes (and the crop wastes) to make compost to renew the soil, or to generate biogas for cooking and heating? (The heat generated by the composting process can also be harnessed for heating.) Or should they grow a different crop altogether?

Should a grain crop be distilled to make ethanol fuel or should the villagers eat the grain? If they use the grain for livestock feed, it can be used for ethanol and still feed the livestock: the fermentation process to produce ethanol converts the carbohydrates in the grain while leaving the protein, with the addition of the high-protein yeast that does the fermenting. The residue is high-quality livestock feed, which can be supplemented by forage crops which humans can't eat. This could mean improved utilization of the available resources.

This is the sort of question we'll have to find answers for in our work in rural villages. As always, it will be for the villagers to decide.

Foundation for Alternative Energy, Slovakia -- a good summary of the various ways to derive useful energy from biomass (34,000-word article):

Food or Fuel?

A common objection to biomass energy production is that it could divert agricultural production away from food crops in a hungry world, leading to high food prices or even mass starvation in the poor countries.

True or not? At best it's an oversimplification of a complex issue. It just doesn't work that way, and neither does hunger.

See: Food or Fuel?

How much fuel can we grow? How much land will it take?

Two very frequently asked questions.

Frequently given answers: "We can't grow enough fuel" and "It will take too much land."

Are they the right answers?

To estimate maximum biofuels production available acreages are cited, along with crop yields and production rates, but the totals fall far short of current consumption and estimated future growth in transport fuel use.

Meanwhile the twin spectres loom of "Peak Oil" and declining oil supplies on one hand and global warming caused by fossil-fuel carbon emissions on the other.

Seeking to bridge the unbridgeable gap, there's widespread fascination with high-yielding oil crops, particularly oil-bearing algae (though nobody has actually produced any biodiesel from algae yet, apart from laboratory tests), ethanol from cellulose (also a long way from commercial production), and oil palms.

It seems obvious that the highest-yielding crops will produce the most energy from the least amount of land.

But high yield is not the only factor in farming, and it may not always be the most important factor. It can make more sense for a farmer to grow a lower-yielding crop if it has more useful by-products or requires fewer inputs or less labour or it fixes more soil nitrogen for fertiliser or it fits a crop rotation better. Or if it fits an integrated on-farm biofuels production system better. The how-much-land estimates don't seem to include such things as integrated on-farm biofuels production systems. There are quite a lot of things they don't include.

Food and energy

? The human population has quadrupled in the last century, from 1.5 billion to 6.3 billion, while the amount of energy used in food production systems has increased 80-fold. It now takes 80 times more energy to feed four times more people.

? Ten percent of the energy used in the US is consumed by the food industry.

? We use up to 10 times as much fossil fuel energy to produce it as food returns -- it takes seven to 10 calories of input energy to produce one calorie of food.

? Two fifths of food production energy goes to processing and distribution and another two fifths to cooking and refrigeration by final users. Only one fifth is used on the farm, half in chemicals.

? Making and transporting one kilogram of nitrogen fertilizer releases 3.7 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

? There has been a 20-fold increase in insecticide use since 1948 -- up to a billion pounds per year -- but today insects get 13 percent of yield compared to 7 percent then.

-- Is the Deadly Crash of Our Civilization Inevitable?
-- Fossil Fuels and Industrial Farming
-- Natural Capitalism

Sustainable farms use less fossil fuel and release less carbon than industrialized farms, while the food they produce doesn't travel as far from farm to table and is much less processed. Sustainable farms don't use fertilizers, they use compost.

Compost and CO2

"Not only does it have agricultural benefits, but composting also combats climate change. When plant wastes are sent to landfills they turn into carbon dioxide and methane, two of the most common greenhouse gasses. When those plants are composted, they lock up carbon from the atmosphere for decades! And when you compost and add that compost to your garden's soil, you are also sequestering additional carbon dioxide."

The report details how one organic gardener sequestered 19 tons of carbon by making compost.

-- Composts: Closing the Loop, Foodshare Toronto

Sustainable farming

Biofuels crops have to be grown, and there's a lot of common ground between growing sustainable fuel and growing sustainable food.

Large-scale industrialised farms claim to be the most efficient. They concentrate on growing high-yielding monocrops (only one crop) by mass-production methods with a lot of inputs, and they use a lot of fossil-fuel to do it. Industrial farming is a major source of global warming carbon emissions.

A sustainable mixed farm can produce its own fuel, with much or possibly all of it coming from crop by-products and waste products without any dedicated land use, and with very low input levels.

That sheds a different light on how much land is needed to grow "enough" biofuels: less land with sustainable farming, which also has much lower fossil-fuels inputs than industrial farming. Sustainable farming is the fastest-growing agricultural sector in many countries, millions of farmers worldwide are turning to sustainable methods.

Although sustainable farms require fewer inputs than "conventional" (industrial or factory-style) farms, yields and production are not lower. See for instance this message to the Biofuel mailing list from a large-scale organic farmer in the US, one of many:

Small farms

The case for organics -- Scientific studies and reports

City farming

Looking at it from a different angle, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation more than 15% of the world's food supply was produced by city farms in 1993. That was enough food for 900 million people, produced with few inputs other than urban wastes, and with the use of no farming land at all.

City farming is sweeping the world, in the industrialised countries as well as 3rd World countries. Many cities would have difficulty handling their wastes without the urban farms recycling them as livestock feed, compost and fertiliser.

Such an approach suits localised biofuels production very well, and it integrates well with city farming. For example, only about 10% of the waste vegetable oil (WVO) produced in the industrialised countries is collected, billions of gallons a year aren't collected. Apart from the waste oil produced by restaurants and food outlets and food processors, an estimated 1.5 million US gallons of grease and oil goes into the sewage system every year for every one million people in some US metropolitan areas. Extended nation-wide that's hundreds of millions of gallons wasted every year. US restaurants produce about 300 million US gallons of WVO a year, much of which ends up in landfills.

Like newspapers, bottles and aluminium cans, waste cooking oil won't be recycled effectively without locally based initiatives, it has to start at the source. Local biodiesel brewers around the world are now reclaiming millions of gallons of WVO and turning it into good, clean fuel.

Food and Peak Oil

We have to produce food differently. The Monsanto/Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming -- e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils -- will also have to be done much more locally."

-- from The agenda restated, James Howard Kunstler, Energy Bulletin, 5 Feb 2007
Similarly, large amounts of fuel ethanol can be produced from city wastes by local micro-breweries, and the high-protein distillers mash by-product fed to city-farm livestock (or micro-livestock). Large amounts of biogas can be produced from wastes in backyard methane digesters for cooking and heating, and the sludge composted for use as fertiliser.

Could enough bio-energy be produced for 900 million people this way? Probably it could. "How much land will it take?" None.

Bio-regional energy -- India's Talukas

Here's another response to the "How much land" question, from the Biofuel mailing list:

    "We did a study in India where we showed that it is possible to take care of energy needs completely by biomass and its various derivatives for a block of about 100 villages." -- Dr. Anil K. Rajvanshi, Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)

Here's Dr. Rajvanshi's study:

Microchips to Potato chips - Talukas can produce all, published as an editorial article in the Economic Times 24 May, 1998, Anil K. Rajvanshi, Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Maharashtra, INDIA.

Talukas can provide critical mass for India’s sustainable development, Anil K. Rajvanshi, Current Science, Vol. 82, No. 6, 25 March 2002

India's food and energy self-sufficient Talukas are groupings of about 80-100 contiguous villages pooled together to achieve a critical mass economically. A Taluka can be thought of as a closed biomass and rainwater basin, with a combined population of about 200,000 people. There are thousands of them in India. One Taluka studied produced 100,000 tons a year of surplus agricultural residues available for biomass energy production. In conjunction with energy plantations and energy crops this could produce the energy equivalent of 30 million litres a year of petroleum products, filling local energy needs and creating 30,000 local jobs.

Dr. Rajvanshi's study became the basis for India's National Policy on Energy Self-sufficient Talukas in 1997 and is being implemented nation-wide by the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES).


"Using existing technology we can save three fourths of all electricity used today. The best energy policy for the nation, for business, and for the environment is one that focuses on using electricity efficiently," says
Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US.

    "More efficient use is already America's biggest energy source -- not oil, gas, coal, or nuclear power. By 2000, reduced 'energy intensity' (compared with 1975) was providing 40 percent of all U.S. energy services. It was 73 percent greater than U.S. oil consumption, five times domestic oil production, three times total oil imports, and 13 times Persian Gulf oil imports. The lower intensity was mostly achieved by more productive use of energy (such as better-insulated houses, better-designed lights and motors, and cars that were safer, cleaner, more powerful, and got more miles per gallon), partly by shifts in the economic mix, and only slightly by behavioral change. Since 1996, saved energy has been the nation's fastest-growing major 'source.'" -- Amory B. Lovins

"Negawatts powerplant" energy efficiency programs can save large amounts of energy and large amounts of money. 2.1 jobs are created in energy efficiency/conservation in comparison to one new job for an equivalent amount of BTUs in new energy production.

From a message to the Biofuel mailing list:

    "I remember canvassing the Orlando, Florida area attempting to generate public support for a 'negawatts powerplant' rather than Orlando Utilities Commission expanding Curtis Stanton I into Curtis Stanton II (both coal fired). The most conservative calculations were that a modest to robust energy efficiency program could forestall the need for Stanton II for at minimum 10 years, in turn saving the public literally hundreds of millions of dollars. (Mind you this is a publicly owned utility, with the supposed obligation to serve the public interests.)..."

    For the rest of the message see: 'Energy Efficiency and "Stuff" in general' (the whole message thread is linked at the end of the page).

The Negawatt Revolution, Amory B. Lovins, The Conference Board Magazine, Vol. XXVII No. 9, September 1990, 232kb PDF.

Mobilizing Energy Solutions, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, The American Prospect, Volume 13, Issue 2, January 28, 2002 -- Part 1:
Part 2:
Energy Forever

Energy Library -- articles and studies by Amory B. Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute

Invisible farming

Industrial hemp is a high-yielding multi-purpose "fuel and fibre" crop that has great potential for biomass energy. Hemp yields four times as much biomass as a forest can yield. An acre of hemp yields 10 tons of biomass in four months, enough to make 1,000 gallons of methanol fuel (by pyrolytic distillation), with about 300 lb of oil from the seed (about the same as soy).

Hemp is widely grown in many countries but not in the US, where it's illegal because of a stubborn confusion with the plant's cousin, the drug marijuana. Industrial hemp is the same species of plant but without the drug. In fact hemp contains another chemical (CBD) that actually blocks marijuana's drug effect -- hemp is not only not marijuana, it could be called "anti-marijuana".

The US previously acknowledged the distinction and hemp was widely grown there -- the US State Department still acknowledges the difference internationally. But domestically, growing hemp is banned in the US. In Europe it's subsidised, like oilseed rape and flax. Canada, Russia, China and dozens of other countries grow large quantities of hemp, while Americans pay $25 million a year for imported hemp fibre and oil products.

"Marijuana Called Top U.S. Cash Crop"

"Marijuana is the top cash crop in 12 states and among the top three cash crops in 30, according to a new study. The study estimates that marijuana production, at a value of $35.8 billion, exceeds the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion)." See "Marijuana Called Top U.S. Cash Crop", ABC News, February 14, 2007

The new study:
Marijuana Production in the United States (2006), by Jon Gettman -- full text online.
Entire Report (356 kb pdf)

Meanwhile an estimated 32 million law-breaking Americans smoke marijuana, probably a lot more than that, and that's not counting Canada. Most of the drug is locally produced, not imported. We've no idea what acreage that represents, but it's obviously a major agricultural industry, and it's invisible. How can you hide a crop for 32 million people? It's produced with no extension agencies, no subsidies, no bureaucrats, no chemical corporations, no marketing boards, no Big Agriculture, and with no apparent use of farming land.

How would the Americans who claim there's not enough land to grow biofuels explain that? Could enough bio-energy for 32 million people also be produced that way, from harmless industrial hemp, tucked away out of view off the agricultural map and nobody even notices it?

Of course it's clandestine and hidden because the US marijuana growers are under pressure from the law, but on the other hand the whole human race is under much more pressure than that to find sustainable answers to its energy problems, and so far we're not being very imaginative about it.

However the illegal drug growers might be managing it, it's obvious that people estimating how much land it will take to grow enough biofuels aren't asking the right sorts of questions.

Hemp Biomass for Energy

A different approach

Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels isn't the answer. Replacing fossil fuels isn't even an option -- current energy use, especially in the industrialised countries, is not sustainable anyway, whatever the energy source.

A very large portion of the energy we use is just wasted, and that's where to start, not with trying to replace the 60 billion gallons of petroleum diesel and 120 billion gallons of gasoline the US consumes each year, not to mention the heating oil and the power supply. ("The US uses three times as much and Canada four times as much energy in their buildings as Sweden does, even allowing for climate corrections." -- Energy Saving Now)

Energy futures

"The [U.S.] military needs to take major steps to increase energy efficiency, make a 'massive expansion' in renewable energy purchases, and move toward a vast increase in renewable distributed generation, including photovoltaic, solar thermal, microturbines, and biomass energy sources... Renewables tend to be a more local or regional commodity and except for a few instances, not necessarily a global resource that is traded between nations." --
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2005

Oil shortage threatens military, US News & World Report, 3/15/06

The US Army report:
Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), September 2005
Full report, 1.2Mb pdf:

U.S. Military is the largest consumer of oil on earth
"The US military is completely addicted to oil. Unsurprisingly, its oil consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the Pentagon the single largest oil consumer in the world. According to the 2006 CIA World Factbook rankings there are only 35 countries (out of 210) in the world that consume more oil per day than the Pentagon." --
US military oil pains, Energy Bulletin, 17 Feb 2007
A sustainable energy future requires great reductions in energy use, great improvements in energy efficiency, and decentralisation of energy supply to the local-economy level, along with the use of all ready-to-use renewable energy technologies in combination as local circumstances require."

We've been saying that for years. Now even the US military is saying similar things (see box, right).

But instead people chase the mirage of the highest biofuels crop yields in the hopes of finding the right answer to the wrong question.

The powers-that-be mostly toy with the problem and go right on hitting the good old massive daily fix of fossil-fuel like it's a narcotic.

In most of the industrialised countries biofuels are still treated more as an agricultural commodities issue than an energy issue, and the industrial farming lobby pulls the levers. Big Soy runs the National Biodiesel Board in the US, Big Corn the fuel ethanol business.

But growing supposedly clean green renewable and sustainable biofuels crops by means of Big Agriculture's unsustainable industrialised agriculture monocropping methods with their heavy dependence on fossil-fuel inputs is hardly the best way of replacing fossil fuels.

Once grown, the stuff undergoes the same insanities as the "food miles" fiasco, where food is transported thousands of unnecessary miles before it reaches consumers, with huge waste of energy and no good reason for it. Similarly, why waste energy trucking energy crops to a distant large-scale central processing unit and then waste even more energy trucking the finished fuel all the way back again, instead of processing it and using it right there where it was grown?

Small is beautiful

There are of course economies of scale in fossil-fuels production, but that's no more the case with biofuels production than it is with food, as we saw above with the example of city farms. The farms of the future are highly productive, low-input/high-output, integrated, mixed, sustainable farms, and they're small farms -- family farms, small and local. All over the world small farms are more efficient and productive than big farms and out-produce them, including the US. See: Small farms fit. As with food crops, so with fuel crops.

Also at the local level, the worldwide community of biofuels homebrewers have developed cheap, effective and safe small-scale production methods that produce high-quality fuel and that anyone can use. There are now many kinds of independent small-scale local operations producing and using millions and millions of gallons of biofuels a year, growing fast. Most of it goes right under the official radar, nobody calculates it, nobody has any clear idea of how much it is or of quite who these people are. But they're forming active networks of grassroots-level biofuels producers in many countries, and they have the potential to expand very quickly.

The possibilities for localised biofuels production are endless, but it's difficult to see them from the perspective of the dying era of cheap and abundant fossil fuels with it's top-down, centralised, capital-intensive approach, especially with energy production and supply: "How do you make money out of this small-scale stuff? It's bad for business!"

In fact it's very good for business -- local business, and that's good for everyone.

"Small-scale capitalism works out fine, but as scale increases the departure from real capitalism becomes more pronounced---profits are privatized, but costs are socialized. The attendant repair and maintenance are left to succeeding generations if possible, if not, to present low and middle income taxpayers," says
Tvoivozhd, the Wise Old Man of the Homestead mailing list. Indeed so.

Coming off fossil-fuels doesn't have to be cataclysmic. More likely the real disasters will come from global warming rather than oil deprivation. The quaint idea that "life without oil" will inevitably mean a massive human "die-off" and for the survivors a return to the allegedly brutal and short lives of the Middle Ages etc etc just because of oil deprivation as some people claim is just nonsense, there's no more substance to it than the idea that there's not enough land to grow "enough" biofuels. We have everything we need to live rich and fruitful lives in a sustainable future in peace and harmony with the rest of the biosphere.

Don't expect to read more about such views of energy issues in The Wall Street Journal any time soon. What you might read there is that meanwhile 35 years have gone by since these issues first became apparent, fuel economy in the US is worse now than it was 20 years ago, and 35 unnecessary years' worth of greenhouse gases have been pumped into an ailing atmosphere.

Don't wait for governments or anyone else to solve these problems with the same kind of thinking that caused the problems in the first place. Do it yourself -- tend to your own waste of energy and of other scarce resources, shrink your eco-footprint, join a local network, start a network yourself. Make your own biofuel!

-- Kyoto, November 2005

Cutting fuel costs

How to reduce the amount of transportation fuel you use, by Darryl McMahon of Econogics: "It's your planet. If you won't look after it, who will?"

Here's a start on what you can do to make a difference:

The US uses 3 times as much and Canada 4 times as much energy in their buildings as Sweden does, even allowing for climate corrections. "There is no conflict between comfort and energy saving in buildings. If you understand how the human body works and design your environment to suit Real People, large energy savings will be made..." See Hakan Falk's
Energy Saving Now -- extensive resources on energy efficiency, biofuels, alternative energy technologies and more:

Cutting down waste -- where to start:

Food miles

Food miles and global warming

"The CO2 emissions caused by transporting food locally is 0.118 kg, while the emissions caused by importing those exact same foods is 11kg. Over the course of a year, if you were to buy only locally produced food, the associated CO2 emissions would be 0.006316 tonnes. If instead you were to buy only imported foods like those studied here, the associated CO2 emissions would be 0.573 tonnes." -- from Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer's Market (pdf), Foodshare Toronto

Imported food releases 90 times as much carbon as locally grown food.
"We bought a basket of 20 fresh foods from the major retailers on one day last month and tracked the food miles it had clocked up. We found apples from America; pears from Argentina; fish from the Indian ocean; lettuce from Spain; tomatoes from Saudi Arabia; broccoli from Spain; baby carrots from South Africa; salad potatoes from Israel; sugar snap peas from Guatemala; asparagus from Peru, garden peas from South Africa; red wine from Chile; Brussels sprouts from Australia; prawns from Indonesia; chicken from Thailand; red peppers from Holland; grapes from Chile; strawberries from Spain and beef from Britain. Our total basket had travelled 100,943 miles." -- Miles and miles and miles: How far has your basket of food travelled? Guardian UK, Special reports, Saturday May 10, 2003

"In 1997 we imported 126 million litres of liquid milk into the UK and exported 270 million litres of milk out of the UK. We imported 23,000 tonnes of milk powder into the UK and exported 153,000 tonnes out of the UK. We imported 115,000 tonnes of butter, and exported 67,000 tonnes of butter." --
Food Miles - Still on the Road to Ruin? -- Statistics and analysis; a review of local alternatives and recommendations for action. SUSTAIN: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming, 1999

"Produce arriving by truck traveled an average distance of 1,518 miles to reach Chicago in 1998, a 22 percent increase over the 1,245 miles traveled in 1981." --
Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, June 2001

"Since 1978, the annual amount of food moved by heavy goods vehicles in the UK has increased by 23 percent with the average distance for each trip also up by 50 percent." --
Food Miles and Sustainability, Mae-Wan Ho and Rhea Gala, Institute of Science in Society, 21/09/05

"Policies are needed to minimize food import/export, to promote instead, national/regional food-sufficiency, and to reverse the concentration of food supply chains in favour of local shops and cooperatives run directly by farmers and consumers. In addition, there should be government subsidies and incentives for reducing carbon dioxide emissions on farms, and for farms and local communities to become energy self-sufficient in low or zero-emission renewables." --
Food Miles and Sustainability, Mae-Wan Ho and Rhea Gala, Institute of Science in Society, 21/09/05

"Bringing the food supply closer to home is one of the most effective and powerful strategies we can use to create positive changes in our health, in the environment, in our society, and on this planet." --
Bill Duesing, Old Solar Farm, raising certified organic vegetables,and Solar Farm Education, working on urban agriculture projects.

Car facts

From Grist Magazine

  • 70 million motor vehicles were on the world's roads in 1950.
  • 630 million motor vehicles were on the world's roads in 1994.
  • 1 billion motor vehicles are expected to be on the world's roads by 2025, if the current growth rate continues.
  • 50 million new cars roll off the assembly line each year -- 137,000 a day.
  • 27 tons of waste are produced in the manufacture of the average new car.
  • 11 million cars are junked annually in the US.
  • 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted by the average car each year.
  • 5% of a car's fuel can be wasted by underinflated tires.
  • 2 billion gallons of gasoline could be saved annually if 65 million car owners kept their tires properly inflated.
  • 85% of auto fuel is consumed just to overcome inertia and start the wheels turning.
  • 2.5 times more emissions are generated by SUVs (Sports Untility Vehicles) and light trucks than by standard cars.
  • 33,000 natural gas vehicles were in use in the US in 1993.
  • 75,000 natural gas vehicles were in use in the US in 1998.

-- by Josh Sevin
Sources: World Resources Institute; Environmental Working Group; 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth; Amicus Journal; L.A. Times; U.S. Department of Transportation; Earth Communications Office; Amicus Journal; Wall Street Journal.

(Auto Free Ottawa)
Facts & Stats On Cars, from the Recycling Council of Ontario -- learn just how earth-unfriendly cars really are, the complete horror-story:

Visit the
Car Free Day Web site by @Car Free Day Consortium:

Average BTU consumed per passenger mile by mode of travel:

    SUV: 4,591
    Air: 4,123
    Bus: 3,729
    Car: 3,672
    Train: 2,138

Source: US Bureau of Transportation Statistics

According to a 2004 US Transportation Research Board report, public transportation:

  • Reduces CO2 emissions by more than 7.4 million tons per year in the U.S.
  • Produces 95% less CO, at least 92% fewer VOCs, and nearly half as much CO2 and NOx for every passenger mile traveled than private vehicles

Jet fuel: 3000+ ppm Sulfur
Off-road diesel (US): 500+ ppm Sulfur
Regular on-road diesel (US): 15-500 ppm Sulfur
Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel: less than 15 ppm Sulfur
[Biodiesel: no sulfur]

-- From: Tim Castleman,
Fuel and Fiber Company

Biofuel mailing list

The Biofuel mailing list run by Journey to Forever is an information-sharing resource for anyone who is making their own fuel or has an interest in biofuels or related issues.

All aspects of biofuels and their use are covered -- biodiesel, ethanol, other alternative fuels, related technologies and issues, energy issues, environment, sustainability and more.

The list has a large and varied global membership and has been at the forefront of small-scale biofuels development for more than six years.

Comment from a member: "I just want to say how important what you all are doing here is (I'm just an interested bystander). Closed-system fuel production, on a local or small regional scale, tied to local resources, using accessible technologies, and dependent on entrepreneurial innovation combined with open-source information exchange--it's AWESOME. Keep up the good work everyone, before the planet fries."

Another comment: "Some of the brightest biofuel brains in the world."

And another: "Your list contains some of the best information I have found on the Internet. The archives are great and that is where I spend most of my time acquiring knowledge. This information I believe vitally important NOW and am very happy it is here. Our future may just depend upon it. Now that is important."


  • "I came to the list strictly interested in getting my biodiesel project off the ground. Following the various postings I have discovered that I see the world as if from the bottom of a well. The view is expanding ever so slightly, ever so slowly. Thanks to all."

  • "The Biofuel list has awakened me to many ways I can directly help make a difference. The knowledge I have gained from reading the list in a few short months has encouraged me to try again."

  • "I benefit very much personally from the list, and I have yet to make one drop of biofuel! But the insights that I get from the list are amazing."

  • "I like the global view. It's good to have your beliefs challenged."

  • "This list has proven to me how little I know, so many times."

NOTE: You don't need to join the Biofuel list to learn how to make biodiesel. Start here: Where do I start? Follow the instructions, step by step. Study everything on that page and the next page and at the links in the text. It tells you everything you need to know.

Many list members who've done it themselves say the same thing. If you ask novice questions at the list that have been answered many times before, that's what you'll be told (or asked to check the list archives, see below).

There's a lot to learn, but it's simple, and you don't have to be a chemist to do it, very few biodieselers are chemists or engineers.

Thousands of ordinary people have done this without any other help, and so can you. You don't need anyone to hold your hand, and you don't need to find another biodieseler in your area first so you can see their set-up in action. Do it yourself, you'll be just fine.


If you have a bona-fide interest in the subject you're welcome to take part or to "lurk" in the background, just as you wish. The list does not welcome "SPAM" or "trolls".

If you wish to subscribe, please send an email to the list administrators with a brief explanation (or not-so-brief, as you wish) of who you are, where in the world you live, what your interest is in biofuels and why you wish to join the list, and/or whatever other information you think is relevant.

Please note that the Biofuel list is not a newsletter service and not a "website", it is an interactive email discussion group posting from 20 to 50 messages a day or more. If that will "swamp your mailbox", please read this message on how best to handle mailing list traffic:

Once they've joined the list, members can also select the "Daily Digest" option to receive one or more composite messages containing all the day's messages.

Biofuel list administrators' address:

List Rules are posted here:

Browse current messages at the list website:
The Biofuel Archives

Search the combined Biofuel and Biofuels-biz list archives -- 60,000+ entries from discussions by biofuellers all over the world over the last six years, a treasure trove of information on all aspects of biofuels and sustainability:

Spanish Biofuels mailing list -- Foro sobre biocombustibles en castellano:

En espa?ol -- Biocombustibles, biodiesel
Biofuels Library
Biofuels supplies and suppliers

Make your own biodiesel
Mike Pelly's recipe
Two-stage biodiesel process
FOOLPROOF biodiesel process
Biodiesel processors
Biodiesel in Hong Kong
Nitrogen Oxide emissions
Biodiesel resources on the Web
Do diesels have a future?
Vegetable oil yields and characteristics
Biodiesel and your vehicle
Food or fuel?
Straight vegetable oil as diesel fuel

Ethanol resources on the Web
Is ethanol energy-efficient?